"The faith of a true Christian is the same as that of Moses and the Prophets."
Letter 9. The Fall of Man
1. This letter invites your attention to a most mournful subject, the awful fall of our first parents from their state of holiness and happiness into a state of sin and misery.
Immutability is one of the incommunicable perfections by which the divine Being is distinguished from every created being. "I am Jehovah, I change not" (Mal 3:6). Adam was made in the image of God, yet he was mutable. It was not the essential image of God, as Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son, is of the Father; but only a created moral image in respect of some qualities answerable to the communicable attributes of God, such as have been stated in a former letter, viz. knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. These are infinite and unchangeable in the Creator, but finite and changeable in the creature. Adam, indeed, was created without sin, but not incapable of sinning, and consequently of losing his integrity, glory, and happiness.
2. Many creatures, both angelic and human, are unalterably confirmed in a state of holiness and happiness; but the permanency of their state arises from divine purposes rather than from the immutability of their nature. God, no doubt, could immediately have confirmed our first parents in a state of purity and felicity, but it pleased him to place them, for a season, in a state of probation and trial. As he ever is sovereign in the distribution of all his favors to the creatures, he could either give to our original progenitors, or withhold from them, that superadded grace and strength by which they might have been for ever confirmed in their original state, and not so much as a possibility have been left of their falling from it. But this he was pleased to withhold, leaving them to the freedom of their own will.
3. Adam was under the most inviolable obligations to obey. He was allured to obedience by the encouraging prospect of the endless felicity which he was to obtain for himself and his posterity. He was deterred from disobedience by the most express and faithful warning of the fatal consequences of it to himself and his offspring.
4. That the state of mankind is different from that in which our first parents were created; that there is a corrupt spring of sin and disorder in the nature of man; that the whole world lieth in ignorance, darkness, evil, and confusion; that there is an alienation and displeasure between God and mankind; God revealing his wrath and judgments from heaven, whence at first nothing might be expected but fruits of goodness and pledges of love; and man naturally dreading the presence of God and trembling at the effects of it, which at first was his life, joy, and refreshment; reason itself, with careful observation, will discover; it has done so unto many contemplative men of old (Rom 1:18, 8:20,21), but what it was that opened the floodgates unto all the evil and sin which they saw and observed, they could not tell.
5. But that which they could not attain unto, we are clearly taught by divine revelation.
Our inspired historian, Moses, in a very few verses, gives us a faithful account of the circumstances which led to the fall of our first parents, and of the awful consequences which immediately followed. "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat" (Gen 3:1-6).
6. Such is the account of the sin or fall of man. With the greatest propriety it is called a fall.
It supposes a former state of dignity, as well as of felicity. It bespeaks a present state of unhappiness and misery. High, was man previous to this direful event. High was he in point of relation. He was the Son of God (Luke 3:38), high in character. High was he in point of state. He was in covenant with his Maker, and his vicegerent on earth. All the other creatures in our world were subject to him. High did he stand in his Maker's estimation and favor. High was he in point of employment. He glorified God in a manner of which all the other creatures in our lower world are incapable. He had high attainments and enjoyments. He enjoyed, as well as glorified, his Maker in a peculiar manner. Honorable, happy man!
But, alas! man being in honor, abode not! He fell, and O how low is the fall! Man has become an alien and outcast from God; unable to glorify him, and disqualified for the enjoyment of him, as well as without a title to it. Let us consider the circumstances which led to this awful change.
7. We notice first the tempter, called in the text serpent. On this subject there is a variety of opinions and curious conjectures. We name the two extremes, and choose the middle way. Some think that no real serpent was intended, but that the seduction of our first parents was effected immediately by Satan himself; others affirm that Satan had no concern in the temptation, but that it was effected solely by a natural serpent. The opinion which is most commonly received, and which seems the most probable, is that Satan was the agent and a real serpent the instrument. Satan is a most malignant spirit; by creation an angel of light, but by sin he became an apostate from his first state, and a rebel against God's crown and dignity. Multitudes of them fell, but he that attacked our first parents was surely the prince of the devils, the ringleader in rebellion. No sooner was he a sinner but he was a Satan, no sooner a traitor but a tempter, a liar, and a murderer.
8. It is generally supposed that the devil was urged to tempt our first parents by two strong and powerful passions, hatred and envy. His hatred to God is implacable; for being fallen under a final and irrevocable doom, he looked upon God as an irreconcileable enemy; and not being able to injure his essence, he struck at his image; he singled out Adam as the mark of his malice, that by seducing him from his duty he might defeat God's design, which was, to be honored by man's free and cheerful obedience, and so eclipse the lustre of his excellencies, as though he had made man in vain.
Envy, the first native of hell, is considered the second motive that urged Satan to tempt our first parents. Having lost the friendship and favor of God, and being cast out of heaven, the happy region of blessedness and joy, the sight of Adam's felicity highly exasperated him, and excited his grief, that man, who by the condition of his nature was inferior to him, should be prince of the world and the special friend and favorite of heaven, whilst he himself was a miserable prisoner under those fatal chains which restrained and tormented him, the power and the wrath of God. This made his state and condition more intolerable. His torment could only be allayed by rendering man as miserable as himself.
9. It may not be unprofitable to notice the subtilty and art of Satan manifested in the management of the temptation. In the matter of the temptation, which had nothing in itself to deter, but much to allure and entice. Had he proposed the breach of a moral law, to love and worship him instead of God, or to kill her husband, &c. the woman, shocked at the thought, would have exclaimed, "Go behind me, Satan!" But he chose a positive precept, which had nothing in itself either good or evil, only as God had commanded it.
10. Another part of his subtilty was in attacking the woman rather than the man. As an experienced general, in taking a castle, seeks for the weakest part of the walls, where it is easiest to enter, so did Satan; he assaulted the weaker vessel. Saith Mr. Henry:"Though Eve was perfect in kind, yet we may suppose she was inferior to Adam in knowledge, and strength, and presence of mind."Some think Eve received the command not immediately from God, but at second-hand, by her husband, and therefore might the easier be persuaded to discredit it. It seems also most likely that he attacked Eve when she was alone, and had no time to consult with or take advice of her husband; for, as the wise man observed, "Wo unto him that is alone when he falleth: two are better than one, and a threefold cord is not easily broken." Had she kept close to the side out of which she was lately taken, she would not have been so much exposed.
11. We may notice further, his skill in the instrument he chose. Many are the conjectures concerning the species, nature, properties, &c. &c. of this serpent, all of which I shall pass by, except the following: It is supposed, and that not very improbably, that more discourse passed between the serpent and Eve than is recorded in Genesis 3, and it is thus represented:"The serpent catching the opportunity of the woman's being alone, makes his address to her with a short speech, saluting her as the empress of the world, and giving her a great many encomiums and dignifying titles. She wonders, and inquires what this meant? and whether he was not a brute creature? and how he came to be endowed with understanding and speech? The serpent replies that he was nobler than a brute, and did indeed once want both these gifts; but by eating a certain fruit in this garden he had got both. She immediately asks what fruit and tree that was which had such a surprising influence and virtue; which when he had showed her, she replied, this, no doubt, is an excellent fruit, but God hath strictly forbidden us the use of it. To which the serpent presently replied, 'Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?' The way how these words are introduced plainly shows that something had passed previous thereto. And some suppose that the serpent, to confirm the truth of his assertion, pulled off some of the fruits of the tree, ate one in her presence, and presented another to Eve, who, before eating it, had the discourse with the serpent which is recorded in the subsequent verses."Boston.12. The subtilty, as well as the wickedness of Satan, is further manifested in the gradation of his temptation. He does not adventure all at once to contradict the divine word; but only, with an air of modesty, insinuates a suspicion concerning it, and speaks as if he wished to receive information; for thus he addresses the woman: "Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden?" Next he grows bolder, and assures her, in direct opposition to God's threatening, that though she did eat, yet she should not die. "God indeed did say so, to keep you in awe. But do not entertain such hard and unworthy thoughts of that God who is infinitely good and gracious. Do not think, that, for such a trifle as the eating of a little fruit, he will undo you, and all your posterity for ever, and so suddenly destroy the most excellent piece of his own workmanship, wherein his image shines in a most resplendent manner." Further, he represents God as their enemy, who is desirous to prevent their happiness. "For God does know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." As if he had said, "God's design in that prohibition is only this: he knows that you shall be so far from dying, that thereby you shall certainly enter into a new and more noble and excellent kind of life. The eyes of your understandings, which are now shut in a great measure, as to the knowledge of many things, shall then be wide opened, and ye shall see more clearly and distinctly than you now do. You shall be as God, and shall attain to a kind of omniscience." Here is the Devil's true character; first "an angel of light," then "a liar," and last of all, "a murderer." It was Satan's master-piece, first to weaken her faith, and when he had shaken that, and brought her once to distrust God, then she was easily overcome, and presently put forth her hand to pluck the forbidden fruit. By these pretences he ruined Innocence itself; for the woman being deceived by these insinuations, swallowed down the poison of the serpent ; and having tasted death herself, she became a tempter to Adam; for "she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat." Thus by one sin, the covenant of works was broken, its precepts violated, and its penalty incurred.
13. The sentence pronounced on the tempter will be considered hereafter; we proceed to take a more particular view of the immediate consequences of the fall on our first parents themselves (see Gen 3:7-24
). a. As soon as they sinned, they fell under the curse of the law which the covenant denounced, viz. death. I have shown already, in a former letter, that the death threatened was temporal, or corporal; spiritual and eternal. Man became mortal, and subject to diseases, and pain of body, and to numberless griefs and distresses of soul. Saith Dr. Bates:
5. Genesis 3:7-24
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
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.
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."Who can make a list of the evils to which the body is liable, by the disagreeing elements that compose it? The fatal seeds of corruption are bred in itself. It is a prey to all diseases, from the torturing stone to the dying consumption. It feels the stroke of death a thousand times before it can die once. At last life is swallowed up of death; and if death were a deliverance from miseries, it would lessen Its terror; but alas! it is the consummation of all. The first death transmits to the second."Spiritual, or moral death, seized on all the powers and faculties of the soul. His understanding became darkened, his mind and conscience defiled, his affections inordinate, his will biased to that which is evil, and lifeless to every good work. Adam became also subject to eternal death, the just wages of sin, which consists in the wrath and displeasure of God revealed against all unrighteousness, and which comes upon the children of disobedience. As the body dies by the soul forsaking it, so the soul, by separation from God, its true life, dies to its well being and happiness for ever.
14. b. They lost the Divine image in which they were created. The image of God consisted, as has been shown above, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Instead of gaining the knowledge unlawfully sought after, Adam lost much of what he had. In the place of divine knowledge, darkness filled his mind. What ignorance and folly did he manifest by attempting to flee from the presence of the Omnipresent Jehovah, and by hiding himself from his all-seeing eye. They lost their original righteousness and holiness, and became altogether unrighteous and unholy. The nakedness of their bodies was a true emblem or the nakedness of their souls.
15. c. Their minds were filled with guilt, shame, and fear. Adam, whilst obedient, enjoyed peace with God, a sweet serenity of mind, a divine calm upon the conscience, and full satisfaction in himself. But after his sin he trembled at God's voice, and was tormented at his presence. "I heard thy voice, and was afraid," saith guilty Adam. He looked on God as angry, and armed against him, ready to execute the severe sentence. Conscience began an early hell within. Paradise, with all its pleasures, could not rescue him from that sting in his breast, and that sharpened by the hand of God. What confusion of thought, what a combat of passions was he in! When the temptation which deceived him vanished, and his spirit recovered out of its surprise, and took a clear view of his guilt in its true horror, what indignation was kindled in his breast! How did shame, sorrow, revenge, despairthose secret executionerstorment his spirit! Guilt is the consequence of sin, and a real sense of it will make it intolerable; and nothing can remove it, and give peace to the conscience, but the precious blood of the Messiah. In vain do men try to commit sin in the dark, or to flee from the presence of God, to whom "the darkness and the light are both alike." Nor will their endeavor to work out a righteousness avail more than a garment of fig-leaves, for "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa 64:6).
16. d. They were driven out of paradise, an emblem of their alienation from God, the only source of true happiness. For "in his presence is fullness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures for evermore" (Psa 16:11). And there is no other way of drawing nigh unto God but by the blood of the Cross. Universal nature was armed against rebellious man, and would have destroyed him, without the merciful interposition of God. The angels, with flaming swords, expelled him from paradise; the beasts, which were all innocent whilst man remained innocent, espoused God's interest, and are ready to revenge the wrong done to the Creator. The insensible creation, which at first was altogether beneficial to man, is become hurtful. The heavens sometimes are hardened as brass, in a long arid obstinate serenity, and sometimes are dissolved in a deluge of rain. The earth became barren and unfruitful to the sower: it brings forth "thorns and thistles instead of bread."
5. Lastly, they were forced to earn their subsistence by the sweat of their brow; and to Eve, especially, peculiar calamities were threatened.
17. Before I close this letter, my dear Benjamin, I must beg of you seriously to consider the awfully aggravating circumstances which attended the conduct of our first parents. He that committed it was under special obligations to God. It was committed in paradise. Almost as soon as man was created did he grievously offend his Creator. Almost as soon as he had the honor of covenanting with his Maker, notwithstanding the flattering prospects which he had, he violated the covenant. Was he not now guilty of the basest ingratitude to his most bountiful benefactor? Was not this sin the most criminal and shameful disobedience? The most abandoned and infamous of the creatures was obeyed, the great God disobeyed. Was it not the most unnatural and unprovoked rebellion? The rightful proprietor of all worlds was man's rightful sovereign. Had not man solemnly promised fidelity and allegiance to him? Let no man say that the punishment was greater than the sin.
18. To a superficial reader it may appear, if not altogether innocent and harmless, at most but a frivolous offence. But upon proper examination it will be found to be a most aggravated crime, or rather a complication of crimes. For 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. The honor and majesty of the whole law were violated in the breach of that symbolical precept. It was a direct and formal rebellion, a public renunciation of obedience, an universal apostacy from God, and change of the last end, that extinguished the habit of original righteousness. Several writers have shown that the breach of this positive law carried in it a virtual violation of all the commandments of the moral law. Others have made it appear in a striking manner, that the conduct of Adam was the greatest infidelity; prodigious pride; horrid ingratitude; visible contempt of God's majesty and justice; unaccountable folly, and a cruelty to himself and to all his posterity. There is, however, a sin which exceeds that of Adam. The infidel who tramples under foot the blood of Christ, sins greater than he, and is worthy of sorer condemnation (Heb 10:29). For the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin (1 John 1:7).
In my next, God willing, I shall show more particularly the effects of Adam's fall upon the whole human race. Blessed be God for the second Adam, the Lord from heaven! Farewell.
Letter 10. Original Sin
1. Frequently enormous expenses have been incurred, great hardships endured, and many valuable lives lost in following up rivers to their spring or origin. My intention, in the present letter, is to trace the ocean of sin and misery to its original source, generally styled original sin.
I acknowledge that of all the articles of faith, none appears harder to reconcile with reason and common sense than the doctrines of imputed sin and imputed righteousness. How sin can justly be imputed to the personally innocent, or righteousness to those who are personally sinful; how one can deserve condemnation because another has sinned, or justification and a reward because another has been obedientat first view, looks hard to conceive, if not utterly impossible ever to comprehend. Nevertheless, these doctrines are true, and worthy of our serious consideration. For the knowledge of our fall in Adam, and its dreadful consequences, and our recovery by Christ, are the two great things on which the whole structure of true religion moves, and which go linked together, as it were, hand in hand. As the former cannot be thoroughly understood without taking a survey of the latter, so the latter cannot be comprehended without a sound knowledge of the former. It is therefore of very great importance both to be established in the belief of the doctrine, and to acquaint ourselves with the nature and consequences of Adam's sin.
2. In my last letter I have stated the immediate consequences of the fall of our first parents with respect to themselves; I will now point out those which relate to their posterity. These effects are generally called original sin, and consist of two parts, that which is imputed to us, and that which is inherent in us; the former is called the guilt or punishment of Adam's sin, and the other is called depravity.
3. The word original sin, indeed, is not found in the sacred Scriptures, yet that which is intended by it, being so clearly grounded on the word of God, the name cannot disgust any who have not a quarrel against the thing, no more than the name of trinity, sacraments, &c.
4. It is called original sin, because it is in every one from his original; it may say to every one, "As soon as thou wast, I am"; or because it is derived from Adam, the original of all mankind, out of whose blood God has made us all; or because it is the original of all other sins.
5. The two parts of original sin should never be considered as separate from each other, but as most closely united; but to view them fully, they must be considered as distinct in our ideas.
In the present letter I shall confine myself to that part called "the depravity of our nature." To present the subject in a clear light we shall consider its nature, properties, reality, and consistency with the character of God. First, depravity consists in a want of all that is good, an aversion to it, and a propensity to all evil.
6. There is a privation of all that is good. By the first act of sin, as has been shown, there was a loss of original purity and righteousness; the image of God, wherein man was created, was defaced and blotted out, and it left our first parents destitute of all that is holy and good. Hence their posterity could not derive from them any dispositions or principles that are holy or good. For they could not communicate to their offspring what they themselves did not possess. The copy cannot be better than the original, nor the effect nobler than the cause. No stream can rise higher than the fountain: it is no wonder, therefore, if that which is poisonous brings forth a poisonous seed. The natural constitution of every thing is transmitted by natural generation. Hence it is said of Adam, that he "begat a son in his own likeness, after his image." What the apostle said of himself is true of all: "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing" (Rom 7:18). No grace, no holiness, nothing that is truly and spiritually good. There is neither seed nor fruit, neither root nor branch, neither inclination nor motion, neither habit nor act that is good or acceptable in the sight of God. Hence the Holy Ghost has declared us to be "without strength, not sufficient of ourselves to do a good action, to speak a good word, or so much as to think a good thought."
7. Nor are we allowed to understand it, that the mind of man, in its present state, is "like a fair sheet of paper, capable of any impress." Alas! it is far otherwise. There is in every man not only a want of original righteousness, but an awful propensity to all evil, and an astonishing aversion to all good. Saith Bishop Beveridge:"The uprightness and integrity of man wherein he was first created, is now lost, the whole soul and body corrupted, the whole harmony of man dissolved; so that we are not only deprived of grace, but defiled with sin; the image of God is not only razed out, but the image of the devil is engraven upon our souls; all men, and all of men being now quite out of order."Sin is the natural man's element; and as the fish is averse to come out of the water, so is the sinner averse to emerge from the mire of sin, in which he delights to lie. Hence said the Lord Jesus Christ to the Jews in his day, " Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life" (John 5:40). They were not only naturally unable to come, but they had no inclination to the duty. But the awful nature of this depravity will appear more fully, if we consider its properties.
8. a. It is incorporated with our very nature; it has a real being in us before we have a visible being in the world. The old man is furnished with all its members before we are formed, quickened before we are alive, and born before we come into the world. What David confessed of himself is true of all mankind: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psa 51:5). With the beginning of our existence we have the snares of sin in our bodies, the seeds of sin in our souls, and the stain of sin upon both. This is what the wise man called "foolishness bound up in the heart of a child," that proneness to evil and backwardness to good, which is the burden of the regenerate and the ruin of the unregenerate. By nature we bear the image of the earthly man in his fallen condition, which image is called the "old man," "the body of sin," "the flesh," "sin indwelling," "the desires of the flesh and of the mind," which plainly shows that our corrupt dispositions and propensity to evil is hereditary to us, and transmitted from parents to their children, and is therefore entailed upon all, and natural to all that partake of the human nature in its fallen state; so that it is impossible to be a man and not to have this universal fault and corruption of nature; and the reason why one man imitates another in actual transgressions is, because it is natural for him to do so. Evil examples only stir up, discover, and make known what was hid in the heart. Thus the viper of natural corruption, by the heat of temptation, revives, and makes its poisonous and malignant nature manifest; it was there before, else external example would not have produced it. Cain would never have murdered his brother Abel if he had sinned only by example. It is certain that corrupt examples have a powerful influence on the human heart, because it is already corrupt and prone to evil; therefore the company of wicked men, the wanton and profane, should be most carefully shunned and avoided; for "evil communications corrupt good manners"; by these, indeed, an alteration is made in the manners or actions of men, but the fountain of all our thoughts, words, and works is poisoned already and made bitter by original sin. We observe,
9. b. This corruption is universal. It extends to every individual of the human race, (the second Adam excepted,) and to every part of each individual. When the question is asked, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" i. e. how can a holy or righteous person be born of a sinner, the answer is peremptory"Not one" (Job 14:4). All of every nation, people, kindred and tongue, are sharers in this depravity. What difference soever there be in their climates, colors, and external conditions of life, yet the blood from whence they spring taints them all. Both Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, male and female, bond and free, equally derive their being and nature from Adam; therefore his depravity of nature is in them all; none is exempt, for we are his offspring; herein the prince and the beggar, the philosopher and the fool, are upon a level; and in him that is least sensible of it, it is most manifest.
10. That all men are not equally wicked, riotous, and immoral, is manifest, and we allow it; which is probably owing to the difference of their bodily constitutions, education, and temptations. Many also are withheld under various restraints, and so prevented from doing the evil and committing the sin which their natures incline them to: thus, for want of power or opportunity, they cannot do the evil which they otherwise would do. When Hazael was informed by the prophet that he would commit such evil as to set cities on fire, dash out children's brains, and rip up women with child, he was angry. But he did that afterward when king, which he seemed to detest so much as to think he should never be guilty of them unless transformed into a dog. Poor Hazael! he was not acquainted with the desperate corruption of man's heart, which habitually inclines him to the most barbarous, and cruel, and bloody acts.
11. And as the whole world lies in wickedness, so the whole man is full of it. "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint; from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it" (Isa 1:5,6). Saith Mr. Clarkson:"There is an ocean of corruption in every man. And as the sea receives several names from several shores and coasts, so does this from the several parts and faculties. In the mind it is enmity, in the thoughts vanity, in the apprehension blindness, in the judgment darkness and error, in the will rebellion, in the conscience searedness, in the heart hardness, in the affections carnality, in the memory unfaithfulness, in the fancy folly, in the appetite inordinancy, in the whole body vileness."Every part, every faculty, is naturally corrupted and wholly corrupted in all acts. The mind in its apprehensions blind, in its judgment erroneous, in its reasoning foolish, in its designs evil, in its thoughts vain. The will, as to its elections, perverse, choosing evil rather than good; in its consent servile, over-ruled by corrupt judgment, base appetite; in its commands most tyrannical; in its inclinations wicked; in its intentions obdurate; in its fruitions furious. The memory apt to receive what is evil, and to exclude what is good; to retain that which should be excluded, to let slip that which should be retained; to suggest that which is wicked, to smother that which is good. The conscience corrupt in its rules and principles, in its injunctions and prescriptions, in its accusations, in its absolutions, &c. &c. Time would fail to speak of the imagination, the affections, the appetites, the senses, and the different organs and members of the body, which have all become the members of unrighteousness. Bishop Wilkins, whose fine sense, learning and philosophy were never disputed, speaking of this subject, saith,"The heart is the root and fountain of all other sin, from whence every actual abomination doth proceed. Atheism, and pride, and baseness, and cruelty, and profaneness, and every other vice which the most wicked wretch in the world is guilty of, doth proceed from hence. Hell itself, which is the proper place of sin, is not more full of sin, for the kind of it, than our natures are."Saith he in another place:"This further appears if we look upon our own natures in the rage, blasphemies, baseness, and madness of other men's lives; there being not any kind of evil which either man or devil hath committed, but there are in our natures the principles and inclinations to it; the best of us being, by nature, as bad as the worst of sinners."12. I know, my dear Benjamin, that this is an humbling mortifying description of human nature, yet it is not the less true. The sacred Scriptures declare it, the miseries in the world confirm it, and the conduct of men establishes it beyond a reasonable dispute. Yea, the half has not been told. Let us first attend to the testimony of the sacred Scriptures. Our inspired historian, Moses, tells us that even before the flood it was declared by a voice from heaven, not only that "the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, but that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen 6:5). Saith the pious Mr. Charnock:"How came it to pass that man's wickedness should swell so high? whence did it spring? from the imagination?Though there might be sinful imaginations, might not the superior faculty preserve itself untainted? Alas! that was defiled; the imagination of the thoughts was evil. But though running thoughts might wheel about in his mind, yet they might leave no stamp or impression upon the will and affections. Yes, they did; the imagination of the thoughts of his heart was evil. Surely all could not be under such a blemish: were there not now and then some pure flashes of the mind? No, not one. Every imagination. But granting that they were evil, might there not be some fleeting good mixed with them; as a poisonous toad hath something useful? No, only evil. Well, but there might be some intervals of thinking, and though there was no good thought, yet evil ones were not always rolling there. Yes, they were continually; not a moment of time that man was free from them."One would scarcely imagine such an inward nest of wickedness; but God has affirmed it; and if any man should deny it, his own heart would give him the lie. Again saith the Lord, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." In the days of Job human nature was no better. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one" (Job 14:4). Eliphaz was of the same sentiment. "What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" (Job 15:14). David saith, "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies" (Psa 58:3). Solomon testifieth that "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child" (Pro 22:15); and that "there is not a just man upon earth that does good and sinneth not" (Eccl 7:20). By the prophet Jeremiah, Jehovah declares that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jer 17:9).
13. Jesus Christ, in his conversation with Nicodemus, asserts that human nature is corrupt, and all that proceeds from it is corrupt; "that which is born of flesh is flesh" (John 3:6); and hence proves the absolute necessity of regeneration; that old things may pass away, and all things be made new (2 Cor 5:17). This change is set forth by such phrases as these: being born again, having a new heart given us, and a new spirit put within us; being quickened, or brought to life when dead; and being created after God, in allusion to the first creation of man in the likeness of his Maker. All which strong modes of expression evidently imply that man, by the fall, is become totally depraved.
14. From scripture proofs we proceed to establish the truth by facts. We notice first the conduct of children. Who has marked their conduct, and is not constrained to acknowledge that the most early acts of their reason and the first instances of their apprehension are sin? The vicious inclinations which appear in the cradle, the violent motions of anger which disturb sucklings, their endeavor to exercise a weak revenge on those that displease them, must convince us that the corruption is natural, and proceeds from an infected original. This corruption grows with their growth, and strengthens with their strength. They can no sooner speak, but falsehood and lies drop from their tongues. They are stubborn and rebellious, prone to evil and averse to good; and if it be manifestly thus with some, it is the undoubted state of all, for their hearts and natures are fashioned alike; all men are of one blood and of one original; the fountain of their nature is one and the same: however, then, there appearrs to be a difference in the natural dispositions and propensities of children to evil, it cannot be that any of them can be naturally disposed to good; for "a bitter fountain cannot send forth sweet waters," although in some of its streams it may be less perceptible than in others. "How can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit?"
15. From the conduct of children, we proceed to notice the sin and misery in the world. An eminent writer saith,"That man is a fallen creature is evident, if we consider his misery as an inhabitant of the natural world; the disorders of the globe we inhabit, and the dreadful scourges with which it is visited ; the deplorable and shocking circumstances of our birth; the painful and dangerous travails of women; our natural uncleanliness, helplessness, ignorance and nakedness; the gross darkness in which we naturally are, both with respect to God and a future state; the general rebellion of the brute creation against us ; the farious poisons that lurk in the animal, vegetable, and jpneral world, ready to destroy us; the various poisons that lurk in the animal, vegetable, and mineral world, ready to destroy us; the heavy curse of toil and sweat to which we are liable; the innumerable calamities of life, and the pangs of death. Again, it is evident, if we consider him as a citizen of the moral world; his commission of sin; his omission of duty; the triumphs of sensual appetites over his intellectual faculties; the corruption of the powers that constitute a good headthe understanding, imagination, memory, and reason; the depravity of the powers which form a good heartthe will, conscience, and affections; his manifest alienation from God; his amazing disregard even of his nearest relatives; his unaccountable unconcern about himself; his detestable tempers; the general out-breaking of human corruption in all individuals; the universal overflowing of it in all nations. Some striking proof of this depravity may be seen in the general propensity of mankind to vain, irrational, or cruel diversions; in the universality of the most ridiculous, impious, inhuman, and diabolical sins; in the aggravating circumstances attending the display of this corruption; in the many ineffectual endeavors to stem its torrent; in the obstinate resistance it makes to divine grace in the unconverted; the amazing struggles of good men with it; the testimony of the heathens concerning it; and the preposterous conceit which the unconverted have of their own goodness."
Now, my dear Benjamin, I have given you a plain, and, I trust, a true statement of the origin of all the sin and misery in our world.
16. I shall now close this letter with the following observations, taken from one of the lectures of my dear tutor, the late Dr. Bogue."I. When God made Adam, there were in him two kinds of principlesnatural and supernatural. The former includes all the powers of the mind, appetites, passions, which are essential to human nature; and principles too, reason, conscience, self-love, desire of approbation. The latter consisted of original righteousness, the moral image of God, and true holiness, which flowed immediately from the Holy Spirit. This bore sway over inferior natural principles, and while things continued in this situation he was holy and happy.17. To inquire how this corruption is propagated from Adam to his posterity, is a question more curious than profitable, and has been well taxed by the story of Augustine: A man having fallen into a pit, one spies him, and asks carelessly, "How came you there?" "Oh," cries the man from the miry pit to him, "hasten to get me out, rather than trouble yourself to inquire how I fell in."
II. By the fall, this beautiful order was destroyed. The natural principles remained; the supernatural principles were in God's righteous displeasure taken away; and from constitution man became a creature of this present world, and seeks his happiness from it.
III. From this view of things we may account for the depravity of human nature.
1. There is no taint, nor stain, or positive malignity infused into the soul from above; nor is there any thing in the mere matter of the body that is vicious. God cannot, consistently with his nature and perfections, be active in infusing any bad quality, disposition, or inclination, into human soul or body.
2. God creates the soul with its mere faculties and principles, but without original righteousness, and forms the body of mere matter, with the necessary organs.
3. From the want of supernatural principles and original rectitude, man has no relish for spiritual things, nor love to God, nor spiritual life.
4. The natural principles mentioned above, having the entire government of the human heart, lead men to consider the present world as the great and only sphere of their employment, and worldly objects as their chief good.
5. From the natural workings of these principles in the heart all our depravity flows, and may thus be accounted for:
1. The appetites, and passions, and external senses are excited early in life; reason grows more slowly.
2. Reason, conscience, self-love, sometimes allow the appetites and passions to bear boundless sway, without any regard to the commands and threatenings of God.
