Billeder på siden

Ess. Ix.] Misery, the Natural Result of Sin.


these remarks, without briefly considering this branch of our subject on a somewhat different, though perfectly accordant, principle.

Although the sufferings of the wicked in a future world, occasioned as they are by a separation from that Being who is the only real source of happiness, are rightly represented to us as a punishment, they may also be regarded as the natural and necessary result of a life of sin. If we inquire what it is which principally constitutes the joys of heaven, there are many passages of Scripture from which we learn, that it is the immediate and glorious presence of our God and Saviour. Into that presence nothing that is defiled can ever enter: it is the habitation of the angels of God, and of redeemed and purified spirits; and these alone are capable of the chaste and holy enjoyments of paradise and heaven.

On the other hand, the impenitent sinner is separated from God, even here; he cannot endure the light of the divine countenance; he flees and hides himself from the Lord, as from his greatest enemy: and, if this be the condition in which the change from life to eternity overtakes him, it is unquestionable that he will find his proper element, not in the pure atmosphere of the celestial regions, not in the society of saints and angels, not in the immediate and glorious presence of God and of the Lamb; but in outer darkness-in the mansions of death and dismay-in the company of those fallen powers and principalities to whose destructive sway he has hitherto been subject.

Now, as these positions are evidently consistent both with the declarations of Scripture and with the dictates of a sound moral philosophy; so it is equally clear, from the tenor of true religion, both natural and revealed, that the present life is the only time appointed for our probation, and for that recovery


The Present Life

[Ess. Ix. from a condition of moral degradation by which we may be fitted for the pure and never-ending joys of the just made perfect. When we reflect on the afflictions of the righteous, and on the frequent prosperity of the wicked-on the innumerable circumstances which are here permitted to interrupt the yet evident tendency of the divine government to a perfect system of reward and punishment-we are insensibly led (independently of revelation) not only to confess the high probability of a future state, but also to affix to the present world the character of trial, and to the world to come that of ascertained and settled retribution. And certainly we cannot take the Scriptures for our guide without being confirmed as to the soundness of these apprehensions. For, while the inspired writers never make mention of our future state of being, otherwise than as one of happiness or misery, of reward or punishment, they describe the present life alone as the period in which, "with fear and trembling," we may "work out" our "own salvation." That this only is the accepted time and the day of salvation; that the day's work is to be done now, and that "the night cometh wherein no man worketh;" that, after the bridegroom has once entered into the marriage-chamber, the door is shut, and cannot again be openedthese are principles which are plainly recorded, and which, in every scriptural exhortation to timely faith, repentance, and obedience-in every injunction to diligence, watchfulness, and readiness, for the Lord's coming-are as plainly implied. Nor have we any reason whatever to imagine that, when the opportunity thus bestowed upon mankind shall have passed away, there can ever be found, in the society of devils, and in that confirmed condition of darkness, degradation, and separation from God, which will be the lot of impenitent sinners in the world of future retribution,

Ess. Ix.]

The only time of Probation.

any thing of a curative or redeeming tendency-any thing which can be the means of preparing us for a holy and heavenly inheritance.

If, then, these things are true-if hell is indeed the natural element of the wicked-if this life is indeed the only time (as all Scripture plainly leads us to believe) appointed for our probation and moral recovery -then it assuredly follows, that those who die in their sins are for ever excluded from those pleasures which are at the right hand of God. "Ye shall die in your sins," said Jesus to the unbelieving Jews; "whither I go, ye CANNOT COME:" John viii, 21. And if it is true that man, who was formed after the image of an eternal God, will never cease to be, we must also conclude that the sufferings entailed on the wicked, by this exclusion from the divine presence, will have no termination.8


On the whole, then, the doctrine of eternal rewards and punishments is far too clearly promulgated in the

