Imatges de pÓgina
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their existence, which the unerring justice of God should perceive to be merited by their transgressions. They lost their uprightness and purity of heart, the image and likeness of Jehovah in which they were created: and thus were become more similar in the disposition and frame of their souls to the author of evil to whom they had submitted, than to the glorious God of holiness whom they had disobeyed.

The Supreme Being, in pronouncing judgment on his guilty creatures, mercifully suspended the execution of the penalty of death. Exclusive of the sentence uttered against the Serpent, the import of which will shortly be considered, he imposed on Eve the pains of child-bearing, and entire submission to the authority of her husband. On Adam he devolved the laborious cultivation of the earth, now rendered universally productive of plants troublesome to the husbandman and noxious to the crop. And both he expelled from the garden of Eden, lest they should put forth their hand, 66 and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever*;" lest by having access to the fruit of the tree of immortality they should be enabled from time to time to counteract the natural tendency of their bodies to decay, and thus hope to evade the unchangeable decree, “ Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”+ To prevent any rash attempt on the part of man to re-enter his original abode, God placed eastward of Paradise a fiery guard of Angels, “ Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” I

Perhaps you may be inclined to deem it somewhat singular, that a circumstance of a nature apparently so trivial as the eating or forbearing to eat of the fruit of * Gen. iii. 22.

+ Gen. ii. 19. | Gen. ii. 9. iii. 24.

a particular tree, should be selected by the divine wisdom for the trial of the obedience of our first parents. You would have expected, it may be, some trial of a more grand and dignified cast; a trial resembling some of those splendid demonstrations of human virtue, which history records for the admiration of the world. In the first place, however, you may be satisfied that the mode of probation which thus surprises you was perfectly proper, because it was the mode which the Divine wisdom thought fit to select. If the temptation to transgress were in your apprehension inconsiderable, cease to wonder that one more powerful was not chosen, when you recollect that even this, weak as it was, proved capable of overcoming the religious resolution of those whom it assailed. Reflect farther, in the next place, that in the situation in which Adam and Eve found themselves in Paradise; the only existing individuals of the human race; with every want anticipated; before the sight or sound of distress was known; antecedently to the introduction of arts, and of commerce, and of separate property, and of gradations of rank and power, and of all those habits and institutions of civil society which have proved, since the earth became replenished with inabitants, the most efficacious stimulants of the passions of men, and consequently the most dangerous incentives to sin ; few, if any, of those temptations, by resistance to which, from a principle of obedience to the will of God, human virtue is now to be evinced, could possibly have had an opportunity of presenting themselves.

Still, however, you may think that the punishment was disproportioned to the offence. So slight a transgression as the gathering of a prohibited fruit to be instantly followed by the loss of the Divine favour, by the forfeiture of existence, by woes and calamities reaching to the latest posterity of the offenders ! Recollect, then, that this punishment, great as it might be, was no new penalty devised after the transgression. It was that penalty which the transgressors, forewarned and fully instructed, had known from the day of their creation to be already ordained as the inevitable consequence of guilt. Recollect, also, that the direct communications, which the Supreme Being had permitted to take place between himself and his creatures, had precluded the possibility of a doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve as to the reality of the Divine command. But you judge most erroneously in terming their transgression slight. The sin consisted not simply in gathering the fruit ; but in breaking the commandment of God, who had enjoined them to abstain from it: the single commandment of him, who of his own free grace had called the offenders into being; had crowned them with innumerable benefits; had put immortality and unimpairable happiness into their power, subject only to the observance of one condition ; a condition so plain as to be incapable of being misunderstood, and so easy of performance as scarcely to seem to admit the possibility of failure. The mode in which disobedience might be manifested was of little moment. The guilt was in the disobedience itself; and was evidently most heinous.

Let us now return to the judgment pronounced against the Serpent: a judgment not more full of terror to the victorious enemy of mankind, than of consolation to those whom he had degraded into a state of sin and misery. To him, under the emblem of the reptile whose instrumentality he had employed in his diabolical machinations, the Divine vengeance foretold disappointment, and humiliation, and anguish, and irrecoverable destruction. A future “seed of the woman" was darkly announced; who, after experiencing some temporary mjury, equivalent to a bruise on the heel, from the power and malignity of the serpent, should re-establish the cause

of
man,

and vindicate the glory of God, by a complete triumph over the adversary, by“ bruising the serpent's head."

Here, then, was a direct intimation given to man of the great plan formed and predetermined in the divine counsels for the redemption of the human race through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Son of God; who, in reference to this predetermination, is styled in the New Testament “ the Lamb fore-ordained” (to be the sacrifice) “ before the foundation of the world.” * To what extent the details of this gracious and stupendous plan were then unfolded to Adam, the Scriptures do not explain. Sufficient, however, was revealed to enable him to look up with humble hope, on the part of himself and of his posterity, to their future Deliverer from the dominion of sin and the grave.

In process of time.a first-born son and other children successively increased the family of Adam, now no longer an inhabitant of Paradise; children born“ in his own likeness, after his image;" with a nature depraved, corrupt, and sinful, like that of their progenitor; not “in the likeness of God,” which the Scriptures almost in the same sentence*, as though it were to prevent the possibility of mistaking their meaning respecting the image in which the children of Adam were born, again aver to have been that in which Adam was originally formed. Here, according to the analogy which we still see subsisting throughout the whole living creation, in which the offspring universally inherits and partakes of the nature of the parent man,

become frail and prone to guilt, produced a race frail and prone to guilt like

1 Pet. i. 19, 20. And see Rev. xiii. 8. + Gen. v. 1-3.

as in

himself. The corrupt tree could not but bear corrupt fruit. In a similar manner the next generation resembled in its nature that from which it sprang. Every individual of the human race who has since been born, with the exception of our Lord Jesus Christ when he assumed the form of man, has inevitably brought with him into the world the nature of fallen Adam. Every individual of the human race yet to be born will inevitably bring with him the same nature.

And Adam all die, even so in Christ only shall any be made alive"*—“ There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." +

The radical corruption of human nature is one of those truths which their very plainness renders it the less easy to support by formal proofs. If a person be unmoved by the decisive arguments which press upon him every moment at every turn, you scarcely know in what manner to address him on the subject. Happily the minds of youth are not thus hardened against fair reasoning and honest conviction. The yourg have not been familiarised with sin sufficiently to have become blind to its inherent enormity. They have not yet been inured by long habits of guilt to “call evil good, and good evil.” † They are not held in thraldom by those prepossessions, nor intoxicated with that self-conceit so common among persons more advanced in life; who have formed to themselves a favourite system, and examine not at all, or without candour, any evidence against it. Let young persons, then, search the Scriptures, to see whether these things be so or not: and they will find the depravity of human nature inculcated in the strongest terms throughout the sacred writings; and inculcated not only as an undeniable fact, but as the

1 Cor. xv. 22.

† Acts, iv. 12.

* Isaiah, v. 20.

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