3. When reason, conscience, and self-love have influence, and restrain appetites and passions, outward wickedness is repressed, and the character is much fairer in the eyes of the world; but no spiritual life, and still under the power of selfish and depraved principles.
4. When men see that God denounces his righteous indignation and wrath against those who go on in the way of iniquity, and love him not with their whole heart, they are displeased with his government and constitution, and resolve to go on in their wickedness. Hence arises an enmity against God in their hearts.
5. This depravity is always increased by actual transgression, and a course of sinning against God.
6. Perhaps this depravity is heightened or lessened by the passions of the soul, and humors of the body, of the immediate parents."
This is the gordian knot in theology. We cannot account for it, but from the will of God. That the Almighty could have prevented this awful state of things, none will call in question. Why he hath permitted it, forms one of those deep things of God, of which we can know but little in the present state; only this we are assured of, that he is a God of truth, and that whatever he does, or permits, will ultimately tend to promote his glory. Now, my brother, farewell, and "may the God of Peace sanctify us wholly in body, soul, and spirit."
Great God! renew our ruined frame;
Our broken powers restore;
Inspire us with an heavenly flame,
And flesh shall reign no more.
Letter 11. Imputation of Adam's Sin
In my last I mentioned that original sin consists of two parts, i. e. inherent depravity, and the imputation of Adam's sin. The former has been considered, and I will now give you a statement of the latter.
1. By Adam's sin, I mean his disobedience in eating of the forbidden fruit; and by the imputation of that sin to his posterity, I mean the putting to their account the guilt, i. e. the punishment due to that disobedience. Not the act, but the consequences of the act are imputed to them. This subject may be illustrated by similar daily transactions amongst men, and by an annual divine institution. With respect to the former, suppose A. borrows one hundred dollars of B. a banker; C. becomes security. A. fails, and is put in prison; C. is prosecuted and found guiltynot of having borrowed the money, but of being bound to pay it, because he voluntarily offered to be security. B. the banker, puts the amount to the account of C. as debtor, and to the credit account of A. accompanied by the following memorandum: C. owes these one hundred dollars, not that he borrowed them, but as security for A. A. is liberated from prison because his one hundred dollars are paid, not by himself, but by C. his security. With respect to the Divine initiation, I allude to Yom Kippur, i. e. the day of atonement, when according to Leviticus (chap 16), all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, are confessed over the head of the goat, while Aaron lays both his hands upon it, and he is said to put, or transfer them all upon the head of the goat, and that the goat should bear upon him all their iniquities into the wilderness, or a land of separation. Now surely none who reads this account would consider the goat as having actually committed any sin, but only made to suffer by the sovereign appointment of God, the punishment due to the sins of Israel; whilst the believing and penitent Israelite obtained reconciliation with God through the sufferings of the innocent victim.
2. That Adam's sin is thus imputed to his posterity, is evident from the sacred Scriptures. However disagreeable this truth may appear to corrupt nature, and however mysterious to all, it is confirmed by that revelation which we are to make our guide in all affairs of a religious concern. Thus the apostle, when describing the wretched state of the Ephesians before their conversion, says: "We all were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (Eph 2:3); i. e. as soon as we are born, we deserve, lie exposed unto, and are under a law-sentence of the wrath of God. This is the natural state of all mankind, not only of the children of disobedience, but also of those who through grace are made heirs of eternal life; not only of grown persons, but of infant babes. Again, the apostle, in writing to the Corinthian church, says that Adam was the cause of death, and that in him all die (1 Cor 15:22). In him, as the common parent of the human race, and the federal head of all his natural posterity, they all sinned and died; the sentence of death passed upon them in him. They became subject to a corporal death, which has ever since reigned over mankind, even over infants, such who have not sinned after the similitude of his transgression. But let us more particularly attend to the statement of the apostle in Romans 5, from the 12th to the 19th verse."Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (For until the law, sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead; much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."From these words it evidently appears that the apostle took it for granted that it was a doctrine well known and believed, that Adam's sin was imputed to the whole human race.
3. This will be still more clear, if we consider the scope and design of the apostle in this context, which is to illustrate the doctrine of justification, and to represent the way in which wo are made partakers of the righteousness of Christ. This is the professed design of the comparison he here makes between Adam and Christ; it is as if he had said, As Adam transmits sin and death to all his natural posterity, so Christ conveys righteousness and justification of life to all his spiritual seed. The way of conveyance in both is the same. Now, how are we made righteous by the obedience of Christ, but by the imputation of that obedience to us? And if so, when we are said to be made sinners by the disobedience of the first man, the antithesis requires that it should be meant, of our being made sinners by the imputation of his disobedience to us.
4. Again, we observe the apostle calls Adam a figure of him that was to come, i. e. Christ. Now there are no other instances in which Adam can be said to be a figure more properly than in the following instances: the first Adam was the head of the covenant of works; the second Adam was the head of the covenant of grace. The first represented all mankind that should descend from him in the common way; the second represented all the chosen of the Father, all that were given to him. By the one, therefore, came death; by the other, eternal life.
5. Further, it is observable that the apostle repeats the same idea in a variety of expressions: that death was introduced into the world by the sin of Adam; that death is become the lot of all men, for all have sinned; that by Adam's disobedience many were made sinners; that by his offence many die, yea, that through that offence condemnation has come upon all men.
6. In the next place we appeal to facts. The sufferings and death of those who have never been guilty of actual sin, prove that they must suffer and die for the sin of another. Such are the sufferings and death of infants. What a train of evils do we witness in these little creatures! What cries and tears, what pains and agonies, enough to move the hardest heart! Some soon take their leave, disappoint the wishes and expectations of their fond indulgent parents, and enter eternity; whilst others stay some days or months to taste the bitter cup of sufferings, to linger under painful diseases, till their tender frame is entirely broken, and they yield to all-conquering death. And what can be the reason of all this, but sin? That sin is the cause of sufferings and death is evident from many parts of Scripture. "Wherefore," saith the prophet, "should a living man complain," or grieve, vex and murmur under his various afflictions, when it is "for the punishment of his sins?' (Lam 3:39). And the apostle, in the above-mentioned passage (Rom 5:12), saith that death came into the world by sin; and that the reason why all die, is because all have sinned; and Romans 6:23, he expressly declares that " the wages of sin is death." Whoever therefore dies, must be a sinner either by his own act or by imputation; for to allow the effect without the cause is a glaring absurdity. Besides, where there is no sin there can be no just condemnation, and where there is no condemnation there can be no death. Now, if God condemn and execute judgment upon any man, he must needs be guilty and worthy of the punishment; for He saith himself, "Thou shalt not justify the wicked nor condemn the innocent." But we see, as has already been observed, new born babes, who never personally acted, or were conscious of sin, condemned for sin, and suffering death as transgressors; they must, therefore, be guilty before God, by whose authority and power this judgment is passed and executed upon them.
7. Dr. Bates, in treating on this subject, has the following important observation:"The ignorance of this made the heathens accuse nature, and blaspheme God under that mask, as less kind and indulgent to man than to the creatures below him. They are not under as hard a law of coming into the world. They are presently instructed to swim, to fly, to run, for their preservation. They are clothed by nature, and their habits grow in proportion with their bodies; some with feathers, some with wool, others with scales, which are both habit and armor; but man, who is alone sensible of shame, is born naked, and though of a more delicate temper, is more exposed to injuries by distempered seasons, and utterly unable to repel or avoid the difficulties that encompass him. Now the account which Scripture gives of original sin silences all these complaints. Man is a transgressor from the womb; and how can he expect a favorable reception into the empire of an offended God?"Harmony.8. I shall now close this part of our subject with some testimonies from some of our most ancient Jewish writers, and from some eminent Christian authors. We have already seen from the Scriptures, what was the sentiment of Moses, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, David and Solomon. From the writings of our ancient Rabbins, it appears that they believed,
9. a. That Adam was the federal head of the whole human race. Menass. ben Israel saith,"Whereas Adam was to be the head and principal of the human nature, it was necessary that God should endow him with all perfection and knowledge."(6) 6. De Fragilitate, p. 34.Again in his discourse, De Termino Vitae, he says,"Aben Ezra saith that the definite article Hay is not prefixed unto proper names in the Scriptures, only it is so unto the word Adam (Gen 3:22); and the reason is, because in Adam all his posterity, the whole race of mankind is denoted and signified."Again, in Bemid. Rab. fol. 198, 3. descanting on those words, as one that lieth upon the top of a mast, it is said,"this is the first man, who was a head to all the children of men."In Caphtor fol. 102, 1, speaking of Adam, it is said"that he was the root of the creation, or of the men of the world."Again, in Alshech in Coheleth it is said,"Adam comprehends all; for every man was in the first Adam."
10. b. They further say, that he sinned by eating of the forbidden fruit, and that the punishment of this sin was death of body and soul. On the doubling of the word in the threatening, in dying thou shalt die, it is remarked:"this double death, without doubt, is the punishment of the body by itself, and also of the soul by itself."(7) 7. Joseph Albo, Sepher Ikkarim, L. 4. c. 41.Another Rabbi is quoted by Fagius, on Genesis 2:17."If the flesh sin without the spirit, why is the soul punished? Is it one thing that sinneth and another that is punished? or rather, is it not thus that both sin together."Again, speaking of the sense which Adam had of the greatness of his crime, it is said:"On the first day of the week (or on the first Sabbath) Adam entered into the water up to his neck; and he afflicted himself seven weeks, until his body became like a sieve; and Adam said before the holy blessed God, Lord of the whole world, let my sins, I pray thee, be done away from me, and accept of my repentance, that all ages may know that there is repentance, and that thou wilt receive them that repent and turn unto thee."(8) 8. Pirke Avoth, ch. 20.11. c. They believe that "death is the wages of sin." For thus we read in Sepher Ikkarim, L. 4, ch. 13, and in Tal. Trac. Shab. fol. 55, 1. Wayik. Rab. parash 37. fol. 176. 3. Mid. Koheleth. fol. 70, 4. Zohar in Gen. fol. 44, 4. Zeror. Ham. fol. 115, I."That there is no death without sin, no punishment or correction without iniquity."And Maim. in More Nev. p. 3, denies that there are any corrections out of love.
