« ZurückWeiter »
evil thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Gen. ii. 16, 17. Hence it appears, that the law of trial under which man was placed, was of a positive and not of a moral nature, being suited to his state of moral rectitude; and being a prohibition, not an injunction, it thus afforded the utmost facility of compliance.
3. We are informed that “the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.” Gen. iii. 1. As a proof of his subtlety, we have an awful instance in his successful attempt on the human species, by enticing the woman to eat of the forbidden tree, saying, “ Ye shall not surely die: for 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,” ver. 5. The principle of curiosity, or the desire of knowledge, which was implanted in the human breast for wise and benevolent purposes, was caught in the tempter's snare; reason, which was given to direct man in his pursuits and enjoyments, being allowed to lie dor. mant, while the organs of sense continued to operate in all their original perfection. Transgression of the divine command followed as a natural result; for, “ 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,” ver. 6. Had the fruit not been sweet to the taste, and agreeable to the sight, it is probable that the attempt to ensnare the principle of
curiosity, and thus gain the will, would not have succeeded; but herein lay the trial. The woman, urged by a principle of affection, prevails on her husband to eat also. On the other hand, the strength of the man's affection, and other concurring circumstances, induced him to lose sight of the divine prohibition, or, for the moment, to doubt the infliction of the threatened punishment; for the woman "gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat," ver. 6.
4. Death, the penalty annexed to transgression, was not, at the time of transgressing, inflicted in its ultimate operations, although we may conceive, that the seeds of death were then sown in the human constitution. The threatening, in a more particular manner, was denounced a second time—“ Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Gen. iii. 19. This renewal of the threatening, we may well conceive, was made for the purpose of impressing on the minds of the first pair the certainty of the original denunciation's being accomplished. Alluding to this momentous event, the apostle Paul assures us, that, “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” Rom. v. 12. Now sin may be considered either as actual or relative: relative sin is guilt ; which term denotes the relation that subsists between a righteous Judge and an offending criminal: and actual sin consists in dominion and impurity, which are displayed in the irregularity and insubordination of the affections and appetites. The effect of these is misery, which consists in a privation of divine fellowship, a sense of condemnation, spiritual imbecility, and actual endurance of sufferings, both corporeal and spiritual.
5. What the first man became by his fall, the same must all his posterity be by nature : for the inspired penman informs us, (Gen.v.3.) that Adam begat children in his own likeness, after his image; and the apostle Paul confirms this declaration by assuring us, that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Rom. iii. 23.
6. On reviewing the apostate state of man, two questions present themselves; first, Can infinite Wisdom devise a plan which shall effect the salvation of man consistently with the unsullied honour of the divine perfections ? and secondly, Will infinite goodness and power undertake and execute that plan? To answer these questions in the affirmative, independently of divine revelation, would baffle the energies of the most exalted intelligence in creation. We are borne out in drawing this conclusion, by the authority of an inspired apostle, who exclaims, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out ! Who [by unassisted reason] hath known the mind of the Lord ? or who hath been his counsellor ?” Rom. xi. 33, 34.
Having thus cursorily considered man's original state of rectitude, and his subsequent state of delinquency, we come next to consider his ultimate state of recovery to the divine favour and image. The yolume of inspiration informs us, that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John iii. 16. This declaration not only gives satisfactory answers to the foregoing interrogatories, but completely annihilates all pretensions to merit in reference to the work of human salvation: there being “ nothing in the creature that can constitute the reason for which spiritual blessings are dispensed to the guilty.”—“To the primary determinations, and consequent acts, of the will of God as a SOVEREIGN, must all the glory of human salvation be ascribed.” The sovereignty of God, as manifested in the salvation of man, will more clearly appear, if we consider the testimony of Scripture in reference to the source, medium, state, requirements, and privileges of salvation.
First, concerning the source of salvation; “ God so loved the world,” &c. Hence it appears that the love of God is the source of human salvation. This love was not that which displays itself in complacency ; for although man, in his original state, was pronounced very good, and consequently was an object of God's complacent regard; yet we find that mankind, subsequently to their fall, ceased to have any claims on the divine complacency; for it is said, that “God repented that he had made man." Gen. vi. 6. The love, however, with which God loved the world was a love of compassion,-a love which entered on a plan for rescuing sinful man from irremediable ruin,-a plan by which “ whosoever believeth should not perish.” So far was man from being an object of the divine complacency, that, according to the award of justice, he deserved to be an object of God's righteous displeasure; for the Scripture assures us that “God commendeth his love to us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;" intimating, at the same time, that“ when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” Rom. v. 8, 10. To assure us of the reality of God's compassion to our race, and to encourage all to rely on it in the appointed way, the Scripture gives us not merely a bare declaration, but the solemn oath of God himself; “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways: for why will ye die, O house of Isracl ?" Ezek. xxiii. 11. Nor are we to suppose that God was “the God of the Jews, and not of the Gentiles also,” by restricting the exercise of his compassion to the house of Israel; for it is declared, that the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Ps. cxlv. 9. And such was the intenseness of his love to“ the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son" to die for it. Now if we be asked what was the cause of this love of compassion to a guilty world, we can give no other answer than what Scripture supplies; it was in the nature of God to do so, for“God is love,"1 John iv. 8. Hence it follows, that if the source of salvation lay in