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upon the wisdom of God. Besides, if the reasonable creature violates the law, it necessarily contracts an obligation to punishment. So that if the sinner who deserves death, should enjoy life, without satisfaction for the offence, or repentance to qualify him for pardon, (both which were without the compass of the first covenant) this would infringe the unchangeable rights of justice, and disparage the divine purity.
In the first covenant there was a special clause, which respected man as the inhabitant of paradise, that he should “not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil upon pain of death. And this prohibition was upon the most wise and just reasons :—to declare God's sovereign right in all things. In the quality of Creator he is supreme Lord. Man enjoyed nothing but by a derived title from his bounty and allowance, and with an obligation to render to him the homage of all. As princes, when they give estates to their subjects, still retain the royalty, and receive a small rent, which, though inconsiderable in its value, is an acknowledgment of dependence upon them; so when God placed Adam in paradise, he received this mark of his sovereignty, that in the free use of all other things, man should abstain from the forbidden tree; to make trial of man's obedience in a matter very congruous to discover it. If the prohibition had been grounded on any moral internal evil in the nature of the thing itself, there had not been so clear a testimony of God's dominion, nor of Adam's subjection to it. But when that which in itself was indifferent, became unlawful merely by the will of God, and when the command had no other excellency but to make his authority more sacred, this was a confining of man's liberty, and to abstain was pure obedience.
Besides, the restraint was from that which was very grateful, and alluring to both the parts of man's compounded nature. The sensitive appetite is strongly
cited by the lust of the eye; and this fruit being beautiful to the sight, the forbearance was an excellent exercise of virtue in keeping the lower appetite in obedience. Again; the desire of knowledge is extremely quick and earnest, and, in appearance, most worthy of
the rational nature. “ Nullus animo suavior cibus," Lactantius. It is the most high and luscious food of the soul. Now the tree of knowledge was forbidden; so that the observance of the law was the most eminent, in keeping the intellectual appetite in mediocrity. In short, God required obedience as a sacrifice; for the prohibition being in a matter of natural pleasure, and a curb to curiosity, which is the lust and concupiscence of the mind after things concealed ; by a reverent regard to it, man presented his soul and body to God as a living sacrifice, which was his reasonable service, Rom. xii. 1.
THE FALL OF MAN.
Man was created perfectly holy, but in a natural, therefore, mutable state. He was invested with power to prevent his falling, yet under a possibility of it. He was complete in his own order, but receptive of sinful impressions. An invincible perseverance in holiness belongs to a supernatural state; it is the privilege of grace, and exceeds the design of the first creation.
The rebellious spirits, who by a furious ambition had raised a war in heaven and were fallen from their obedience and glory, designed to corrupt man and to make him a companion with them in their revolt. The most subtle among them sets about this work, urged by two strong passions, hatred and envy. By hatred : for being under a final and irrevocable doom, he looked on God as an irreconcilable enemy; and not being able to injure his essence, he struck at his image ; as the fury of some beasts discharges itself upon the picture of
He singled out Adam as the mark of his malice, and by seducing him from his duty, he might defeat God's design, which was to be honoured by man's free obedience; and to obscure his glory as if he had made man in vain. He was solicited by envy, the first native of hell; for having lost the favour of God, and being cast out of heaven, the region of joy and blessedness, the sight of Adam's felicity exasperated his grief. That man, who by the condition of his nature was below him, should be prince of the world, whilst he was a prisoner under those chains which restrained and tormented him, the power and wrath of God, this made his state more intolerable. His torment was incapable of allay, but by rendering man as miserable as himself. And as hatred excited his envy, so envy inflamed his hatred, and both joined in mischief. And thus pushed on, his subtilty being equal to his malice, he contrives a temptation, which might be most taking and dangerous to man in his raised and happy state. He tempts him with art, by propounding the lure of knowledge and pleasure, to inveigle the spiritual and sensitive appetites at once. And that he might the better succeed, he addresses the woman, the weakest and most liable to seduction. He hides himself in the body of a serpent, which before sin was not terrible to her; and by this instrument insinuates his temptation. He first allured with the hopes of impunity, “Ye shall not die;" then he promised a universal knowledge of good and evil. By these pretences he ruined innocence itself; for the woman, deceived by those specious allurements, swallowed the poison of the serpent, and having tasted death, she persuaded her husband, by the same motives,' to despise the law of their Creator. Thus sin entered, and brought confusion into the world ; for the moral harmony of the world consisting in the just subordination of the several ranks of beings to one another, and of all to God, when man who was placed next to God, broke the union, his fall brought a desperate disorder into God's government.