12. d. They teach that the sin of Adam was imputed to all his natural posterity; both with regard to guilt and depravity. With respect to the former, they say,"It is not to be wondered why the sin of Adam and Eve was engraven and sealed with the signet of the King, (i. e. constitution or covenant) to be propagated unto all following generations; for in the day that Adam was created, all things were finished, so that he was the perfection and complement of the whole workmanship of this world. Therefore, when he sinned, the whole world sinned; whose sin we bear and suffer, which is not so in the sin of his posterity."(9) 9. R. Menach. Rakan. in Sec. Bereshith.Again, in the Targum on Ecl. 7, 29, it is said,"God made the first man upright and innocent before him, but the serpent and Eve seduced him, and gave cause why the day of death should come on him and all the inhabitants of the earth."R. Joseph Albo thus concludes, Lib. i. ch. 11."All the punishments relating unto Adam and Eve for their first sin, belong unto all mankind."Hence the death of those whom they considered to be righteous, is ascribed to the death of Adam. Among these they reckon Benjamin, the son of Jacob; Amram, the father of Moses; Jesse, the father of David; Chileab, the son of David, and some others.(10) 10. Shab. fol. 55, 2. Bava Bathra, f. 17, 1. The Targum, on the last chapter of Ruth saith,"And Obed begat Jesse, who was called Nachash, and there was no iniquity or corruption in him for which he should be delivered into the hand of the angel of death to take his soul from him; and he lived many days, until the counsel that the serpent gave to Eve abode before the Lord; and upon that counsel were all the inhabitants made guilty of death; and upon the account of that sin died Jesse the righteous."Again, R. Yose, the Galilean, said,"Go forth and learn the merit of Messiah the King, and the reward of that righteous one above the first Adam, who had only negative precepts given unto him, which he transgressed; behold how many deaths befell him and his generations, and the generations of his generations, unto the end of all generations."(11) 11. Siphri.Once more, we read in Zohar. Lev. f. 46, 2,"When Adam sinned all the whole world sinned, and his sin we bear."And on Gen. fol. 76, 3, and 36, 3,"The whole congregation of Israel have need of atonement for the sin of the first Adam, for he was reckoned as the whole congregation."13. Now as it regards the second part of original sin, called depravity, they call it yetzer hara, i. e. the evil imagination (Gen 6:5, 8:21). "Orlah," i. e. uncircumcised (Deut 10:16). "Tama," an unclean thing; for David said, "Create in me a clean heart"; from whence it follows that the heart of itself is unclean (Psa 51:10). This corruption is derived from Adam;"When Adam sinned he drew upon him a defiled power, and defiled himself and all the people of the world."(12) 12. Zohar. Gen. fol. 37. 1.It is incorporated with our nature. He brings it with him into the world. For in Tract. Sanhed. fol. 91, it is asked,"From what time does the evil concupiscence bear rule in a man? from the time of his birth, or from the time of his conception and forming in the womb? From the time of his conception and forming in the womb."and Kimchi, in Psalm 51, thus illustrates it:"He that sows a bitter berry, that bitterness becomes natural unto the tree and unto the fruit that grows thereon."With respect to its extent, Menass. Ben Israel saith,"This vitiosity and contagion, proceeding from the sin of our first parents, have invaded both the faculties of our rational souls, both the understanding and the will."(13) 13. Pref. to his book, De fragilitate humana.Lastly, as it respects its growth and duration; it grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength. In Beresh. Rab. it is said,"So long as the righteous live they wage war with concupiscence."Its growth is thus represented: "At first it is like a spider's thread, but at last like a cart rope'' (Isa 5:18, 59:5). Again, "In the beginning it is like a stranger, then as a guest, but lastly as a master of the house." Dear Benjamin, I might have greatly increased the number of testimonies, but these may suffice to show that the doctrine of original sin is not a "novel, nor a cunningly devised fable." In my next letter I will give you more testimonies from eminent Christian authors. Farewell.
Letter 12. The Subject Continued
1. I will now give you a few extracts from some eminent Christian writers. In the ninth Article of the Church of England it is said"that original sin is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into the world it deserveth God's wrath and damnation."2. In the book of Homilies, on the misery of men, part 2, it is thus written:"Of ourselves and by ourselves we have no goodness, help, or salvation; but contrariwise, sin, damnation, and death everlasting; which if we deeply weigh and consider, we shall the better understand the great mercy of God, and how our salvation cometh only by Christ. For in ourselves (as of ourselves) we find nothing whereby we may be delivered from this miserable captivity into which we are cast, through the envy of the devil, by breaking of God's commandment in our first parent Adam. We are all become unclean, but we are not able to cleanse ourselves, nor make one another of us clean. We are by nature the children of God's wrath, but we are not able to make ourselves the children and inheritors of God's glory. We are sheep that have run astray, but we cannot of our own power come again to the sheepfold; so great is our imperfection and weakness."3. The sentiment of the Assembly of Divines, who met at Westminster and compiled the Shorter Catechism,(14)
may be learned from their answers to the questions 22 to 26, which are as follows:
14. In referring to this little book, notwithstanding my views as a Baptist differing with respect to the church and its ordinances, yet I cannot restrain myself from expressing my feeble testimony in its favor, although I know it is far, very far, above my commendation. From the lives of the authors, it appears that they were an Assembly, perhaps the most judicious, learned, and godly that has met since the apostolic age. For the book itself, though written by uninspired, and therefore fallible men, who do not pretend to perfection, yet for conciseness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness, it is an incomparable system. No lover of truth can peruse it with attention without admiring the accuracy and precision with which the compilers express the truth in opposition to error, ancient and modern, the natural order in which they arrange the numerous articles of our holy religion, and the perspicuity with which they delineate both its doctrines and its duties. I have derived more benefit from reading this little book explained in Fisher's Catechism, than from all others I have read besides the precious Bible."The covenant being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him and fell with him in that first transgression."Bishop Beveridge saith,
"The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery."
"The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually, which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed sactual transgressions."
"Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way are conceived and born in sin.""Adam was not only the first, but the head of all men; as he was at first all men that were in the world formally, so he was all men that should be in the world representatively; so that God looked upon Adam as upon one in whom all the generations that ever should live upon earth were represented; and so all men that should be, were present unto God in that one man that then was."4. Having explained the nature of the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, and proved the truth of the doctrine by Scripture, fact, and testimonies, I shall close this letter with a few observations in vindication of this doctrine. Many hard things have been said both against God and against those who believe this doctrine, which I shall not trouble you with, but observe,
5. a. That the doctrine of imputation is matter of fact, as has been shown. Though no reason for it could be assigned, it exists; and as it is a part of God's government, it becomes us to adore what we cannot comprehend. He sees just reason for it, though we should not perceive any. We ought also to receive and believe it, because sacred Scripture asserts it.
6. b. A right view of the doctrine may tend, in sorne degree, to obviate the objections of unreasonableness. We are not to view imputation apart from other branches of doctrine, but every thing in its proper order. Evil dispositions, then transgression, then guilt contracted, then punishment. The same order is observed in Adam's posterity.
7. c. All men descend from Adam as a common parent. They are as intimately connected with him as streams with the fountain, and branches with the tree. Mankind are naturally in such a state as Adam when he propagated them. Evil dispositions in the root flow to the branches; guilt in the root is diffused to the branches too; depravity and punishment proceed from the root to the branches. If we had existed all at once with Adam in this connection, such would have been the consequences. Difference of time does not alter circumstances.
8. d. Adam was the representative and federal head of the whole human race. The covenant was made with him for himself and for his posterity. If he stood, they would be happy; if he fell, they would be involved in misery. Now this was a reasonable institution, for Adam was likely to stand; he had sufficient power. A sense that the happiness of millions was depending on him, and that he carried in himself the fortunes of all his posterity, was a powerful motive to obedience, and would make him more careful. Besides, man was God's creature: the blessings pronounced in the covenant were God's, and he might bestow them on what condition he thought proper. Man had no claim to them but from God's promise and covenant. Nay, it was a gracious as well as a reasonable institution. Happiness was proposed on easy terms: the blessedness of all to be secured by Adam's obedience, whereas God might have put each to trial. Besides, we are not to judge of the equity and grace of a dispensation by the issue. If Adam stood, we would not have complained, but have admired the grace of the covenant. But we observe,
9. e. The same method of dealing among men is not accounted unreasonable. If a king loses his throne, his children are involved in the loss.
10. f. This mode of procedure is exceedingly common in the divine government and the ordering of dispensations of providence, and we never think it unjust. The merit of one procures benefit to others, and demerit procures evil to others. Inferiors derive good or evil from superiors; people from magistrates; subjects from kings. These observations are sanctioned by the writings of all orthodox divines. It may not be improper, however, to state the sentiment of two men, who, I may affirm, were not inferior to any in talents, judgment, and piety.
11. The first is from Dr. Goodwin, who saith,"It is an equal rule, that by the same law, by virtue of which one may come to receive good freely, he should, upon the same terms, receive the contrary evil deservedly upon offending. As Job said, 'Shall we receive good from God and not evil?' So may we say here, should we have received the happy fruits of Adam's obedience, if he had stood? and should we not receive the contrary if he fell, through the guilt of his sin? If God had made the law only to have received evil upon his offending who could have found fault? much less when he put him into an estate which would have proved so happy for us if we had not offended."(15) 15. Vol. 3, 18.12. The sentiment of the other is that of an eminent lawyer, who was well skilled in the nature of laws and penalties, and the reasons of them: I mean Lord Chief Justice Hale. Saith he,"God made man righteous at first and gave him a righteous law; and inasmuch as man owed an infinite subjection to the Author of his being, he owed an exact obedience to this law of his Maker. Yet God was pleased to give him this law, not only as the rule of his obedience, but as a covenant of life and death, wherein the first man made a stipulation for himself and his posterity; and this was just, for he had in himself the race of all mankind. All succeeding generations are but pieces of Adam, who had not, nor could have, their being but from him, and so it was but reasonable and just for him to contract for all his posterity; and as it was just in respect of the person contracting, so it was in respect of the manner of the contract. The law, which was his covenant, was a just and righteous law; a law suitable to the endowments and power of his nature. Again, the blessedness which, by his obedience, he was to hold, was not of his own creating or obtaining: it was the free gift of God; and it is but reasonable that the Lord of this gift might give it in what manner he pleased; and it could not be unjust that the Lord who gave him this blessedness, should give it him under what conditions he pleased; but he gave it him under most reasonable and just conditions, viz, an obedience to a most just and reasonable law, which united with the ability and perfection of his nature. And therefore, when, upon the breach of the covenant by man, he withdrew that blessedness from him and his posterity, he did no more than what was most just for him to do. And thus we stand guilty of that sin which our first father committed, and are deprived of that blessedness and life which our first father had; and the privation of that blessedness and immortality is death."Meditation on the Lord's Prayer.Pardon me, my dear Benjamin, for detaining you so long. My only apology is the importance of the subject. The subject itself is truly melancholy; but let us rejoice that he who, in infinite wisdom, has permitted the entrance of sin, has also, in infinite goodness, provided a sovereign and perfect remedy. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Farewell
Letter 13. Misery of Fallen Man
Sensible that the importance of the last three letters would require more time than usual for reading, meditation, and prayer, I have delayed the present longer than otherwise I should have done. I will now give you a very brief statement of the inexpressible and indescribable misery of man in his fallen state. But before I enter on that subject I would observe,
1. a. That the guilt of original sin is greatly increased by numberless actual transgressions, which will sink us into an abyss of everlasting misery, unless pardoned through the blood of the Messiah. We are "transgressors from the womb"; have been adding sin to sin, and iniquity to iniquity; so that, if we could reckon them all up, O how vast the sum! they may fitly be compared to the sand upon the sea-shore for multitude. Who can draw up the catalogue of his sins, and enumerate every instance of guilt? Who can reckon his sins of omission and sins of commissionsins of thought, word, and deedsecret and public sinssins attended with peculiar aggravations, committed against light and knowledge, against conviction and lovesins in every character and relation in life, who can reckon them up?
