« PreviousContinue »
Τ Η Ε
O E CON O M Y
Of the Doctrine of Salvation in the first Age of the
E have thus far explained those benefits, that are essential to the covenant of grace. Let us now more particularly take a view of the two Oeconomies, or the different dispensations, under which that covenant was administered. And here, according to the plan laid down chap. iii. of the preceding book, we are more accurately to explain, first, the nature of the Old Testament, and then, that of the New. In the Old, we will distinctly consider four principal points. I. The doctrine concerning the common salvation, as there laid down. II. The benefits or privileges of that testament. III. Its defects, or, according to Paul,* the weakness and unprofitableness thereof, on account of which that covepant was not faultless.t IV. Its abrogation. The doctrine, again, may be considered, as expressed by fiords, figured by types, and ratified by sacraments.
* Heb. vii. 18,
+ Heb. viii. 7. .
II. Divine compassion published to wretched man, immediately upon his fall, the first doctrine of grace ; in such a manner, indeed, as in few words, and those almost enigmatical, summarily to contain the whole gospel. We have that first promise Gen. iii. 14, 15. And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field : upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Luther long ago complained, that none of the ancient fathers and bishops, who were men eminent for knowledge and piety, had explained this passage as it deserved. Their successors ought to use the greater diligence to do it with the more care : which several very learned interpreters have indeed happily effected. Treading in their footsteps, we shall make it appear, that the principal articles of the gospel-doctrine are summarily contained in this text.
III. We suppose, that the devil is condemned by this sentence, to whom the Lord addresses himself under the appellation of the serpent, because he had abused that animal in order to deceive man. For it is dull and trifling to restrict that magnificent speech of the Deity, as if it had its full accomplishment in that animal alone ; for besides that it might seem unbecoming the Supreme Being, to address a brute beast, void of all reason, in such pomp of language, many things said here to the serpent, if interpreted literally, are natural to that beast ; as to go upon his belly and eat dust. For we are not to affirm without scripture, that the serpent, as the Jews vainly dream, went on feet, or walked erect, or had other food formerly, different from what it has now: nor to imagine, that serpents now feed only on dust; seeing Aristotle reckons them among the PAMPHAGOI, or omnivorous, that eat all kinds of things, and testifies, that they eat both flesh and herbs, and that of all animals, they are fond of the nicest delicacies. Dust is said to be the serpent's food; because, since it creeps upon the ground, it cannot but take dust into its mouth, along with its other food. Just as David complains in his mourning, that he ate ashes like bread ;* for, while he lay on his face in the ashes, he eat the bread that was thrown to him on the ground. Moreover, what is here said of the serpent going on the belly and eating dust, is common to many kinds of worms, as the very learned Bochart has shewn.t But how could that be a curse to the serpent, which is natural to other animals, whom Satan never abused in this manner? And then its being detestable to man, is owing to its dangerous poison, which it also has in common with other beasts; who, after sin, became a horror and dread to man. But some serpents are commended for their philanthropy, or love to men.
See Vossius do origin. idololat. lib. 6. c. 58. Some also are fit to be eaten, and accounted a royal dainty. In a
I word, it is of no great consequence to man, whether äny animal goes on its feet, or on its belly; whether it feeds on herbs, or flesh, or dust. But certain it is, that, by this condemnation of the serpent, God intended to comfort our first parents in their wretched estate. To what purpose then is it to interpret the words in such a manner, as to yield very little or no comfort at all to man, who now seriously deplored his own unhappiness?
IV. But the principal consideration is, that the scripture expressly calls the devil, OPHIN, the serpent,ş and TON OPHÌN TON ARCHAION, the old serpent il and Psal. cii. 9. f Hierozoic. I. 1. c. 4. Ibid. c. 62. § 2 Cor.
xi. 3. || Rev. xii. 9.
his defeat is called the bruising him under our feet. And though we grant, that both these things were primarily and literally said to the animal, the instrument which Satan spoke by ; yet it is evident from the nature of the thing, that both might and ought rather to be said to the principal seducer. For, as Chrysostom argues well, “ if the instrument experienced such a degree of indignation; what punishment can we probably imagine the devil incurred ?”
V. Nor can it be objected, that what is said to the serpent, all the days of thy life, cannot be applied to Satan, who, it is evident, is an immortal and neverceasing spirit. For even Satan has a peculiar death re: served for him ; namely, the judgment of the last day; in which he, together with death, will be thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone.f The devil lives, when he works effectually in the children of disobedience, and thereby shews himself to be KOSMOKRATORA, the prince of this world. He shall die, when he will no longer be able to use any of his instruments in or against the kingdom of God. Thus the Lord Jesus stills the enemy and the arenger, I and destroys him that had the power of death. The days, therefore, of the devil's life are those antecedent to the last judgment; which yields us an useful doctrine, as we shall presently see.
VI. But God was pleased to pronounce those words, which are the source of all consolation to wretched man, against the devil, in the presence and hearing of man. 1. To mortify that wicked and arrogant spirit, who was .constrained to hear his own condemnation, in the presence of such weak feeble creatures, whom he had so easily brought under his power, and over whom he thought to domineer for ever. 2. That he might revive and charm our first parents, with the sweetest consola
* Rom. sti. 10. + Rev. xx. 10. Psal. viii. 2. Heb. ii. 14.
tions, to whom not only that just vengeance ought to be most acceptable, which God promised to take of their enemy; but who also, in the condemnation of the devil, heard their own absolution. 3. To shew, that this sentence had the nature of a last or unchangeable will.
For as God, by a peremptory and irrevocable sentence, condemns, without farther inquiry, the devil, when he was taken in the very fact, which he could neither deny, nor transfer to another : so those blessings or privileges, which are made over to the elect in this condemnation of the devil, are made over to them, by the last and immutable will of God, which does not depend on any uncertain condition.
VII. Now let us take a more distinct view of the things contained in this sentence. And they are the following: I. The blessings, or benefits promised to man. II. The author of those good things. III. Their meritorious cause. IV. The manner of acquisition. V. The heirs. VI. The mean of acquisition..
VIII, The evils which God pronounces against the serpent, are so many benefits, or blessings to man: and they are four. The first is the curse of the serpent ; Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field. All beasts are subject to destruction : Natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed.* And it is for man's sin, that beasts, as the property of man, are made more miserable : for they cannot be excluded from being a part of this world, which is not willingly subject to vanity,t and among them there are those called evil beasts.
„ But the curse threatened against the serpent, is such as renders him inferior to, viler and more miserable than, all beasts: importing, l. An invincible folly and malice; so that he can neither be wise nor good : worse * 2 Pet. ii, 12.
+ Rom. vix. 20: