Imágenes de página

(2.) It is culpable. The formality of sin consists in its opposition to the law, according to the definition of the apostle, “ sin is a transgression of the law.” Now the law requires an entire rectitude in all the faculties. It condemns corrupt inclinations, the originals as well as the acts of sin. Besides, concupiscence was not inherent in the human nature in its creation, but was contracted by the fall. The soul is stripped of its native righteousness and holiness, and invested with contrary qualities. There is as great a difference between the corruption of the soul in its degenerate state, and its primitive purity, as between the loathsomeness of a carcass, and the beauty of a living body. Sad change, and to be lamented with tears of confusion !

II. That the sin of Adam should be so fatal to all his posterity, is the most difficult part in the whole order of divine providence. Nothing more offends carnal reason, which forms many specious objections against it. I will briefly consider them.

1.“ Since God sạw that Adam would not resist the temptation, and that upon his fall the whole race of mankind which he supported as the foundation, would sink into ruin, why did he not confirm him against it? Was it not within his power, and more suitable to his wisdom, holiness, and goodness ?" To this I answer;

(1.) The divine power could have preserved man in his integrity, either by laying a restraint on the apostate angels, that they should never have made an attempt upon him ; or by keeping the understanding waking and vigilant to discover the danger of the temptation, and by fortifying the will,and rendering it impenetrable to the fiery darts of Satan, without any prejudice to its freedom ; for that doth not consist in an absolute indifference, but in a judicious and deliberate choice; 80 that when the soul is not led by a blind instinct, nor forced by a foreign power, but embraces what it knows and approves, it then enjoys the most true liberty. Thus, in the glorified spirits above, by the full and constant light of the mind, the will is indeclinably fixed upon its supreme good, and this is its crown and perfection.

(2.) It was most suitable to the divine wisdom, to leave man to stand or fall by his own choice; to discover the necessary dependance of all second causes upon the first. No creature is absolutely impeccable, but the most perfect is liable to imperfection. He that is essentially, is only unchangeably

good. Infinite goodness alone excludes all possibility of receiving corruption. The fall of angels and man convinces us, that there is one sole Being immutably pure and holy, on whom all depend, and without whose influence they cannot be, 'or must be eternally miserable. It was very fit that Adam should be first in a state of trial, before he was confirmed in his happiness. The reason of it is clear; he was left to his own judgment and election, that obedience might be his choice, and in the performance of it he might acquire a title to the reward. A determining virtue over him had crossed the end of his creation, which was to glorify God in such a free manner. Therefore in paradise there were amiable objects to allure the lower faculties, before they were disordered by him. The forbidden fruit had beauty to invite the eye, and sweetness to delight the palate. And if upon the competition of the sensual with the intellectual good, he had rejected the one and chosen the other, he had been raised to an unchangeable state; his innocence had been crowned with perseverance; as the angels who continued in their duty when the rest revolted, are finally established in their integrity and felicity. And the apostle gives us an account of this order, when he tells us, that was first which was natural, then that which is spiritual and supernatural, 1 Cor. xv. 46. Man was created in a state of perfection, but it was natural, therefore mutable; the confirming of him immediately had been grace, which belongs to a more excellent dispensation. Now to bring man from not being to a supernatural state, of nature, was not so congruous to the divine wisdom.

(3.) The permission of the fall doth not reflect on the divine purity; for man was made upright; he had no inward corruption to betray him; there was antidote enough in his nature to expel the strongest temptation. God was not bound to hinder the commission of sin. It is a true maxim, that “in debitis causa deficiens efficit moraliter ;" but God is not only free from subjection to a law, as having no superior, but was under no voluntary obligation by promise to prevent the fall. Neither doth that first act of sin reflect on God's unspotted providence which suffered it, as if sin were in any degree allowed by him. The holy law which God gave to direct man, the terrible threatening annexed to warn him, declare his irreconcilable hatred against sin. He permits innumerable sins every day, yet he is as jealous of the honour of his holiness now, as in the beginning. It is the worst impiety

for the sinner to think God like himself, Psalm 1.21; as if he took complacency in sin, because he is silent for a time, and suffers the commission of it. In the next state he will fully vindicate his glory, and convince the whole world of his eternal aversion to sin, by inflicting on sinners the most dreadful and durable torments.