2. b. We observe, next, that it is not more certain that we have sinned, than that they will be punished. Sin and misery are inseparable. God cannot but hate sin, which offers the vilest indignity to all the perfections of his nature, dishonors him in all his relations, breaks the order which he had established in the universe, and throws contempt on his wise and righteous constitution. And as God cannot but hate sin, so his justice requires that he should punish it. As the perfection of his nature requires that he should have an implacable aversion for, sin, so the same perfection requires that justice be not appeased without punishment. The certainty of punishment is further evident from the declaration of Jehovah, "that the soul that sinneth shall die," and many others of the same nature. Now as God hath passed his word that death should be the punishment of sin, his veracity stands engaged to make his word good. The sentence was immutable, and the word that went out of God's mouth must stand. Should sin go without the threatened and merited punishment, the faithfulness and righteousness of God in regard to his word could not be justified; "for God cannot lie, or deny himself." Speaking on this subject, pious Mr. Charnock observes,"Since God in his wisdom had settled this law, and the threatening had passed his royal and immutable word, it was no longer arbitrary, but necessary, by the sovereign authority, that either the sinner himself, or some surety in his stead, should suffer the death the sinner had incurred by the violation of the precept; we must either pay ourselves, or some other pay for us, what we stand bound in to the justice of God. Impunity had been an invasion of God's veracity, which is as immutable as his nature; since, therefore, the inflicting of death upon transgression was the real intent of God, upon the commission of sin death must enter upon man, otherwise God would be a disregarder of himself, and his threatenings a mere scare-crow."3. But I will now proceed to describe the misery of fallen man, which cannot be expressed in a better manner than in the words of the Assembly's Catechism, viz."That all men by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever."On each of these particulars I will detain my dear Benjamin only for a few moments.
4. a. By sin we have lost communion with God. "For can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). Sin is so dishonorable to God that it provokes him to withhold the light of his countenance from the soul, and stop all comfortable communion. Hence when God did not save our fathers or hear their cries, it was not because he was incapable of doing it, but because "their iniquities had separated between them and their God, and their sins hid his face from them, that he would not hear" (Isa 59:2). Thus man lost God (Eph 2:12), the greatest of all losses. He is the cause and fountain of all good; and the loss of him must be the loss of every thing that is good and excellent. "In his favor is life," "and his loving kindness is better than life" (Psa 30:5, 63:3).
5. b. Sin brings us under the wrath and curse of God Almighty. The apostle Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, saith of himself as well as of them, "We were by nature children of wrath, even as others" (Eph 2:3). He also informs us "that Christ came to deliver us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess 1:10). God was once a friend, but sin has broken the bond of friendship, and turned God's smile into a frown. "He that believeth not on the Son of God," saith the Savior, "shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). Wrath in God is not a passion, as in us, but it is an act of God's holy will, whereby he abhors sin. The greatness of this misery none can tell. "For," saith the Psalmist, "who knows the power of God's wrath?" (Psa 90:11). "The wrath of a king," saith Solomon, " is as the roaring of a lion" (Pro 19:12). How did Haman's heart tremble when the king rose up from the banquet in wrath? (Esth 7:7). But God's wrath is infinite; all other is but as a spark to a flame. With the wrath of God is connected the curse of the law. "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked" (Pro 3:33). Again, it is written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Deut 27:26; Gal 3:10). God's curse is the binding over of the sinner to all the direful effects of his wrath. When Shimei cursed David, David replied, "Let him curse me." And such would be our duty; for we are taught by our blessed Savior, both by precept and example, saying, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt 5:44); and when nailed to the cross he prayed for his murderers, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Besides, the curse imprecated by our fellow-creatures can do us no harm as long as we have the approbation of heaven. Hence when king Balak would have raised Balaam to the highest honor, and rewarded him with the half of his kingdom, if he would but "curse Jacob and defy Israel"; the prophet, however willing to earn the wages of sin, was compelled to say, "How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed? and how shall I defy whom God hath not defied?" (Num 23:8). But when Jehovah curses a creature, he is cursed indeed. As "the blessing of the Lord makes rich, and addeth no sorrow unto it"; so the curse of God makes miserable, and leaves no comfort. Of these curses the following are only a few: "Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shalt be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shalt be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do" (Deut 28:15-20). Hence we perceive that sin imbitters our common mercies, sharpens our afflictions, turns our very table into a snare unto us, and brings down the curse of God upon our persons and upon all we do. You know, my brother, how our people dread even to hear these curses read out of the law; for when the section of the law is read in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, whilst it is considered a high privilege to be called up to stand at the right hand of the reader to pronounce a certain blessing, yet on the Sabbath in which the section is read which contains the curses, none is willing to go up, and a person is generally paid for standing at the reader's side whilst he pronounces those curses. Now, although this savors much of superstition, for the reader's pronouncing these curses will no more make us cursed than our not going up will deliver us from the curse of the law due to our transgressions, yet it shows their ideas of the awful misery contained in those maledictions. Nor indeed is it possible for any finite mind to conceive of the wretched condition of a sinner cursed of God, whose favor is life, and whose loving-kindness is better than life, but whose wrath none can bear. Dear reader, remember it is written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal 3:10). O flee to Jesus, "who hath redeemed us from the curse of the law" (Gal 3:13). O "escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape" "to Jesus for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us," "lest thou be consumed" (Gen 19:17; Heb 6:18). But the purport of the maledictory sentence of the broken law, and the nature as well as the extent of the punishment to which it dooms guilty sinners, will appear from the remaining part of the answer, viz. "that we are liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever."
6. "The miseries of this life." The moment man sinned he began to suffer both in soul and body. Affecting, indeed, is the account which the sacred history gives us of the consequences of the fall, "Jehovah said unto the woman, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception: in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be toward thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field: in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground: for out of it wast thou taken, for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen 3:16-19).
7. A full enumeration and detail of the temporal miseries and maladies to which sin has exposed fallen man, would far exceed the limits of this letter. They attend man in all the stages of life, from his birth to his death. It has justly been observed, that "man is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed from the world." These miseries attend men also in all stations and conditions of life, from the monarch on the throne to the beggar that sits on the dunghill. Who can enumerate the maladies and distempers to which we are liable? The following are but a few of them: "The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew. The Lord shall smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerod, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart. The Lord shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head" (Deut chap. 28). To what reproach and shame, as well as bodily pain, are mankind exposed in the world! How frequently are they called to suffer poverty and want, hunger and thirst, as well as reproach.
8. There are internal as well as external miseries of this life. The soul, the principal part of man, the chief seat of corruption, must be the principal subject of misery. With all the powers and faculties of our souls have we sinned. No wonder, then, if we suffer in all the powers of our souls, as well as in all the parts of our bodies. Of these inward spiritual miseries, the larger Catechism mentions"Blindness of mind"; Satan blinds men's eyes that they might not receive the light of the Gospel. "A reprobate sense," left of God, so as to have no sense of discerning1 betwixt good and evil, but taking bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. "Strong delusions"; forsaking the truth, they doat upon the fancies and imaginations of their own hearts, and embrace lies for solid truths. "Hardness of heart"; hardened against the fear of the Lord, and proof against conviction and means used for awakening them. "Vile affections"; eagerly desiring sin and vanity, and all manner of filthiness, without regard to the dictates of reason and a natural conscience. To these may be added, slavery to Satan; fear, sorrow, and horror of conscience, which torment men, embitter life, and often bring death in their train. This leads me to notice the next particular mentioned in the Assembly's Caetchism, viz.
9. "Death itself." In explaining the threatening of the Covenant, it was observed that death was natural, spiritual, and eternal. But as death, in the answer, is distinguished both from the miseries of this life, on the one hand, and from the pains of hell on the other hand, it must denote natural death. By natural death, as has been mentioned in a former letter, we mean the actual dissolution of the mysterious union between the soul and the body, and the temporary separation of these two constituents of our nature. Sooner or later all the living must die. The soul leaves the body, the man falls into the hands of the king of terrors, and goes down to the house appointed for all living. Thus end the miseries of this life, but not the miseries of the sinner. For the answer mentions in the last place, that sin exposes us to,
10. The misery or "the pains of hell for ever." Sin not only renders life uncomfortable, but, if not pardoned, death and eternity too; nay, it gives death a sting which will be destructive of our everlasting peace, and will pierce our souls through with everlasting sorrow. O my dear Benjamin, think of the punishment of sin! the everlasting separation from all outward enjoyments; "the everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power"; "the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in outer darkness." A gnawing "worm that dieth not." "A fire that can never be quenched." "Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish." The society of the "devil and his angels." "A lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." See, amongst others, the following passages: Job 7:10; 2 Thess 1:9; Matt 25:30, 41; Mark 9:44; Rom 2:5,9; Rev 20:10. The words of the apostle, generally applied to the future happiness of the righteous, are equally true concerning the future misery of the wicked: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that" hate "him" (1 Cor 2:9). A celebrated Latin poet, speaking of the wicked in the infernal world, saith,"that if he had an hundred mouths, and an hundred tongues, he could not express the one half of their misery."The misery of hell is greatly increased by its duration. It is without end. As long as the righteous enjoy felicity in heaven, so long will the wicked suffer misery in hell. The same word is used, in the original, by our Lord himself, to express the one and the other (Matt 25:46). Blessed be God, who sent his only "Son to deliver us from the wrath to come." One or two letters more, my dear Benjamin, and we shall leave the first Adam, and consider "the second Adam from heaven, who gave himself a ransom to deliver us from going down into the pit of destruction." Farewell.