And though the matter of the offence seems small, yet the disobedience was infinitely great ; it being the transgression of that command, which was given to be the instance and real proof of man's subjection to God. 6. Totam legem violavit in illo legalis obedientiæ præcepto," Tertul. The honour and majesty of the whole law was violated in the breach of that symbolical precept. It was a direct and formal rebellion, a public renunciation of obedience, a universal apostasy from God, and a change of the last end, that distinguished the habit of original righteousness.
I. Many sins were combined in that single act.
1. Infidelity. This was the first step to ruin. It appears by the order of the temptation. It was first said by the devil, “Ye shall not die,” to weaken their faith; then, “ Ye shall be like gods,” to flatter their ambition. The fear of death would have controlled the efficacy of all his arguments ; till that restraint was broke, he could fasten nothing upon them. This account the apostle gives of the fall, 1 Tim. ii. 14; “ The woman being deceived, was in the transgression.” As obedience is the effect of faith, so is disobedience of infidelity; and as faith comes by hearing the word of God, so infidelity, by listening to the words of the devil. From the deception of the mind proceeded the depravation of the will, the intemperance of the appetite, and the defection of the whole man. Thus as the natural, so the spiritual death made its first entrance by the eye. And this infidelity is extremely aggravated, as it implies an accusation of God both of envy and falsehood. Of envy; as if he had denied them the perfections becoming the human nature, and they might ascend to a higher orb than that wherein they were placed, by eating the forbidden fruit. And what greater disparagement could there be of the divine goodness, than to suspect the Deity of such a low and base passion, which is the special character of the angels of darkness? It was equally injurious to the honour of God's truth; for it is not easy to conceive, that Adam, who was so lately the effect of God's omnipotence, should presently distrust it as unable to inflict the punishment threatened; but his assent was weakened as to the truth of the threatening; he did not believe the danger to be so great or certain upon his disobedience; and ( he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar ;” an impiety not to be thought on without horror. And that which heightens the affront, is, that when he distrusted the fountain of truth, he gave credit to the father of lies; as appears by his compliance, the real evidence of his his faith. Now what viler contumely could be offered to the Creator ?
2. Prodigious pride. He was scarce out of the state of nothing, no sooner created, but he aspired to be as God. Not content with his image, be affected an equality, to be like him in his inimitable attributes. He would rob God of his eternity, to live without end ; of his sovereignty, to command without dependence; of his wisdom, to know all things without reserve. The promise of the tempter that they should not die, encouraged him to believe that he should enjoy an immortality not depending on God's will, but absolute; which is proper to God alone. Infinite insolence, and worthy of the most fiery indignation! That man, the son of the earth, forgetful of his original, should usurp the prerogatives which are essential to the Deity, and set up himself a real idol, was a strain of that arrogancy which corrupted the angels.
3. Horrid ingratitude. He was appointed heir apparent of all things; yet undervaluing his present portion, he entertains a project of improving his happiness. The excellent state newly conferred upon him, was a strong obligation to pay so small an acknowledgment to his Lord. The use of all the garden was allowed to him, a tree only excepted. Now in the midst of such variety and plenty, to be inflamed with the intemperate appetite of the forbidden fruit, and to break a command so equal and easy, what was it but despising the rich goodness of his great Benefactor? Besides, man was endued with a diviner spirit than the inferior order of creatures : reason and liberty were the special privileges of his nature; and to abuse them to rebellion, renders him, as more unreasonable, so more disingenuous than the creatures below him, who inflexibly obey the will of God.
4. The visible contempt of God's majesty, with a slighting of his justice ; for the prohibition was so express and terrible, that till he had cast off all respects to the Lawgiver, it was not possible he should venture to disobey him. The sin of Adam is, therefore, called by the apostle “disobedience,” Rom. v. 19; as eminently such ; it being the first and highest instance of it, and virtually a breach of all the laws at once in that contempt of the Lawgiver. It was the profanation of para