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or design to deceive his creatures. There is not the shadow of evidence, that he ever uttered a falsehood. The scriptures assure us, that he is “ a God of truth and without iniquity;" and it is said to be impossible for him to lie. When, therefore, an unauthorised and seducing enemy comes and undertakes to contradict what God has certified, to say the least, we should be extremely cautious how we listen to his assertions or admit his testimony.
The thought is inadmissible, that God could, through mistake, express himself differently from what he intended. His meaning was originally conveyed, and it has not varied to suit the humours of depraved men.
The circumstances in this case, relative to the characters of the parties concerned, are glaring with respect to the absurdity of being any way swayed in our faith by such impudent effrontery as marks the language of the serpent. Since God was never convicted of advancing a false position, and since he has not, in the least degree, forfeited his claim to confidence, the conclusion irresistibly follows, that his words are to be taken for truth, notwithstanding a thousand opposers should a thousand times affirm the contrary. We further observe, that there is nothing in the nature and circumstances of the case which admits the supposition, that the threatening has in it no significancy or truth. Could any thing new be stated, showing that God had altered his purpose, or that he was not determined to treat sin in the manner he had promised, this would be something to urge in vindication of a contrary statement. But nothing of this kind is even pretended. The adversary first jeers at the prohibition, and then flatly denies the truth of the threatening with which it stands connected. Now, what circumstance can be alleged which shall render it probable, or bring it within the compass of credibility, that God had given a misrepresentation or uttered an untruth?
Will you say, that the threatening was too severe, and therefore could not be executed by a God of justice and benevolence? Or, will you say, that the serpent knew better than God himself what was the design of man's Creator, and what would, in fact, take place? Either of these suppositions is fraught with absurdity and impiety. The reason stated by the adversary, in his temptation, is so far from favouring the case, or rendering probable what he affirmed, that it directly contributed to prove the contrary. “ For,” says he, “ God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods knowing good and evil.” If this would be the effect, it is not to be doubted that God, who knew the whole operation, meant to guard against it, and continue man on a footing more becoming the station he held in the scale of being. And if, to court the pride, the ambition, and the aspiring views of creatures was placing them, as the adversary insinuates, on a footing more acceptable to their Maker, and more deserving of his notice, then the right plan is suggested by the serpent. But if, to make them uneasy with their present condition; to fill them with the vainest hopes, and inflame them with the most impious desires was calculated to destroy them, and the system of God, then we have before us a specimen of that diabolical art, which adopts the most flattering, and, at the same time, the most false and preposterous arguments. In the case stated in the connected passage, the gratification of a sinful desire is urged as a reason for the commission of a sinful act; and the exaltation of the creature, even to the degree of a deified state, is pleaded as a motive for sacrificing the truth and disobeying the command of the most high God. I see nothing here, which is not at once, impious, extravagant, and abominable. No circumstance is presented to view, in this case, which does not exhibit proof, that the whole was applied to the basest and vilest purposes; and that all was calculated and designed to alienate the affections of the creature from his Creator, and to further the object of a most audacious and blasphemous falsehood. This being the case, we see on what ground rests the credibility of the assurance given by the serpent. Neither the character of him who confronts the authority of God; nor the character of the Being opposed; nor any other condition or circumstance attending the case, contributes, in the least, to render probable the negative assertion which was made. It is, therefore, exhibited as the first, the greatest, and the most pernicious of all lies. It is the origin of all falsehood in this world, and is from him who is, emphatically “ a liar from the beginning.” We are, of consequence, emboldened to set aside his declaration, and to exhibit the truth of God as most directly and materially concerned in fulfilling his threatening. “Ye shall surely die," is as true now, in reference to us and all other offenders, as when first uttered and applied to the case of Adam and Eve. The conclusion of the whole matter, then, is this, that God had threatened the penalty of death, in its fullest and most extensive sense, to the violators of his law; and that this threatening remains in full force, having never been repealed or done away. Thus it stands in the book of Genesis, and the account is not reversed by any counter-statement throughout the Holy Bible. Whoso eateth the fruit of disobedience, must expect the awful penalty which God's justice demands.
In reflecting on the foregoing remarks we can hardly fail to notice the daring presumption, and arrogant impiety, to which sin prompts and conducts its votaries.
The conduct of the adversary, in opposing and contradicting the God of heaven, shows to what heights of audacious insult and bold effrontery sin will carry those in whom it reigns. The subject also, in the view which we have taken of it, helps us to discover the ground on which infidels in the word of God, and opposers of his truth and government, rest their hopes of deliverance from future evil. By infidels, we do not here intend merely deists, those who wholly reject the authority of divine revelation, but a certain class of unbelievers who reject only a part, and deny what does not accord with their wishes and hopes. Of this class are those, who subscribe to the doctrine promulgated by the enemy of God and man, and who hold, that there will be either no infliction of evil upon the impenitent, or such as will not amount to that idea of death which we have given above.