(4.) The goodness of God is not disparaged by permitting the fall: this appears by considering that God bestowed on man an excellent being, and a happiness that might satisfy his nature, considered as human or holy. But he perverted the favours of God to his dishonour; and this doth not lessen the goodness that gave them. It is unreasonable to judge of the value of a benefit by the ungrateful abuse of the receiver, and not from its own nature. It is a chosen misery that is come upon man, and not to be imputed to any defect of the divine goodness. God is infinitely good, notwithstanding the entrance of sin and misery into the world. We must distinguish between natural and voluntary agents. Natural agents have no power to suspend their acts, but are entirely determined, and their operations are "ad extremum virium,” to the utmost of their efficacy. If there were infinite degrees of heat, there would be no cold, it being overcome by the force of its contrary.. But God is a wise and free agent; and as he is infinite in goodness, so the exercise of it is voluntary, and only so far as he pleases. God is an omnipotent good, and it is his peculiar glory to bring good out of evil, that by the opposition and lustre of contraries, his goodness might be the more conspicuous. To speak strictly, sin is the only evil in the world; for all the rest which appear so to our fancies and appetites, are either absolutely good, or upon the supposal of sin, viz. either for the reformation of sinners, or for the ruin of the obstinate. Now the evil of sin God permitted as a fit occasion for the more glorious discovery of his attributes, in sending his Son into the world to repair his image which was defaced, and to raise man from an earthly to celestial happiness. I shall conclude with the excellent answer of St. Austin to the adversary of the law and prophets :

Quibus autem videtur sic hominem fieri debuisse ut peccare nollet, non eis displiceat sic esse factum, ut non peccare posset, si nollet. Nunquid enim si melior esset qui non posset peccare, ideo no benefactus est qui posset et non peccare ? An vero usque adeo desipiendum est, ut homo videat melius aliquid fieri debuisse, et hoc Deum vidisse non putet? Aut

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

putet vidisse et credat facere noluisse ? Aut voluisse quidem et minime potuisse ? Avertat hoc Deus a cordius piorum.” The substance of which is this, that it is an impious folly to imagine that God was either defective in wisdom, not to know what was the best state for man in his creation; or defective in goodness, that knowing it, he would not confer it upon him; or defective in power, that willing, he was unable to make him better.

2. There is another objection vehemently urged, that the imputation of Adam's sin to all his posterity who were not existent at that time, and did not give their personal consent to the treaty between God and him, is inconsistent with justice.” To this I answer;

(1.) The terms of the first covenant are such, that the common reason of mankind cannot justly refuse; for suppose all the progeny of Adam had appeared with him before their Creator, and this had been propounded, that God would make an agreement with their common father on their behalf, that if he continued in his obedience, they should enjoy a happy immortality; if he declined from it, they should be deprived of blessedness; what shadow of exception can be formed against this proposal ? For God who is the master of his own favours, and gives them upon what terms he pleases, might upon their refusal have justly annihilated them.

The command was equal, and his obedience for all was as easy, as that of every particular person for himelf. Besides ; Adam was as much concerned to observe the conditions of the covenant, for securing his own interest, as theirs ; and after a short time of trial they should be confirmed in their blessed

By all which it is apparent how reasonable the conditions of the original agreement between God and man are.

(2.) God hath a power over our wills superior to that we ourselves have. If God offers a covenant to the creature, the terms being equal, it becomes a law, and consent is due as an act of obedience. And if a community may appoint one of their number to be their representative, to transact affairs of the greatest moment, and according to his management, the benefit or damage shall accrue to them, because he is reckoned to perform the wills of them all; may not God, who hath a supreme dominion over us, constitute Adam the represent. ative of mankind, and unite the consent of all in his general will, so that as he fulfilled or neglected his duty, they should be happy or miserable ? This consideration alone, that the


first covenant was ordered by God, may perfectly satisfy all inquiries; as Salvian having confessed his ignorance in the reasons of some dispositions of providence, silences all objections with this ; “Nihil in hâc re opus est aliquid audire ; satis sit pro universis rationibus, Auctor Deus.” Neither is this a mere extrinsic argument, as authority usually is, because there is an intrinsic reason of this authority, the absolute rectitude and justice of God's nature, who is “righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works,” Psalm cxlv. 17.



WHEN Adam was expelled from paradise, the entrance was guarded by a flaming sword, to signify that all hopes of return by the way of nature are cut off for ever. He lost his right, and could not recover it by power.

The chiefest ornaments of paradise are the image and favour of God, of which he is justly deprived, and there is no possibility for him to regain them. What can he expect from his own reason, that betrayed him to ruin ? If it did not support him when he stood, how can it raise him when he is fallen ? If there were a power in lapsed man to restore himself, it would exceed the original power he had to will and obey ; it being infinitely more difficult for a dead man to rise, than for a living man to put forth vital actions.

For the clearer opening of this point concerning man's absolute disability to recover his primitive state, I will distinetly consider it with respect to the image and favour of God, upon which his blessedness depends.

I. He cannot recover his primitive holiness. This will appear by considering, that whatsoever is corrupted in its noble parts, can never restore itself; the power of an external agent is requisite for the recovering of its integrity. This is verified by innumerable instances in things artificial and natural. If a clock be disordered by a fall, the workman must mend it, before it can be useful. If wine that is rich and generous, decline by the loss of spirits, it can never be revived without a new supply. In the human body, where is a more noble form and more power to redress any evil that may

« AnteriorContinuar »