« ForrigeFortsæt »
very nigh, if not quite, to an equilibre. The Mosaic narration affords a better, as it is a softer, argument. Ch. ii. 7, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And man became a living soul." Afterwards, ver. 18, " And the Lord God said, It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him an help meet for him." Ver. 21, 22, "And he took one of his ribs- -And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man." All which affords excellent instruction. And if this account teaches yielding of will and desire on the one hand, it does as strongly enforce protection, love, and tenderness on the other; the performance of which, suitably, on each side, it is likely, will secure mutual comfort and happiness.
VII. Man was put upon a fair and equitable trial, and fell from his primitive state of happiness by his own fault.
Ch. ii. 16, 17, " And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat. For in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die."
Divines of all denominations, I think, are agreed that Adam had freedom of will, power to choose and to refuse. Good and evil were set before him. Nor was it a difficult thing to avoid the prohibited fruit; and yet he was induced to eat of it.
VIII. If Adam, who was made upright, was overcome by temptation, we ought to be upon our guard.
This is a duty inculcated upon all of us by our excellent Lord and Master. Especially ought we to guard against disadvantageous and dishonourable thoughts of the Deity. By this means, as much as any, the subtle serpent prevailed upon and deceived Eve. Ch. iii. 1, "Yea has God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden ?"—Ver. 5, "For God does know, that in the day ye eat thereof your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." All dishonourable sentiments of God, as unmerciful, illiberal, rigid, and inexorable, except upon terms of strict justice, are as false as those here suggested by the serpent, or rather by Satan; and if hearkened to, will have a bad influence upon us, and lead us astray from him who is the source of our happiness.
IX. The fall of our first parents is not only an argument to watch ourselves, but also to watch over others. Says St. Paul, 2 Cor xi. 2, 3, “I am jealous over you with a
godly jealousy-For I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
X. The sentence pronounced by God upon our first parents for their transgression was mild and equitable: or it was a just sentence tempered with mercy.
The whole process of the judgment shows this, as related by Moses. First, Adam is summoned. He could not deny that he had eaten the forbidden fruit; but he has an excuse; not a very good one, yet an excuse it is. "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." The woman too had tasted of the forbidden fruit, and had first tasted. She likewise has an excuse and apology; and though not sufficient, yet of some moment. "And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." Still farther, God begins with pronouncing sentence upon the serpent, which must have been exceeding comfortable to our first parents. And an intimation is given, that the "seed of the woman should prevail against the serpent; or, that the cause of truth and innocence, religion and virtue, and the true interest and happiness of man, should prevail and take place in the end.
And though afterwards there are distinct and several sentences pronounced upon each, even upon Adam and Eve; and the sentence of death, as common to both: yet they are not immediately destroyed, but have time afforded for repentance.
We cannot forbear therefore to observe the justice and equity of the Divine Being. Man must die, but not immediately. And he would meet with arguments to establish his resolutions for obedience to the will of God, and for performing the duties of his present condition. The angels that fell appear not to have had any mercy shown them: they, it is likely, had no tempter. Herein, then, there is a difference between man and them. God in his great goodness and equity considers this, and treats man accordingly. This, as well as other things, should induce us to acknowledge the goodness of God, and to guard against all those sentiments that impeach it. God is the fountain of goodGod therefore is the most merciful and most equitable being in the universe.
XI. The Mosaic account may lead us to think, that some magnify the consequences of the fall of our first parents.
The sin of Adam was the introduction of death, and of the miseries of this life. And so far his sin is imputed to his descendants, that they all become liable to the sentence
of natural death. As St. Paul says, Rom. v. 12," By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. And so death," a sentence of death," passed upon all men." This is not to be denied; nor is it any impeachment of the Divine justice or goodness. For God might have made man at first mortal, only supposing a future state: and that all things here, comforts and sorrows, be designed and ordered, as preparatory and disciplinary for another and better state.
But beside this, some assert, that the descendants of Adam derive from him a vitiated and corrupted nature, unable and averse to good, and inclined to evil. But where is this taught, either in this origin of things now before us, or in any other part of scripture? And would not this be, in reality, to make God the author of sin? Is not this imitating guilty Adam, who said: "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me, and I did eat." But if men could allege a vitiated nature, it would be a better apology than that of Adam. The bad conduct, and the solicitations of the woman, could be no more at the utmost than a temptation from without. But nature is inborn, and the man himself. If a bad nature be derived to him without his own fault, the evil is past remedy, and quite out of his power. And if bad actions flow from a bad nature, he is scarce accountable for them. They must be put to the account of nature, and the author of it.