Precarious and fallacious is the basis of their hopes. They have no better, nor a more ancient, support for their opinion than the declaration of the arch-deceiver; and this declaration confronting the most positive assurance of Him whose word is truth. Should it be said, that the promise of God, afterwards made, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, is the foundation of such comforting hope with the wicked; then it will appear, that this promise is only a repetition of what had before been advanced by the enemy of all good; and so a confirmation, or, as it were, a second declaration of the doctrine taught by the serpent in his temptation previous to the fall of man. On this ground we must look back to the father of lies as the inventor and first propagator of this sentiment. In this view, that promise of God to our first parents, which is an epitome of the whole gospel, becomes synonymous with the tempter's denial of his truth. This construction, not only admits the strange idea, that God seconded and confirmed what his adversary had advanced in opposition to him; but it exhibits him in the preposterous condition of one contradicting and opposing himself. It is not, I think, an uncharitable, but a fair and an equitable suggestion, grounded on a scriptural view of the case, that the doctrine of universal and promiscuous salvation radically springs from the first error broached in the garden of Eden, and, with serpentine adroitness, infused into the mind of our too credulous mother Eve. Those modifications of this doctrine, which to save appearances, and make it more plausibly consonant with the representations of scripture, admit of a partial and temporary punishment are, but in effect, the the same, and originate from the same source. They do not rest on the authority of God's word, but on the contradictory assertion of his adversary. Though many things are said favourable to the plan of redeeming mercy, showing that God has designs of love towards our apostate race, and that he intends to effect the recovery of some, even of a vast multitude, so as to magnify the riches of his grace, yet it is no where afhrmed, definitively, that he hath determined to save all.
When it is said, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son," it is not added that the world through him might be saved, but that " whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life.” And it is expressly affirmed, in opposition to the sentiments of unbelievers and universalists, “ he that believeth not, shall be damned.” Again, the Saviour declares, “ If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." We read also of some who shall be cast into hell fire; into the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; and into the fire which shall never be quenched. Also of some who shall go away into everlasting punishment; who shall be tormented for ever and ever; and who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, &c. These expressions seem not to accord with the idea of an indiscriminate and universal salvation ; but they rather coincide with the original declaration of God, when he uttered the first minatory sentence which ever proceeded from his holy lips; and, they stand in 'opposition to that false, that pernicious, that enchanting, but that deadly sentiment promulgated by the seducing serpent. We should, then, examine well before we listen to the alluring temptation of the adversary, and swallow the sweet, but poisonous bait of unbelief. There is no better authority on which to rest our hopes of salvation, while in our sins, than the word of an unprincipled and God-defying rebel. On such authority we should not rely in the most indifferent worldly concern; but to prove the most unimportant declaration which affected our temporal interest, we should require better testimony.
When considering the character of the Being denouncing a curse, and the character of him who demurs to the declaration, and denies the assertion; when considering also the case to be so circumstanced, as to admit no rational ground of hesitation, can it be less than madness to break over all the established rules of evidence, and to believe in opposition to the most direct, abundant, and unequivocal testimony? Shall we run away from the truth, and hunt up excuses for hiding ourselves from the
presence of the Lord God, among the trees of deception? If so, the voice of the Lord God will reach our vain retreat, and summon us from our refuge of lies. The question is, and a very solemn and interesting question, whether we will believe God or the serpent ?-whether we will liearken to the voice of truth, or bow to the sceptre of falsehood ?-or whether we will obey the wholesome counsel of heaven, or impetuously croud on in the road to hell? If we have no better plea to make than this, “ the serpent beguiled me," we have need to be in the utmost solicitude about the issue. It is, indeed, time to consider of this matter. To trifle or delay, is both hazardous and criminal. We are all equally concerned. I have no interest to promote by pleading the cause of error; and I would not for a world misguide any in this momentous affair. Sooner or later we must decide whether God is to be believed, or the welfare of our souls put to the hazard of having substantiated the denial of his truth.
If any imagine he will save them in their sins, they are on untenable ground. Their arrival at heaven depends on being washed in the laver of regeneration, and being under « the renewing of the Holy Ghost." The only passage to that world of blessedness is “ through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” It is an everlasting and glorious truth, that " grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” If universalists will prove, that this is the genuine operation in every case; and that all are thus made holy and righteous, we will hold no further controversy with them. But till they rid heaven of unholy beings, and bar the regions of the blessed against impenitent and ungodly souls, we must oppose their sentiments, we must reject their system. While we dissent from their doctrine as opening wide the floodgates of impiety, and tearing down the barriers between sin and holiness, we rejoice in the freeness and richness of divine grace. We feel authorized with the utmost sincerity and earnestness to offer salvation to all. While the voice from heaven proclaims, " ye shall surely die," and the language from hell declares “ ye shall not surely die;" we reach forth, in this mighty conflict of opinion and assertion, the tenders of divine mercy in that copious and enrapturing invitation of the Saviour: “ Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”