Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

LETTER III.
Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing heavenly Muse-

Milton.
OUR first progenitors, when recent from the

hand of Omnipotence, were perfect models of human excellence, possessed a nature untainted by sin, and capacitated to abide in the perpetual enjoyment of paradise.. But, alas ! the trial of their filial obedience soon terminated in the most heinous act of rebellion. Their listening to the vile insinuations of Satan, opened a door for the entrance of sin, the existence of which was immediately evidenced by actual transgression. Thus were their understandings darkened, their affections depraved, and the condition on which felicity was promised, completely violated. The Joss of original rectitude rendered all their future services imperfect; and of course, inadequate to secure the happiness formerly annexed to obedi.

Perfect obedience and perfect happiness were inseparably connected.

But this offence was not attended merely with a privation of present happiness: it was a forfeiture of all claim to future blessedness. Our first parents stood as condemned criminals at the bar of their beneficent Creator; and, in consequence of their detestable ingratitude, became obnoxious to the punishment threatened in case of disobedience to the divine precept. But the evil did not terminate with them. Adam stood as the federal head of the numerous posterity that should spring from his loins : they were considered as one with him ; as interested in his happiness.

ence,

The forfeiture, therefore, of God's favour, which was his proper life, extended itself to all his natural descendants. They were involved in his guilt, and subject to the same condemnation. • The violation of that original covenant not only polluted and disarranged the constituent principles of his nature, but impressed the same hereditary stains on all his descendants, and subjected the whole progeny to those penalties which had been incurred by its first propagator.'

Thus Adam, having, by transgression, virtually renounced his allegiance to the best of sovereigns, became the vassal of that treacherous adversary who, by the power of temptation, had stripped him of all his pristine glory and happiness. He forsook the standard of his beneficent Creator, and enlisted under the banner of Satan. After his example all his posterity naturally copy. They cheerfully obey the crafty dictates of the same tyrannical sovereign. It is said, without exception, · They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no not one.' They are led captive by' the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. All the power and faculties of the soul, and all the members of the body, are under his control, and devoted to his ser. vice. God is not in all their thoughts--nay, the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.'

It is allowed, indeed, that there is a vast disparity, as to moral turpitude, between the actions of individuals. Some men, in a comparative view, may be properly denominated virtuous, and others, completely vicious, and the number of those is not small, who regulate their lives, not by the standard of religion, but by the measure of other men's virtue; who lull their own remorse

with the remembrance of crimes more atrocious than their own, and seem to believe that they are not bad while another can be found worse.' Very different, however, were the conclusions of the learned and excellent Boerhaave, who relates, that he never saw a criminal dragged to execution without asking himself, Who knows whether this man is not less culpable than I. But the concession I have made does not in the least min litate against the doctrine of universal and equal depravity: because every perceptible gradation of excellence arises, I presume, not from one man being less corrupt than another, but from the interposition of God, operating by natural causes, with a piew to subserve his own glory in the go. vernmentofa world entirely under the dominion of sin. Every Christian may with propriety say, If I have not, like David, committed murder and adultery; nor, with Peter, denied the Lord that bought me, it is not because my nature is less depraved,' but because I have been either kept out of the way of temptation, or preserved from falling by it.

The interposition of God in restraining the evil propensities of human nature is strikingly exem. plified in the character of Hazael. After Elisha the prophet had answered the inquiry of Benhadad the king of Syria, he fixed his countenance steadfastly on the messenger, and wept. Then Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord ? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.

D

+

When Hazael heard the predictions of the prophet, he was, I have no doubt, struck with horror. He never imagined that he could be capable of perpetrating such outrageous acts of barbarity. But the sequel demonstrates that the seeds of all these atrocities were latent in his nature. The Almighty withdrew the restraints by which his depravity was bounded. The hour of trialspeedily occurred—the next day he murdered the king, bis master, and reigned in his stead, and afterwards fulfilled all that Elisha predicted.

It was said by one, well acquainted with human nature, Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. The salutary caution is the language of wisdom and benevolence. The best of men, when left to themselves, have given awful proofs of their incompetency to withstand temp. tation. Witness the case of Hezekiah, whom God left to try him, that he might know the corruption of his heart: and it may repress the vanity of self-confidence to recollect that an apostle was, as Dean Young expresses it, pious in the house, courageous in the garden, and, in the hall, both a coward and a traditor..

That the all-wise Governor of the universe is pleased, for the purposes of his own glory, to restrain the passions of men, is clear from the case of Abimelech respecting Abraham; and also from these words of the Psalmist ; ' Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain :' and perhaps both these clauses, and also the principle on which I reason, were never more awfully nor more clearly exemplified than in the character and conduct of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Man is not only dreadfully depraved, but is said to be without strength-to have no understanding-He receiveth not the things of the Spirit of

God : for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Nor is it strange that the natural man should not discern the things of the Spirit ; for, in all other cases, a simple perception can only be excited by its proper object. The ideas of sound and colour, of proportion and symmetry, of beauty and harmony, are never found in the mind, till the objects by which these pleasing sensations or emotions are inspired have been presented to our observation. How then shall we rightly apprehend the nature and effects of communicated grace, before they are felt? or how can we explain to others sensations for which language has no words, and to which the persons whom we would enlighten have no feeling analogous in their own minds?'

The language of the heart of a natural man to God is, Depart from me ; for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways. I say the language of the heart; because the existence of this diabolical aversion is, by multitudes, peremptorily denied. But every act of sin is rebellion against the authority of God in his law; a contumacious disregard of the sanctions by which it is enforced ; and while men indulge themselves in criminal pursuits, in vain do they disown the being of a disposition hostile to the divine character. There have always been men that have professed to know God, but who have in works denied him : and while this ignorance and aversion continue, the sinner will persevere in the paths of iniquity and of death, suspecting neither danger nor deception. Though he walk in the imaginations of his heart, to add drunkenness to thirst, yet doth he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace. Self-love flatters him with undoubted assurance of mercy. Imagina

« AnteriorContinuar »