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Satan, the old serpent, very artfully laid his train for enticing our first parents to eat this forbidden fruit. For he attacked the woman when alone, at a distance from her husband; he endeavoured to make her doubt of the truth of the divine threatening; he presented the fatal object, as fruit pleasant to the eye, and to be desired to make one wise: he pretended a higher regard for them than their sovereign Cre. ator, who, he tacitly insinuated, grudged their happiness: and he used means to persuade them, that they should be like God, in the vast extent of their knowledge, upon their eating the delectable morsel. Thus the eyes of their mind were first blemished by a mist from hell; which being admitted, gra. dually darkened their understanding, so that first doubting, and then disbelief of the threatening, ensued. Their will was easily conquered to a compliance with the temptation; then a corrupt affection to the tree seized them, discovering itself in a lustful looking at it: then the hand took it, and the mouth ate it, and the fatal morsel was swallowed. II. I am next to shew why this fruit was forbidden. 1. It was not because God grudged the happiness of our first parents, as the devil blasphemously alleged, whom the event proved a liar, John viii. 44. Nor yet, 2. Because there was any evil in the fruit itself; for that could not be; for we are told, Gen. i. ult, that, at the close of the creation every thing was very good. This fruit was not forbidden because it was evil, but it was evil because it was forbidden. It was forbidden for the trial of man's obe. dience. Not that God knew not what was in man, and what he would be, but to discover the creatures weakness to himself without God, and that he might thence take occasion of advancing his own glory impaired by the sin of man, in a more illustrious manner than if innocent Adam had continued in his primitive state. But it may be asked, Why did God make choice of this for the trial of man I answer, God did so most reasonably. For, (1.) This being a thing in itself indifferent, was most meet for the trial of his obedience. For hereby his obedience was to turn upon the precise point of the will of God, which would have been the plainest evidence of obedience. Had it been to love God or his neighbour, nature itself taught him to do so, and by the natural make of his soul he was inclined to this. What trial would that have been to a man newly created, and loaded with benefits from God, not to take another God, worship images, or take his name in vain, when he saw all to be God's creatures or servants; to keep the sabbath, which was to return once a-week only? He had no father or mother to honour, none to kill but her that: was his own flesh, none to commit adultery with, none to steal from, none to bear false witness against, none to covet their goods. Thus the prohibition of a thing in itself indifferent was a proper test, and the only proper test for the trial of man. - : (2.) Thus man's obedience or disobedience would be most clear and conspicuous, being in an external thing whereof his very senses might be judge; which could not be in the internal acts of obedience. (3.) This was most proper for asserting the sovereign dominion of God, who had set him down in a beautiful paradise, and made him lord of the world. Was it not very reasonable that God should keep one single tree from him, : a testimony of his holding of God as his great Landord 2 . (4.) This was most useful and necessary to man, as a memorandum of the state wherein he was created. For man was created with a free-will to good, whereof the tree of life was an evidence; but also to evil, whereof the tree of knowledge of good and evil was an evidence. So that in effect it was a continual watchword to him, and a beacon set up before him to beware of dashing on the rock of sin. (3.) It was a great mercy to man, in that, beside the natural make of his soul, which was turned towards God as his chief happiness and end, he had this prohibition set to keep it in that posture. For as Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hand, Exod. xvii. 12. so man had the fabric of his body looking upward, and this fair tree forbidden him, to teach him that his happiness lay not in the creatures, but in God. So that this tree being forbidden was a sign of emptiness hung before the creatures door, with that inscription, Here is not your rest; the creatures hand pointing man away from themselves to God, as the alone fountain of happiness. (6.) Lastly, This was a compend of the whole law of God, wherein all was summarily comprehended, viz. love to God, and his neighbour, as will afterwards be made appear. Ill. I come now to consider the evil of this first sin. Som P. p 2
may be ready to say, Was not the eating of the forbidden fruit a little sin? So it appears indeed in the sight of blind man, whose eye being put out with it, sees not the greatma. jesty of God, and the horrid evil of the action. But indeed it was most horrible, if ye consider, 1. The aggravations of it, 2. The nature of it. 3. The effects of it. First, Let us view the aggravations of this first sin. Con. sider, 1. The person who did it. I may say it was not a sinner that sinned, but an innocent person, free from all inclination to evil; one whom God made able to stand if he would, and endued with the image of God, without any mixture of sin. ful ignorance, perverseness of will, or irregularity of affec. tions. No wonder to see a man with a poor stock soon bro. ken; but that a man who had such a large stock should play the bankrupt, was horrid indeed. 2. What was the thing for which he broke the command. Achan had a wedge of gold to tempt him, and Judas thirty pieces of silver to entice his covetous disposition. But what was the enticing object in Adam's case? The fruit of a tree: A small thing indeed: but the smaller the thing was, the more inexcusable the sinner, whom Satan could draw after him by so slender a thread. What need had he of that, when God had given him abundance of other fruit 2 But, with David, Adam spares his own flock, and takes his neigh. bour's one lamb. 3, The persons wronged by this sin. He sinned against God himself, to whom he owed the strictest obedience; a. gainst his soul and body, upon which he brought wrath and a curse; against all his posterity, who were then in his loins, upon whom his sin has entailed ascene of evils, under which the human race will groan to the end of time. Never did one sin strike against so many at once, 4. The time of this transgression. Man was scarcely well come out of the hand of his Creator, till he lifted up his heel against him. He stood very short while, till he turn. ed giddy with ambition, and fell into disgrace. It is probably thought he fell the same day he was created; and such an early revolt from his allegiance was a very high aggravation
of his sin.
