Imágenes de página
[ocr errors]

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 excited 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,” Lactant. 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 reverend regard to it, man presented his soul and body to God as a living sacrifice, which was his reasonable service, Rom. xii. 1.



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 a man. 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 obe dience; 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 contrivés 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 besore sin was not terrible unto her; and by this instrument insinuates his temptation. He first allures 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 allectives, 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. “ Totam legem violavit in illo legalis obedientiæ præceptio,” 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 apostacy from God, and a change of the last end, that distinguished the habit of original righteousness.

1. 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 disturbed the fountain of truth, he gave credit to the father of lies; as appears by his compliance, the real evidence of 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, he 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 dependance; 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,”

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 paradise itself, the place of God's special presence: there he fell, and trampled on God's command before his face. What just cause of astonishment is it, that a reasonable creature should bid open defiance to the Author of its life! that a little breathing dust should contemn its Creator! that a man should prefer servile compliance to the will of the tempter, before free subjection to his Father and Sovereign! To depose God, and place the devil in his throne, was double treason, and provoked his infinite jealousy.

5. Unaccountable and amazing folly. What a despicable acquisition tempted him out of happiness! If there had been any possible comparison between them, the choice had been more excusable. But that the pleasures of taste and curiosity should outvie the favour of God which is better

Rom. v.

than life; that the most pernicious evil, gilded with the thin appearance of good, should be preferred before the substantial and supreme good, is the reproach of his reason, and makes the choice so criminal. And what less than voluntary madness could incline him to desire that, which he ought infinitely to have feared, that is, the knowledge of evil? for nothing could destroy his happiness but the experience of evil. What a wilful distraction could induce him to believe, that by defacing God's image, he should become more like him? Thus “man being in honour," but without understanding, became “like the beasts that perish,” Psalm xlix. 12.

6. A bloody cruelty to himself and all his posterity. When God had made him a depositary, in a matter of infinite moment, that is, of his own happiness and all mankind's, this should have been a powerful motive to have kept him vigilant: but giving a ready car to the tempter, he betrayed his trust, and at once breaks both the tables of the law, and becomes guilty of the highest impiety and cruelty.

He was a murderer before he was a parent; he disinherited all his children before they were born, and made them slaves before they knew the price of liberty.

II. And that which increases the malignity of this sin, and adds an infinite emphasis to it, is, that it was perfectly voluntary; his will was the sole cause of his fall. And this is evident by considering;

1. That Adam innocent had a sufficient power to persevere in his holy state. There was no substraction of any grace which was requisite to his standing; he left God before he was forsaken by him. Much less was there any internal impulsion from God. It is inconsistent with the divine purity to incline the creature to sin. As “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” It is injurious to his wisdom, to think that God would spoil that work which he had composed with so much design and counsel; and it is dishonourable to his goodness. He loved his creature, and love is an inclination to do good; it was impossible therefore for God to induce man to sin, or to withdraw that power which was necessary to resist the temptation, when the consequence must be his inevitable ruin. 2. The devil did only allure, cou not

ish his consent. Though his malice is infinite, yet his power is so restrained, that he cannot fasten an immediate, much less an irresistible impression on the will: he therefore made use of

« AnteriorContinuar »