Besides, what reason is there to apprehend so great an alteration made in the nature and powers of man by Adam's transgression? Is there an immense difference between Adam and his posterity? Adam was made innocent; but his virtue was not confirmed. How easily were Adam and Eve misled and drawn into transgression? Is it not very strange that, in their circumstances, they should not be satisfied without tasting of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil when the prohibition was so express and strict, and they enjoyed great plenty of other things? The positive law, delivered to Adam, forbidding him to touch the fruit of that one tree, was a proper trial of his virtue. For it cannot be doubted, that he was obliged to respect this law of his Creator; and if he should disobey it, that must be owing to some defect or failure of moral virtue, as before observed.
Let us, then, not be unwilling to consider, whether the consequences of the fall of our first parents be not aggravated by some; and let us be careful not to admit any schemes which are derogatory to God's honour, and which
countenance or justify men in their allowed weaknesses, or wilful transgressions.
XII. Finally, from the Mosaic account of the origin of things, and the explication which has been now given of it, we may be enabled to perceive, that the permission of the fall of our first parents, with the consequences of it, is no reflection upon the wisdom of the Divine government.
For rational creatures must be put upon trial. They cannot be without freedom of will, which may be abused. And as our first parents did not sin without a tempter, or of their own motion, as many of the angels seem to have done, God in his treatment of them has joined mercy with justice. Hence will arise glory to God, and good to men. God by his long-suffering and patience, and the instructions afforded to them, and other methods of his Providence, the result of his unsearchable wisdom and goodness, will bring many of the sons of Adam to repentance, true holiness, eminent virtue, and heavenly glory and happiness, exceeding what could have been enjoyed on this earth, even in Paradise itself.
The virtue of true penitents is sometimes very great. They gain an establishment in the love and fear of God, and a full resolution for all goodness. The steady virtue of men amidst the temptations of this world will exceed the virtue of Adam in Paradise. It is true they are not innocent as he was; but they are upright, and fully resolved, and they overcome strong temptations: and the moment of their virtue, according to equitable construction, (and such is that of the Divine judgment,) may equal, and even surpass the virtue of an angel, who has not so great temptations. I am the more led to this, considering the great recompenses which God in the gospel has proposed to the faithful, the steady and victorious in this state of trial: and if we may attain to such excellence here, and such glory hereafter, we are greatly to blame, and much wanting to ourselves, if we do not" strive against sin," Heb. xii. 4, to the utmost, and resolutely, though humbly, and without ostentation, maintain our integrity amidst all the solicitations of this world.
TO JONAS HANWAY, Esq.
IN WHICH SOME REASONS ARE ASSIGNED, WHY HOUSES FOR THE RECEPTION OF PENITENT WOMEN, WHO HAVE BEEN DISORDERLY IN THEIR LIVES, OUGHT NOT TO BE CALLED MAGDALEN HOUSES.
YOUR generous concern to promote good designs occasions you this trouble. There is now, and has been for some while, much discourse about erecting a house, or houses, for the reception of penitent women, who have been disorderly in their lives; a design formerly unknown and unheard of among us. It has been proposed by some that they should be called Magdalen houses. And there is already established a house of this kind in Goodman's-fields, which is called a Magdalen house for penitent prostitutes.
As that denomination is disliked by others beside myself, I have taken the liberty to address you upon this subject. I presume it may be owing to a supposition, that the fine story, recorded in the seventh chapter of St. Luke's gospel, of the gracious reception which our Lord gave to a woman, there called " a sinner," relates to Mary Magdalene. And you, Sir, if I do not misunderstand you, in your Letter to Robert Dingley, Esq. at p. 22, speak of Mary Magdalene as a harlot.
And that she is the woman, there spoken of, must have been at some times a prevailing opinion. For the summary of part of that chapter, in our English Bibles, is to this purpose. • Our Lord showeth by occasion of Mary Magdalene, how he is a friend to sinners, not to maintain them in sins, but to forgive their sins upon faith and repent
The words, to which I refer, are these: What judgment did the Saviour of the world pass on a harlot? What was the case of Mary Magdalene?'
The contents, or summaries, prefixed to the chapters in our Bibles, seem to have been annexed to the English translation now in use, which was made in the time of king James the first. For in all editions of that translation, so