5. The place where the crime was committed. In paradise, where every plant and flower were proclaiming the glory of God, and where he wanted nothing that was necessary for him. In the presence-chamber, as it were, he struck at his Sovereign Lord and King. So his offence was aggravated like the murder of Zacharias, whom the Jews slew between the temple and the altar, Matt. xxiii. 35. Secondly, The nature of this sin. It was not one single sin, but a complication of all evils, a violation of the whole law of God, and a total apostasy from him in heart, fip, and fife ". This was a sin whereby at one touch both the natural and positive law was trampled under foot; yea, by which all the ten commandments were struck at, at On Ce. 1. Did they not chuse new gods; when, by eating of this fruit, they made their belly their god; self their god; nay the devil their god, when they conspired with him against God, being filled with pride and ambition as he to be like God; when they believed the devil and mistrusted God, and shook off the yoke of his dominion, turning rebels to him, and being most unthankful for the divine goodness expressed towards them : Rebel-man set up a trinity, (1.) Of his belly, by sensuality, (2.) Of himself, by ambition; and, (3.) Of the devil, by believing him, and disbelieving his Creator. 2. Though man at first received, yet he did not observe that great ordinance of God about the forbidden fruit. He contemned that ordinance which God had most plainly appointed, and would needs carve out to himself how he would serve the Lord. He took the name of the Lord his God in vain, despising his attributes, whereby he makes himself known, his justice, truth, power, &c. profaning God's ordinance, that sacramental tree; abusing his word, by not giving credit to it; and abusing his works, that creature which he should not have touched; and violently misconstructing the work of providence, as if God, by that act of forbidding them that tree, had minded to keep them from happiness. And therefore though there was no man to punish them, God suffered them not to escape his righteous judgment. t 4. He was so far from remembering the Sabbath to keep it holy, that he put himself out of all case for serving God ere it came, by this means. He kept not that state of rest wherein God had placed him. 5. Adam honoured not his Father in heaven. Both our first parents minded not their relative duties. Eve forgets herself, and acts without advice of her husband, to the ruin of both ; and Adam, instead of admonishing her to repent, yields to the temptation too, and so confirms her in her wickedness. They forgot all duty to their posterity. There. fore their days were not long in the land which the Lord their God gave them, 6. He was the greatest murderer that ever lived. By this act he was a child-murderer, cutting the throats of all his posterity; and he was a self-murderer too. 7. Our first parents were fain to cover their nakedness with fig-leaves, which their luxury and sensuality had brought them to. 8. Adam committed theft; and was but a thief and a robber in taking that which was not his own, against the will of the great Owner. He was the Achan in the camp, 9. He bare false witness against the Lord, when he ate of the forbiddden fruit. It was an avouching, that God's word was not to be believed, that the Lord dealt hardly and scrimptly with him, and grudged his happiness, 10. He was discontented with that happy state wherein God had placed him. He was not content with his lot, and therefore, like another king of Babylon, he coveted an evil covetousness to his house; which ruined both himself and them. Thirdly, Consider the effects of this first sin. 1. God was robbed of his glory, that he should have had from the creature's active obedience. He was made and well qualified for glorifying his Creator; but breaking covenant with God, and falling under the curse of the law, he was quite indisposed for that work. He could aim no more at this mark which God set before him. 2. God's image was defaced; the King of Heaven's picture was rent in pieces. What a huge offence would it be to come into a workman's shop, and with one touch dash in pieces a curious piece of work that he had made 2 Yet thus offensively did Adam behave, spurning at the image of God, and quite defacing it from his soul.
* A more particular view of the ingredients in the first sin may be seen in the author's View of the Covenant of Works, p. 80, 81. Published in 1772.