« AnteriorContinuar »
consume them. But are there no signs of good? Are they already dead in trespasses and sins? Is there no right principle? Is there nothing hopeful left? No such thing is visible in their demeanour. They are terrified, but not humbled. Their mouths are stopped, but there is no ingenuous confession. When the Lord says, "Adam, where art thou?" Adam answers by a falsehood: "I was afraid, because I was naked." And when by a second question the Almighty lets him understand that he knew his fear to have been the consequence of his sin, by which only his nakedness could have been discovered to him, though he cannot deny the fact, he will not own it, but, saith he, "The woman-she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." Yea, "the woman whom thou gavest to be with me.” though he would lay the blame at last upon God Himself, insinuating that, had it not been for his gift, the sin had never been committed. The woman had no opportunity of copying this blasphemy. But she shifts the blame from herself, as well as she can, and lays it upon the serpent, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." It was true the serpent beguiled her, but it was with her own free consent. And this she would have acknowledged, had her heart been truly humbled. But neither of them show any marks at all of godly sorrow, any grief for the insult offered to their Maker, any sense of the enormity of their offence as committed against so kind a benefactor.
Mark these circumstances well, for they contain an authentic picture of man, even of ourselves, in our unconverted state.
We have all not only inherited Adam's sinful nature, but sinned actually after the similitude of his transgression; that is, in defiance of a known and express commandment. The effect of sin is precisely the same with us as it was with him. It separates between us and our God. By the light of natural conscience we see, because we are constrained to see, that we are amenable to God's justice; therefore, altogether amiable as God is, we cannot behold Him as
such. We see Him only as the Almighty to whom vengeance belongeth, and we are terrified.
If Divine grace interfere not to overrule this terror for better purposes, its effect upon the natural man is to drive him by various expedients to put God out of all his thoughts. The prodigal, like Adam among the trees, gathers all together, and departs from his Father's house into a far country. The sinner silences conscience as well as he can, wastes his talents in excess of riot, adds iniquity to iniquity: the further he goes the more he is enslaved; and consequently, when any thing forces him to think, the heavier weight of condemnation does he see himself to have incurred, the more does he see God and his law to be contrary to him. Hence a secret wish that God and his law were different from what they are, a carnal enmity to God as He is, a hatred of God's holy nature: and what is this but hatred of God Himself? Hence, though the evil shall have proceeded so far in time, that conscience shall have become seared and hardened, and the sinner shall not even think of his Maker as an object of terror, but disregard Him utterly; still he will imitate his fallen progenitor: he will flee from God's presence, because purity is become loathsome to him. Thus we see that the act of prayer, which is one of the most direct acts of communion with God of which the Christian is capable, is a thing loathed and hated by the unbeliever, yea, a toil and a burden to the Christian himself, whensoever the law that is in his members obtains a temporary ascendancy over the principle of grace. But, sinful in heart and life as the unconverted man is, though the fact of his transgression be never so glaring and detestable, though his mouth be stopped and he dare not deny the deed, yea, though he should be made to crouch and tremble at the thought of his doom, like a slave beneath the rod—yet there is no humiliation of spirit. He will only confess just so much as it is impossible to deny. If he did sin, he has this or that excuse for it. He will blame his fellow-creatures, his earthly circumstances, God's judg
ments or God's mercies, any thing, however falsely or perversely, provided he can thereby find a pretence, in any measure, to justify himself. And if he be at last so detected, that something like confession is wrung out of him, his sorrow is for the punishment, not for the sin; the affront and injury done to God move him not at all. This is the temper of corrupt nature, and evidently was the temper of our fallen parents.
IV. We will consider, lastly, the manner of God's dealings with them. In this there are three things observable.
1. First (as we have seen already), He calls Adam to account. This was necessary in order to set his sin before him. But it could not of itself avail to bring him to a right mind.
2. The Almighty therefore proceeds, in the next place, even without any manner of solicitation for pardon on the part of the rebels themselves, to preach his Gospel to them. "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." This, as it is the first, so is it the most comprehensive prophecy of Holy Writ. I cannot therefore attempt, at present, to explain it to you fully. But you know, in general, that it refers to Jesus Christ: who should in due time be manifested, at the expense of his own sufferings, utterly to destroy the empire, and undo the works of Satan. Adam might not understand the prediction so clearly as the event enables us to do. But doubtless he would learn from it, that his treacherous foe was eventually to be ruined, and that a way of reconciliation to God, and restoration to happiness, was graciously provided for himself; and then, the effect of a hearty belief of the promises would be
Gen. iii. 14, 15.
exactly the same to him, as the effect of genuine faith in Christ crucified is now to us. It would take away that overwhelming terror which at the first made him hide himself from God. It would show him his Maker's goodness in a new and most endearing light, and lead him both to see and to abhor his own baseness. It would melt his stubborn heart, subdue his contracted enmity, rekindle the holy flame of love, make him look upon God as twice a father to him, make him burn with zeal to testify his thankfulness, and to devote himself unreservedly to God's service.
3. But the poison had struck deep, and the taint which man's soul had contracted rendered a new mode of probation and discipline necessary. Accordingly we find that the Almighty immediately decreed that a great change should take place in man's condition upon earth. To the woman He multiplies sorrow in child-bearing. To the man He declares, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life "." To both He awards death temporal, and both are driven out of Paradise. Thus the history concludes. But we must not mistake this for vengeance. It is of a piece with all God's dealings
with his children whom He loves. "Whom the Lord loveth he correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth'." He let them taste the bitter fruits of sin, that they might the more readily be brought to loathe it. He taught them experimentally the vanity of the creature, that so their regards might be turned back again to the all-sufficient Creator. Labour was fitter for man now than ease; and a world of thorns and thistles more suitable than a garden. He would keep them, by sorrows and sufferings, in a dependent, praying frame of spirit, and so He would humble them and prove them, to do them good at the latter end.
And this is the method in which God also deals by His law arraigns us for our transgression, and
9 Gen. iii. 17.
1 Prov. iii. 12.
finds us guilty. His Gospel provides our ransom, and, if we will embrace the Gospel, his providence will so overrule the trials and cares of this life as to make them advance our growth in godliness. Let us pray for a humble and believing heart, that we may receive every thing at his hands aright, and not do despite to the Spirit of grace.
Let us not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when we are rebuked of Him. Let us look upon toil and trouble as the wise prescription of the great Physician of our souls. If Satan be permitted to bruise our heel, let the Seed of the woman be our stay under every trial. trial. God hath said, that He must prevail finally and completely; and the word of our God shall stand for ever. In this faith and confidence let us bless God as "for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; so above all, for his inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And let us beseech Him to give us such a due sense of all his mercies, that our hearts being unfeignedly thankful, we may show forth his praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to his service, and by walking before Him in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen 2."
2 General Thanksgiving.