Page images
PDF
EPUB

ingly, the moment man sinned, he began, agreeably to the letter of the threatening, to die. Not only did he fall under the power of spiritual death, as the precursor of eternal, but he began to die naturally; i. e. he was exposed to the miseries of this life, as the beginning of the actual dissolution of the mortal frame. No sooner did he sin, than he felt the consequences of it in both soul and body. He saw himself naked, and was filled with shame, remorse, and dread. If man had not sinned, he would have enjoyed natural life, i. e. soul and body would have continued united in perpetual enjoyment of felicity and comfort. This is necessarily im-: plied in the threatening, and the apostle places this subject beyond all reasonable doubt or dispute. Rom. 5: 12, " Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Now, if death entered by sin, it is evident that if sin had not entered, death would not have entered.

16. 2. Spiritual death was threatened in opposition to spiritual life. Spiritual life consists in union and communion with God. This is the highest felicity of the rational, creature. So long as Adam obeyed the law he was 'approved and accepted of God. He was conformed and like to his Maker; he had both will and capacity to serve him. As he lived by God, so he lived to him. Such would have been his inexpressible joy and happiness had he not sinnéd. : But alas, “how is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!” The very moment man sinned he fell! into a state, in various respects, similar to that of the dead. He was totally deprived of a principle of spiritual motion and action. This is the unhappy situation to which he reduced his numerous posterity, and in which we all now descend from him. We come into the world spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb; insensible and anfeeling, incapable of spiritual motion or action; and in this unhappy condition we lie until he who first created man in his own image and in his own likeness, crcates us anei in Christ Jesus. Such was

the description the apostle gave of the state of the Ephesians before and after their conversion, and includes himself amongst them. Eph. 2:1-6.

§ 17. 3. Lastly, death eternal is threatened in opposition to life everlasting. Man was made for eternity. He was placed into a state of probation, and at the end of it he would have been removed from the terrestrial to the celestial paradise, to enjoy eternal and inexpressible felicity. This earth certainly never was intended to be the perpetual dwelling of the countless millions of the human species. But man being in honor, continued not. He sinned, and became obnoxious to eternal death, i. e, an everlasting separation of the whole man from God, and the punishment of both soul and body in that separated state for ever. This punishment is indeed greater than we can bear, but not greater than we deserve. The inspired apostle describes it in the following awful and tremendous terms: "The Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” 2 Thess. 1:7–9. Fearing the length of this letter will exhaust your patience, passing over many things that might have been instructive, and omitting many curious questions which have been asked respecting man's state of innocency, I bid farewell to my beloved Benjamin.

Adam, our father and our head,
Transgress'd, and justice doomed us dead:
The fiery law speaks all despair,
There's no reprieve por pardon there.

Letter IX.

THE FALL OF MAN.

Dear Brother,

§ 1. This letter invites your attention to a most mournful subject, the awful fall of our first parents from their state of holiness and happiness into a state of sin and misery.

Immutability is one of the incommunicable perfections by which the divine Being is distinguished from every created being. "I am Jehovah, I change not.” Mal. 3:6. Adan was made in the image of God, yet he was mutable. It was not the essential image of God, as Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son, is of the Father; but only a created moral image in respect of some qualities answerable to the communicable attributes of God, such as have been stated in a former letter, viz. knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. These are infinite and unchangeable in the Creator, but finite and changeable in the creature. Adam, indeed, was created without sin, but not incapable of sinning, and consequently of losing his integrity, glory, and happiness.

§ 2. Many creatures, both angelic and human, are unalterably confirmed in a state of holiness and happiness; but the permanency of their state arises from divine purposes rather than from the immutability of their nature. God, no doubt, could immediately have confirmed our first parents in a state of purity and felicity, but it pleased him to place them, for a season, in a state of probation and trial. As he ever is sovereign in the distribution of all his favors to the creatures, he could either give to our original progenitors, or withhold from them, that superadded grace and strength by which they might have been for ever confirmed in their original state, and not so much as a possibility have been left of their falling from it. But this he was pleased

to withhold, leaving them to the freedom of their own will.

$ 3. Adam was under the most inviolable obligations to obey. He was allured to obedience by the encouraging prospect of the endless felicity which he was to obtain for himself and his posterity. He was deterred from disobe. dience by the most express and faithful warning of the fatal consequences of it to himself and his offspring.

$ 4. That the state of mankind is different from that in which our first parents were created; that there is a corrupt spring of sin and disorder in the nature of man; that? the whole world lieth in ignorance, darkness, evil, and confusion; that there is an alienation and displeasure between God and mankind; God revealing his wrath and judgments from heaven, whence at first nothing might be expected but fruits of goodness and pledges of love; and man naturally dreading the presence of God and trembling at the effects of it, which at first was his life, joy, and refreshment; reason itself, with careful observation, will discover; it has done so unto many contemplative men of old, (Rom. 1:18. 8:20, 21;) but what it was that opened the flood gates unto all the evil and sin which they saw and observed, they could nol tell.

§ 5. But that which they could not attain unto, we are clearly taught by divine revelation.

Our inspired historian, Moses, in a very few verses, gives us a faithful account of the circumstances which led to the fall of our first parents, and of the awful consequences which immediately followed. Now the serpent was more eubtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it; neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God

doth know, that in the day ye eat thercof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat." Gen. 3:1-6.

§ 6. Such is the account of the sin or fall of man. With the greatest propriety it is called a fall.

It supposes a former state of dignity, as well as of felicity. It bespeaks a present state of unhappiness and misery. High was man previous to this direful event. High was he in point of relation. He was the Son of God, Luke, 3:38, high in character. High was he in point of state. He was in covenant with his Maker, and his vicegerent ou earth. All the other creatures in our world were subject to him. High did he stand in his Maker's estimation and faror. High was he in point of employment. He glorified God in a manner of which all the other creatures in our lower world are incapable. Fle had high attainments and enjoyments. He enjoyed, as well as glorified, his Maker in a peculiar manner. Honorable, happy man!

But, alas! man being in honor, abode not! He fell, and O how low is the fall! Man has become an alien and outcast from God; unable to glorify him, and disqualified for the enjoyment of himn, as well as without a title to it.

Let us consider the circumstances which led to this awful change.

$ 7. We notice first the templer, called in the text serpent. On this subject there is a variety of opinions and curious conjectures. We name the two extremes, and choose the middle way. Some think that no real serpent was intended, but that the seduction of our first parents was effected immediately by Satan himself; others affirm that Satan had no concern in the temptation, but that it was effected solely by a natural serpent. The opinion which is most commonly

« PreviousContinue »