Letter 14. Man's Inability
1. In closing my last, I mentioned that we should have one or two letters more, and then be favored with the appearance of the Sun of Righteousness. But as it is frequently observed that about the breaking of day it is the darkest, so you will observe, that this and the following letter, which are to introduce the morning Star and light of the world, is the darkest and most gloomy. We have already considered the fall of our first parents, and the misery which thereby came upon themselves and upon their posterity. I now propose to show the utter impossibility of salvation, had not God interposed with the promise of a Savior.
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. That this is the case will appear, if we consider what is necessary for the restoration of man to happiness. This may be expressed in two words, viz. Justification and Sanctification. The former includes pardon of sin and a title to eternal life, the latter a deliverance from the power of sin and a fitness for the everlasting enjoyment of God. Now, man is utterly unable to accomplish either.
2. a. He cannot procure the pardon of sin, for he can make no satisfaction for it. We have already seen that all have sinned in Adam, and are also guilty of innumerable actual transgressions. We have also shown that sin and punishment are inseparable. God, who hath threatened, is bound by his own word to inflict the threatened punishment. Now, if satisfaction for sin is to be made, it must be by death; because man, upon his revolt from God, was, by the immutable law, bound over to death. Now, either man must perish for ever, or some one, who was not obnoxious to that penalty by nature, should suffer, in his stead, that death which he owed.
3. That the slaying of a multitude of beasts could ever atone for sin, and that they were never instituted for that purpose, I shall show in a future letter. For the present, one passage of Scripture may suffice; Micah, 6:6, 7: "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" A God of infinite goodness delights not in shedding the blood of his creatures, nor can we suppose him to be pleased with the effusion of the blood of animals. The institution of the legal sacrifices could not be exemplary to man, nor expiatory to God. What virtue could the pangs of a dying beast represent to him? No other ends can be imagined but an acknowledgment of guilt, the desert of sin, the debt of death, the necessity of a higher satisfaction, and the raising the worshippers up to a faith in the promise of God, that another valuable sacrifice should be put in the room of the sinner, to take away that sin which the blood of beasts and the eternal groans of men were not able to remove. On this subject, however, I need not to enlarge, for sacrifices have ceased for ages past, and our nation acknowledge that they dare not offer any till they shall have returned again to the land of promise, and built again a temple unto the Lord.
4. In the meanwhile, to oppose the Christian belief of the necessity of atonement, and to give an answer to the inquiry, "how shall man be just with God?" some of our modern writers, as well as authors of other religious denominations, have boldly asserted "that sacrifices were never required to procure the pardon of sin, and that repentance alone is always sufficient." This opinion has been refuted, in a masterly manner, by that pious divine and profound Hebrew scholar, the Rev. J. Oxlee, in his fourth letter to S. M. one of our Jewish brethren and correspondent in the Jewish Repository.(16) 16. Vol. 2, page 462. As you may not have an opportunity of seeing that work, I shall take the liberty of transcribing as much as is necessary to the present subject.
5. "Sir,The next erroneous statement, on which I beg to animadvert, in your objections to the Messiahship of Jesus, is to the following effect: 'For, according to our faith, a strict and due observance of the Decalogue and precepts, as ordained by the Almighty, in the law he gave to his chosen people, the Jews, is the only intermediate medium, or mediator, that they require to ensure their salvation in the future state; and they offer in proof thereof, how great a sinner king David was, and yet sincere repentance was the only mediating medium that procured him the Almighty's forgiveness; for, as Jews, they would deem it to imply mutability in the Supreme, were they to entertain any belief that sincere contrition and repentance does now require a mediator to render it acceptable to the Almighty. Such are the opinions of the Jews on this head, and such are mine.'" (This is a quotation from S. M.'s letter, Jewish Rep. v. 2, p. 148, 285.) "Though the doctrine here inculcated is somewhat confusedly expressed, the meaning I take to be that, with the Jew, a perfect conformity to the law of Moses will ensure his salvation in the next world; and that, for every violation of the divine precepts, whereby eternal life should seem to have been forfeited, no other atonement or expiation either now is, or ever was required by the Almighty, than sincere repentance; for the proof of which an allusion is made to the pardon which king David obtained in the affair of Bathsheba. There is not, perhaps, a question of more vital importance to mankind, nor one which requires a higher degree of learning and candor in order to a right and successful discussion of it, than the manner in which, most agreeably to the will of God, expiation is to be made for sin and transgression. That the Jews of the present age uniformly inculcate, that for every species of sin and transgression, sincere repentance and contrition are a full and satisfactory atonement, I readily grant; but that this notion is repugnant to the analogy of faith, to the patriarchal and Mosaic institutions, to the express testimonies of Scriptures, to the positions of the Talmud, as well as the assertions of several of the most celebrated writers of the Jewish church, I will endeavor to establish on the most unexceptionable evidence.
"Before I proceed, however, to the general question, I shall invalidate the only apparent proof which you have been able to alledge, of contrition and repentance being clearly accepted by God, without the intervention of sacrifice as an atonement for sin. The pardon to which reference is made in the case of king David, though you have not expressly declared it, is doubtless in the matter of Bathsheba, as that is the only instance in which he deviates so far from inculpability of conduct.
"The circumstance is thus recorded in our English version: 'And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, the Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shall not die' (2 Sam 12:13). That part of the pasuk which relates to the pardon, is thus expounded by R. Isaac Abarbinel:'But with respect to the answer of Nathan, who says, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shall not die"; I think, that, as David had said, "I have sinned against the Lord," meaning that the sin had reference to Jehovah himself, and that in his hand were atonement and forgiveness; so Nathan rejoined, true it is that every thing is in the hand of the Lord; and because mercy and forgiveness are in his hand, he put away thy sin, so that thou shalt not die. And this he said, because that, when David heard the parable from the mouth of the prophet, he exclaimed, as the Lord liveth, this man is guilty of death; and therefore Nathan said, according to thine own verdict, thou hast decided and confessed that thou art guilty of death; but the Lord, in decreeing concerning thee, hath put away thy sin, so that thou shalt not die; for he hath not decreed against thyself, that thou shouldst die; but only against thy sons, and thy wives; and this he hath done, because all things are from him, and through him; and because he hath a tenderness for thee before the decree. The words, therefore, of the text, "the Lord also hath put away thy sin," are not to be expounded as consequent on the confession, but as antecedent to this, and as taking place at the time of the decree, when death was not awarded him, because the Lord had a tender regard for him. Indeed it is evident, that the confession and repentance of David did not remove those punishments which had been awarded against him; though, by virtue of his repentance, his iniquities were expiated, and he was rescued from the hands of Absalom, and returned to his kingdom.'(17) 17. Com. in loc."Now, if any deference is to be paid to the authority of Abarbinel, the pardon which David obtained by the mouth of the prophet was not in consideration of his sorrow and repentance, but of that exuberant kindness which he had shown him from God; for, though the same author hath subjoined, that, by virtue of this repentance, his iniquities were forgiven him, it can only be meant that the blood of atonement was thereby rendered efficacious to the purgation of his guilt, as he lived under the Mosaic economy, and availed himself of that great day of atonement, of which the Jew, ever since the destruction of the temple, has been wholly deprived.
"There is not, indeed, in the whole volume of Scripture, any evidence, either direct or indirect, that remission of sins was, under any age of the world, to be obtained by contrition and repentance. During the patriarchal dispensation we read of sacrifices having been offered for the purpose, as is reasonably supposed, of appeasing the wrath of God, and of conciliating his favor; but nowhere do we read that the efficacy of repentance was such as to be a substitute for sacrifice. In the Mosaic dispensation there was no atonement without the shedding of blood; on the contrary, it was by virtue of his oblation only, and not by his sorrow and contrition, that the pardon of the culprit was obtained, and his guilt obliterated. Nor have the prophets affirmed any thing to the prejudice of this doctrine. Their frequent calls to repentance are not to be understood of mere invitations to the people to reflect on their ways, and to be sorry for what was past; but as strenuous exhortations to the strict and punctual discharge of the ritual, as well as of the moral precepts; a considerable part of which consisted in the due and regular performance of sacrifice for sin and transgression. R. Saul Ben R. Arjeleb has attested the truth of this position in more places than one. These are his words:'For it is evident there is no atonement except by blood.'(18) 18. Binyan Ariel, fol. 30."Again, in another preceding column of the same work,'there is no ground of atonement except by blood.'"Thus we find the Jew and the Christian maintaining the same language; that by sacrifice only, and nothing else, can sin be canceled and guilt obliterated.
"Indeed, that repentance is no ground of atonement, though highly pleasing to God in our fallen and sinful condition, and even necessary to the right performance of every sacrifice, is demonstrable on the authority of the Talmud, which inculcates, that for all transgressions, not legally expiated by instant sacrifice, the culprit, however intense or sincere his repentance might be, could obtain no pardon till the great day of atonement; that, for certain sins of a flagrant complexion, it was wholly unavailable; and that, for others of a trivial nature, it was absolutely unnecessary. For every violation of the divine law, and for all sins whatever, committed against God, the victims slain on the great day of atonement, together with the emissary goat, made a full and sufficient expiation of themselves, except in one or two cases, in which it would have been highly presumptuous on the part of the offender to expect any atonement, without the most unfeigned repentance accompanying the expiation; and in matters of wrong between one man and another, where, to render the atonement of any avail, restitution and satisfaction were first to be made.