8 This view of the subject, like the preceeding one, was familiar to the early Jews. In a rabbinical work, entiled Midrash & Cohaleth, (fol. 74, 2, 3), there is to be found a curious commentary upon the following words: "That which is perverted, no man can rectify." "In this world," says the commentator, "those things which are perverted can be rectified, and those things which fail can be numbered; but in that future state, that which is perverted cannot be rectified, and that which fails cannot be numbered." This Jewish doctor then proceeds to exemplify his doctrine by a parable respecting two men who had been engaged in a life of sin together. The one is cut off in his sins. The other takes warning from the event, repents, and is converted. In the world of retribution, the former is found in a state of torment; the latter with the just in heaven. When the punished sinner pretends that he and his friend, who had sinned together, ought together to have reaped the fruits of their iniquity, and when he entreats that he also may now be allowed an opportunity for repentance, it is answered, "Thou fool! knowest thou not that this world (of retribution) is like the sabbath; but the world from which thou hast come, like the evening-preparation for the sabbath? If a man prepares nothing on the evening before the sabbath, what shall he have to eat during the sabbath day?" See Schoetgen. in Hor. Heb. Matt. xxv, 46.



Fall of Man.

[Ess. IX. Sacred Volume to be denied by the consistent Christian. That which Scripture declares clearly, decisively, frequently, must, on our parts be received with silent and willing submission; and, however deeply mysterious this doctrine may be to our limited and inadequate comprehension, our true wisdom will be found, not in restless attemps to explain away the declarations of Divine Truth, but in sincere and earnest endeavours to lay hold, ere it be too late, of the salvation of God, and to flee from the wrath to come.

SECTION VI. On the Fall and Depravity of Man. In order that we may form a just view of our whole subject, we ought, in conclusion, to consider the testimonies of inspiration on one remaining point-namely, the actual moral character of mankind.

I have already observed, that when Adam was endowed with intellectual powers, with supreme authority over inferior animals, and with an immortal spirit, he was made" in the image, and after the likeness, of God." But, there was still another particular, in which that image and likeness were imparted to him. He was created holy; and, being thus a partaker in the moral attributes of his heavenly Father, he lived for a time in his original paradise, without sin. Yet was he liable to temptation, and free to choose between the evil and the good; and when, through the power of the spiritual adversary, he was betrayed into a direct transgression of the revealed will of God, he fell from his pristine state of innocence and happiness, became prone to sin, and instead of being any longer by nature the heir of immortal happiness, was subjected to the sentence of eternal death. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die:" Ezek. xviii, 20.

Now, the Scriptures teach us, that the fall of our first parent, from a condition of natural righteousness to one of natural sinfulness,-from a condition, in

Ess. Ix.]

Effects of the Fall of Man.


which he was the heir of the blessing, to one, in which he was the subject of the curse, was the immediate cause of a moral degeneracy, and therefore of a punishable guilt, in the whole family of his descendants. The apostle expressly states the doctrine, that "by one man sin entered into the word, and death by sin and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned"-that "through the offence of one many are dead"-that "the judgment was by one to condemnation"-that "by one man's offence death reigned by one"-that "by one man's disobedience many were made sinners"-that "in Adam all die:" Rom. v, 12-19: 1 Cor. xv, 22.

As the Scriptures alone trace the moral degradation of our species to the event out of which it arose, so are they distinguished by the peculiar force and precision with which they describe that moral degradation, and uphold it to view as a characteristic of the human race. For the whole system of scriptural religion is grounded on a truth which never found a place in moral philosophy of human origin—that man is by nature fallen and depraved, and can be saved from the consequences of sin only by divine mercy, and from its power only by divine grace. Often, indeed, do the sacred writers expatiate on the character of the righteous; and these are they who have renounced all dependance on themselves, and who are "kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation: but the question now to be considered is this: What is the account given to us in the Sacred Volume of man without grace-of man in his natural and unregenerate condition?

I. In answer to this inquiry, it may be remarked, in the first place, that the sacred writers declare the heart of man to be evil in itself, or, in other words, to be so deeply infected with an evil principle, as naturally tỏ

« ForrigeFortsæt »