« ForrigeFortsæt »
'volving much more than the simple act of manducation. It was a transgression of God's commandment with a high hand : it was a questioning of his wisdom in issuing such a commandment: it was an utler disbelief of his word, united with the intolerable affront of giving credit to a lying and rebellious spirit rather than to divine essential truth: it was itself an overt act of open rebellion, introducing, so far as its effects might extend, confusion and disorder into the moral government of the Omnipotent: and it was all this without even the poor plea of an overwhelming and irresistible temptation, it was disobedience for the mcre love of disobedience; it was transgression for transgression's sake ; it added the provocation of wanton insult to the atrocity of determined and desperate treason.
Such was the complexion of that sin, by which man's life became forfeited: and, mysteriously difficult as may be the doctrine of original pravity, we know both from Scripture and from bitter experience, that the fallen pair generated children after their own depraved image and similitude.
Under these circumstances, nothing was left to failen man and to his sinful progeny after him but perpetual exclusion from the divine presence, rothing but death both temporal and spiritual : for, as the justice of God required the punishment of rebellion, and as the holiness of God rendered it morally impossible for him to associate with unholy beings; we may easily perceive, from the very nature of things, that the human race could only
be saved from otherwise inevitable destruction, partly by making satisfaction to God's justice, and partly by rendering theinselves conformable to his holiness. But then we may just as easily perceive, that ruined and degraded man could do neither the one nor the other. For what satisfaction to offended justice can a rebel make for his rebellion, except by undergoing its merited punishment: and the very nature of that punishment is exile from the divine presence? Or by what means can a soul, alienated from God and fallen from its primitive state of holiness, recover, by any indepen. dent exertions of its own, that which it has so fatally lost? Mere repentance is in fact an ackuowledgment of sin: and even the truest contris tion cannot so wipe out the stain of pollution, as to place the man in the situation of one who has, never offended. But, in reality, a being, who has degenerated into an unholy state, is incapable, so far as his own exertions are concerned, of genuine repentance. The reason of this may be plainly deduced from the laws of eternal necessity. Genuine repentance, involving as it does in its very essence a filial love of God and a hearty abhorrence of sin, is therefore a holy action. But a being, who has forfeited all holiness by rebellion against God and by consequent alienation from him, is become, by the very constitution of his degenerated nature, physically incapable of any holy thought or wish or deed : for, to say that a radically unholy being is capable of performing a holy action, is a palpable contradiction in terms;
it is equivalent to asserting, that the same being can be both holy and unholy at the same time; and we might with just as much reason maintain, that the same thing can be at once both hot and cold. Thus it is plain, that fallen man could neither make such satisfaction to God's justice, as might give him an equitable claim to be readmitted into the divine favour; nor so bring himself back to his lost condition of holiness, that he might participate and enjoy the divine communion. Hence, with respect to any independent efforts of his own, he was in a perfectly hopeless state : he was lost beyond all possibility of self-recovery.
Man being thus altogether helpless and forlorn so far as his own exertions were concerned, it is manifest, that he could only derive assistance from some extrinsic source: and, as the requisite assistance, in order to be of any real service to him, must have regard partly to God's justice and partly to his own condition of unholiness; it is additionally manifest, that the sole mode, in which he could be effectually assisted, is, by the having satisfaction made on his behalf to the offended justice of God, and by having his soul brought back to that image of holiness from which in an evil hour it had rebelliously departed. The only religion therefore, suitable to man after the fall, was a religion which proposed these two indispensable ends : and, as, by the taint of sin derived from Adam to his remotest posterity, the human race is substantially the same in all ages and in all countries; the only religion, suitable to man from the
beginning to the end of the world, is a religion which ever professedly tends to accomplish such objects.
2. From this statement it will unavoidably follow, that, under whatever different external aspects it
may have presented itself, there never can have been more than a single system of inspired and genuine religion: so that, if Christianity be not precisely as old as the creation in the deistical sense of the phrase, it is assuredly, provided the word be used in a large acceptation, quite as old as the fall.
Hence then we perceive, that the sole possibly true religion is that religion, which has for its object the mysterious personage announced immediately after man's fatal apostasy : and hence, as God has been pleased to reveal his will in three successive dispensations, that same mysterious personage must alike be the object of them all.
All the three dispensations therefore, as being equally communicated from heaven, inust, under the preceding view of the wants of fallen man, regard the same object, and tend to accomplish the same purposes. Consequently, we shall err in our very principles, if we consider them as detached from and independent of each other. The three are nothing more than different successive modifications of one system, severally fitted to three successive periods, and varying only in the mode of communication according to the peculiar exigencies of those three periods to which they respectively belong. When beheld as a whole, this single reli
gious system, though gradually communicated under the three dispensations, Patriarchal, Levitical, and Christian ; may best be denominated THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION : for its exclusive object, however modified externally, is to satisfy God's justice through the instrumentality of the woman's predicted Seed, to restore fallen man to the divine image of holiness by the agency of a gracious Spirit, and thus (without compromising any one of God's attributes) to reconcile an apostate race to their offended Creator.
VI. Such being the intimate mutual connection of the three dispensations, we shall find the two earliest always looking forward to the last as exhibiting the grand consummation of the whole scheme.
1. Short as is the only genuine account which we have of Patriarchism, this is nevertheless the case in more than a single instance which
may be produced.
(1.) Thus the victory of the woman's Seed over the serpent plainly could not be viewed as accomplished; until, by suffering his own heel or mortal part to be bruised through the agency of the malignant tempter, the promised Seed should effectually bruise his head in return.
Hence, as it was perceived that this event did not take place under the first dispensation; mankind must inevitably have been taught to look forward to some yet future dispensation under which it should take place : and hence, as it was found by fatal experience that the tempter's success had