"That this is a correct statement of the manner in which remission of sins was obtained under the Mosaic dispensation is apparent from the Mishna,(19) 19. Masecheth, Shebuoth, Perek I.'Moreover, for the willful defiling of the sanctuary and its holy things, the goat which was disposed of within, and the day of atonement, made expiation; but for the other transgressions detailed in the law, whether light or heavy; whether committed in wantonness or in ignorance; whether with the knowledge of the thing eaten, or without the knowledge of it; whether against an affirmative or negative precept; whether amounting to the penalty of excision, or of death inflicted by the sanhedrim; the emissary goat makes expiation.'"In this place there is no mention of the repentance of the culprit as a condition of the atonement being accepted, much less, according to the Jews of the present age, is its efficacy asserted to be of such avail as to procure for the offender the remission of his guilt without the medium of a sacrifice. Seeing, then, that for several gross sins repentance is denied to be of any avail; that for others of a less enormous complexion it is not thought necessary; and that, even in those few cases where it cannot be dispensed with, it sustains not the character of an atoning medium, but is merely the condition on which the expiatory sacrifice becomes efficacious; I am authorised (saith Mr. Oxlee) to contend, that the modern Jewish doctrine of repentance being self-sufficient for the expiation of all sin and transgression, is at variance with the Scriptures, as well as with the Talmud; and has every appearance of having been dictated by the exigency of the circumstances in which the Jew is now placed, without any regard whatever to the real principles of Judaism. I cannot, therefore, but come to a very opposite conclusion with yourself on this important point; that it would imply mutability in the Supreme Being, were the Jews to expect that the most sincere contrition and repentance could now procure for them, whilst languishing under a state of punishment, the remission of their sins; when they could not obtain it, on such easy terms, whilst living in their own land, and enjoying the privileges of the Mosaic dispensation."
Letter 15. The Subject Continued
1. To return to our subject. It is unreasonable to expect that the most sincere repentance should be able to expiate for sin. Bare grief for an offence is not a compensation for an injury done to man, much less for affronts offered to God. Besides, it is not in the power of man truly to repent. What stone was ever seen to melt itself? No more can man break himself into true contrition. Is not captive man fond of his sin, and in love with his chains? And how can he by nature, attain that which is so contrary to what he is by nature mightily delighted with? True repentance includes an ingenuous sorrow for sin past, and a sincere forsaking of it. Godly sorrow is accompanied with a change in heart and life; respects the stain more than the punishment of sin; and arises from love to God, who is disobeyed and dishonored by it. Man's nature must first be changed before he can thus repent; but such a change cannot take place before a satisfaction is made: for it is not reasonable that the punishment of sin, which was a spiritual as well as eternal death, and consisted in leaving the soul under the power of those ill habits it had contracted, should be taken off till some satisfaction were made. Man can no more free himself from this spiritual death, than he can free himself from the death of the body; and we have no reason to think that God would do it before a satisfaction was made, for the law he had enacted would be broken by himself.
2. Neither is any man able to make satisfaction by reformation or future obedience. This is evident from man's inability to come up to the demands of the law. To be sinners, and to be without strength, are one and the same (Rom 5:6,8). God requires an obedience to the law, not according to our measure, but according to his own righteousness, which is perfect; and this no sinful creature can arrive at of himself. We have already shown that our obedience must be universal, perfect, free from all sin, and perpetual. Every divine command must be obeyed, and none neglected. Our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, who did many things, but neglected the weightier matters of the law. The curse of God stands in full force against all those "who continue not in all things written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal 3:10). If one command is laid aside, all our obedience will prove insufficient to justify us. As our obedience must extend to every command, so the obedience of every command must be perfect. It must have regard to thoughts, words, and actions. Saul of Tarsus thought himself perfectly righteous till he found, it is written, ''Thou shalt not covet," which convinced him that the law requires purity of thought, or heart, as well as of life. It is equally necessary that our obedience should be perpetual; "We must continue in all things," &c. A single act, or a few acts of obedience; a day or a year's watchfulness against sin and observance of the law, will be of no avail to us. When we consider, therefore, that such is the requisition of God's holy, just, and good law, and that all men by nature are without strength to do good, and only inclined to evil, we see the propriety of the answer to the 82d question in the Assembly's Catechism:"That no mere man, since the fall, is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but daily does break them in thought, word, and deed."Hence the saints, in all ages, deprecated the thought of being justified by their own works, and said with the Psalmist, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified" (Psa 143:2). And the inspired apostle more than once declared, "that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." Besides, consider, dear Benjamin, that, even if a man could in future obey, that could make no satisfaction for past offences. After obedience will not make amends for past crimes, for obedience is a debt due of itself; and what is a debt of itself, cannot be a compensation for another. Obedience was due of man if he had not sinned, and therefore is a debt as much due after sin as before it; but a new debt cannot be satisfied by paying an old one.
3. Nor is any man able to satisfy for sin by the observance of the ceremonial law. For what was said by the author of the answers unto certain questions proposed to him, viz. "that spiritual deliverance dependeth solely on the observance of the law which God promulgated on Mount Sinai," is not true; otherwise all that died before the giving of it must have perished, and that eternally. Not only the patriarchs before the flood, some of whom had this testimony that they pleased God, and one of whom was taken alive into heaven, but our father Abraham also himself, who received the promises, must, on this supposition, be excluded .from salvation, for they observed not the law of Moses. Besides our Rabbins have declared that Abraham and others, before the giving of the law, were saved, and saved only by the grace of God. Thus it is written in Bereshith Rab. sec. 29, that "even Noah himself, who was left of them that were destroyed by the flood, was not every way as he should be, but that he found grace or favor in the eyes of the Lord." And of Abraham it is said, "Thou findest that Abraham our father inherited not this world and the world to come any otherwise than by faith; as it is written, he believed God." It is therefore evident that there was an appointed and effectual remedy before the giving of the law; and if effectual for them, what need was there of another? I fear, dear brother, I have detained you already too long on this subject; yet there are many other "refuges of lies" which men have invented; but I shall notice only one more, because it is a very common one, viz.
4. That by a course of sufferings, either here or hereafter, men could atone for their sins. This doctrine of purgatory, as I may call it, has been an article of faith amongst all heathen nations, is propagated by our Rabbins, and has too many disciples amongst Christians. But it has no foundation in the sacred Scripture, and is contrary to sound reason; for the punishment must be equal to the offence, which derives its guilt from the dignity of the person offended and the dignity of the offender. Now, God is the universal king; his justice is infinite, which man has injured, and his glory, which man has obscured; and man is finite. And what proportion is there between finite and infinite? How can a worthless rebel, who is hateful to God, expiate the offence of so excellent a majesty? Besides, how is it possible for men, whose natures are depraved, and have nothing of a divine purity in them, to satisfy by sufferings, since they suffer not only for sin, but in a sinful state, and are increasing their sins while they are paying their satisfactions? No suffering of any that retain their rebellious nature can be satisfaction to the majesty of God, so as to free creature from suffering while that nature remains, and loves that sin for which he is punished, though he has not opportunity of committing it. Further, since man by nature is enmity against God (Rom 8:7), God's judicial power would not render him amiable to the sinner, nor suffering inspire him with a love to his judge; if he should therefore suffer multitudes of years without any certain hope of recovery, could he be without a hatred of God? wherefore, all the time he would be suffering he would be highly sinning, and still sinning would increase the debt of suffering instead of diminishing it. It is therefore evident, dear Benjamin, that man is unable to make satisfaction for his past sins, and needs a justifying righteousness from some other quarter.
5. But suppose even that it were consistent for God to pardon our sins without a satisfaction, or that it were in the power of man to work out a righteousness of his own; yet man would still remain wretched and miserable, utterly unfit for the service or enjoyment of God, either here or hereafter, unless his nature be renewed and sanctified. The consideration of this part of the subject shall close this letter.
6. That such a change is absolutely necessary we are repeatedly taught in the sacred Scriptures. It is asserted that "except we are born again we cannot see the kingdom of heaven"; and that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." The circumcision of the heart was as much required as the circumcision of the flesh. Without the latter, the sons of Abraham, as well as the strangers, were excluded from the congregation of Israel; and without the former, the sinner is excluded from the church of God. It is also evident, from reason and experience, that there are certain and appropriate qualifications requisite to the exercise of certain duties and employments, to join, with pleasure and satisfaction to ourselves and others, the society and company of different classes of people, and to relish certain peculiar pleasures. Now, unless man is changed in his nature, he is unfit for the society, the employments, and the enjoyments of heaven.
7. But this change is not more necessary than it is out of the power of man to effect it. Of this we shall be easily convinced, if we consider the awful and powerful influence which sin has over every faculty of the soul, and in all the members of the body, as has been already briefly stated in a former letter. Man's understanding is so much blinded that he cannot discern things as he ought. "He calls evil good, and good evil" (Isa 5:20). "The natural man 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" (1 Cor 2:14). This is the case with all, "for there is none that understandeth" (Rom 3:11). Hence it is that all the representations which are made of sin, of holiness, of Christ, and of spiritual things, to the natural man are absolutely lost, and therefore without any saving effect, as he sees no real importance, excellency, or suitableness in them.
As the understanding is blinded by sin, so the will is absolutely in subjection to it. Man chooses nothing but sin, can delight in nothing else, and is full of the bitterest enmity to, and strongest prejudices against the ways and things of God. See, among others, the following passages: Romans 8:7; Ephesians 4:18; Job 15:25, 26.
The affections of the soul are equally under the power sin. There is no mourning for sin, no joy in God, no fear of him, no love to him, but every affection is turned from its proper object, and going aside readily and fully from God.
The memory is led captive by sin. Man likes not to retain God in his mind. He has an aversion to listen to things spiritual, heavenly, and holy, and the memory is unfaithful in retaining the knowledge of them. The conscience, also, is hardened through sin. It stands out against every awful threatening, and desperately outbraves hell and damnation. In a word, if man is to make himself fit for the enjoyment of happiness, he must conquer not only flesh and blood, but principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places. He must enlighten his understanding, turn the bias of his will, the edge of his desires, and choose, pursue, and delight in that which sin and Satan have given him the deepest enmity to, and the strongest prejudices against. Well may we exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things?"
Such, my dear Benjamin, is the awful and helpless situation of all mankind. Angels, indeed, might have pitied us, but they could not save us. But blessed be God "who remembered us in our low estate, for his mercy endureth for ever." "He chose one out of the people mighty to save." Of him I shall with pleasure speak in my next letter. Farewell.Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heav'nly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away:
A sacrifice of nobler name,
And richer blood than they.
My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of thine,
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin.
My soul looks back to see
The burdens thou didst bear,
When hanging on the cursed tree,
And hopes her guilt was there.
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