« EelmineJätka »
of the woman was promised to bruise the serpent's head In reference to that great sacrifice for sin, which should be made in the fulness of time, were all the communications of God afterwards in mercy made to our world, and, on the same account, were the penalties of the law suspended from lighting upon the transgressor, and him permitted to exist as a monument of that mercy which shown forth through the Redeemer as his propitiation. But, to be more particular in regard to man's first creation, and fall-when God made man at first, he implanted in him natural principles, consisting in mere human nature, such as natural appetite, and passions, which belong to the nature of man, in which his love to his own liberty, honour, pleasure, and gratification were exercised. These, when alone, and left to themselves, are what the scriptures sometimes call flesh. Had no law, restricting their indulgence, been given. no sin could have been charged upon their unrestrained gratification; and, had there been no propensity or inclination to their indulgence, it would have been entirely unmeaning to have imposed restraint. But, had there been no law, man would not have been treated as a moral creature; for where there is no law there can be no transgression. Under the government in which God placed man, which was established soon after he was created, we read of but one restraint only, and that was in the use of the tree of knowledge of good, and evil this was the test of his obedience during the period of probation which was assigned him. We read of no other, and it is improper to indulge in speculations upon subjects where we have scripture declarations, and which are otherwise unknown but by revelation itself. Besides those principles of mere flesh, there were others given to man of a quality supernatural, and divine, wherein consisted man's spiritual resemblance to, or image of God, and in the due exercise of which, his righteousness, and true holiness consisted; these were the knowledge of God, and of his law, and that moral capacity or capability of action by rule, which were necessary to obedience, being such as immediately depended on man's union, and communion with God; which, though withdrawn, and man's nature forsaken of them, human nature would be human nature still, man's nature as
such being entire without these divine principles; which the scriptures sometimes call sperit, in opposition to flesh. These superior principles were given to possess the throne, and maintain an absolute dominion in the heart; the others to be wholly subordinate, and subservient:-and, while things continued thus, all things were mexcellent order; peace, and beautiful harmony, and the highest felicity prevailed. Obedience, produced by these divine principles, were the dignity, life, righteousness, and true holiness of man. But, when man sinned; when he obeyed those principles of the inferior order which were given him not to govern, but to be subservient, and thereby broke God's law, he became exposed to the curse, and the order of the economy under which he was first placed were broken up-those divine principles left his heart; for, indeed, God then left him. That communion, and union with God, and that intellectual, and moral relation in which consisted man's perfection, and happiness, ceased: (God's physical agencies, however, continued, even in a state of rebellion, for, had he withdrawn them, man's existence must have ceased.) It was proper in itself that God should withdraw, because it would have been inconsistent with the covenant, and constitution God had established, that he should still maintain communion with man, and continue his beatific smiles upon him, after he was become a rebel, and had incurred God's wrath, and curse. We now behold man in his representative head, flying from the presence of his maker, under the fierce chastisements of a guilty conscience. That one act of rebellion has erected a law barrier against any further immediate, personal communications between God, and man, except, as a proper subject of the penalties of the violated law. In consequence of this act of disobedience, man's moral power ceased, and, God withdrawing from him, he was left only in possession of those principles which are sensual, and natural, This is the situation of man by nature. But God had purposes of mercy; these, however, could never be exercised so as to contradict the law of condemnation-for, in such a case, the government would have been destroyed. A law which has no penalty, or which, when transgressed, is abrogated, is, in fact, no law at all. It can neither secure pro
tection to obedience, nor inflict punishment on transgres sion; it is neither a terror to evil doers, nor a praise to those that do well.
Circumstanced as man was, under a law condemnation, having been guilty of treason, the only way, by which the sovereign could communicate to him in peace, or the only one which he has disclosed, was through a mediator; hence the Logos, the Word which, in process of time, was made flesh, was, in a mediatorial character, the speaker for, and to man, and it is in this way that God, in that divine rela tion, has preserved intercourse with our race since the fall, Those communications by revelation have not been made immediately to every individual of our race, but to particular persons who were chosen as the instruments thus divine. ly qualified for instructing the rest of mankind; and that holiness which, before the fall, consisted in the exercise of the natural, and divine principles with which man was endowed in their proper order, is now to be had through a quite different channel, (viz.) by faith in Jesus Christ in his full character, as prophet, priest, and king. It is only in this way that man can possess moral ability-it was entirely lost by the fall, and the substitution of Jesus Christ in his law place, in suffering the wages of sin, is the way by which it is restored. This was an act of grace indeed. The exercise of moral ability, thus defined, pre-supposes knowledge of the true character of man as fallen, as well as knowledge of the character of Jesus Christ, and faith in him as sustaining that character. The covenant which God made with Abraham had for its foundation Jesus Christ, and looked forward to his sufferings as the sacrifice by which the law should be honoured, justice maintained, and man, the violator of the law, saved. In him mercy, and truth are met together, righteousness, and peace have kissed each other. The institution of the Mosaical law, and the sacrifices which formed so important a part of that dispensation, were a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things. It was a dispensation established by God in an idolatrous world, designed to preserve the knowledge of himself until the incarnation of the Word. It was, properly speaking, a theocratical government, a government
established, and administered by God himself. It was of a
The language of a righteous governor to his subjects is, and must of necessity be, precisely correspondent with the moral relation they bear to him; if they are obedient to his communications, they are in the language of complacency, and approbation; if disobedient, in denunciations of wrath, and the infliction of the penalties of the broken law. Exclude the vicarious sufferings of Jesus Christ, (to which the sacrifices, &c. under the Mosaic law had reference,) or his taking upon himself the wages of sin, in the place of man, and a most glaring absurdity is involved; the demands of God's Law, which are holy, and just, are abrogated, in order to
make way for the introduction of its violaters into heaveng and thus the government is virtually broken up. Under the gospel dispensation, grace does not consist, exclusively, in the literal remission of sin; but, in its pardon through the merits, and for the sake of the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our surety; these are the meritorious causes of par don, and the immediately procuring one, where the gospel is heard, is faith in him. But revelation has not merely the object of salvation beyond the grave in view, but it is design ed for, and actually produces that effect upon the believer, of exalting, and improving his nature in this world, and thereby prepares him for a future happy existence. It exalts him here, by teaching him his divine origin, and high destiny; it discovers to man his true dignity, and pours contempt upon all earthly objects, by unfolding prospects of a far more exceeding, and eternal weight of glory than any temporal concerns can possibly promise, or the preca rious, and fleeting state of human life can permit him to hope for. By revelation it is manifest that we are in a state of probation, and discipline, preparatory to our entering on a nother state of being. This, and every other information of a like character, we derive from the word of God-his providen. ces are only conducive to spiritual edification, and moral o bedience, as they are explained by his word, and applied to those purposes through that explanation by the mind of man, and which it is enabled to do in a practical manner, by those very chastisements, and providences of God thus explained. That man is in a state of grace, or favour, is manifest from the fact of his existence-for what prevented his utter ruin, as the consequence of transgression, but the interposition of mercy? This is further proven, and also that we are in a state of trial, from the revealed certainty of a fus ture judgment. If we are not in a state of moral probation, why are we assured that for every thought, and word, and deed, we shall be judged? It is thought by many, that the blessings which God pronounced on Adam just after his creation, were, by the fall, converted into a curse, under which all his sons, and daughters since have come into the world; but we find the very same blessings with which God blessed Adam before his rebellion, pronounced after the pro