« ZurückWeiter »
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 now you do. You shall be as God, and shall attain to a kind of omniscience.'
(6.) Satan's subtilty was manifested here, in assaulting Eve's faith. He would persuade her, that God had not spoken truth in that threatening. He managed the whole business with a lie; yea, he adds one lie to another., “Ye shall not surely die,' says he; and then he represents God as envying our first parents that great honour and happiness that was attainable by them, ver 5. and himself as one that wished their happiness, and would tell her how to arrive at it; and alleges they might easily understand, by the very name of the tree, the truth of what he says to her. It is (says he) because God envies your felicity that he hath forbidden you the use of this tree. But know ye, if ye eat of it, ye shall be as gods.' Here was subtilty indeed. The devil was first a liar, and then a murderer. This was Satan's master-piece to weaken her faith ; for when he had shaken that, and brought her once to distrust, 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 allectives, swallowed down the poison of the serpent; and having tasted death herself, she betook herself to her husband, and persuaded him by the same means to despise the law of their Creator.
Thus sin made its entrance into the world, and brought an universal confusion into it. For the moral harmony of the world consisting in the just subordination of the several ranks of beings to one another, and of all to God, when man, who was placed next to him, broke the union, his fall brought a desperate disorder into God's government. And though the matter of the offence may seem small, yet the disobedience was infinitely great ; it being the transgression of that command which was given to be the real proof of man's subjection to God. The honour and majesty of the whole law was violated in the breach of that symbolical precept. But this will fall to be more fully illustrated in a subsequent discourse.
Fourthly, Man being thus left to the freedom of his own will, abused his liberty in complying with the temptation, Vol. I.
and freely apostatised from God. And so man himself, and he only, was the true and proper cause of his own sinning. Not God, for he is unchangeably holy.; not the devil, for he could only tempt, not force: therefore man himself only is to blame, Eccl. vii. 29. • God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.'
I shall conclude this subject with a few inferences.
1. Hence see the great weakness, yea the nothingness of the creature, when left to itself. When Adam was in the state of integrity, he quickly made a defection from God, he soon lost the robe of his primitive innocence, and all the blessedness of paradise. If our nature was so weak when at the best, then how miserably weak is it now when it is at its worst? If Adam did not stand when he was perfectly holy and righteous, how unable are we to stand when sin has en. tirely disabled us? If purified nature could not resist the temptation, but was quite overturned at the first blast, how shall corrupt nature stand, when besieged and stormed with a long succession of strong and violent assaults ? If Adam in a
? a few hours sinned himself out of paradise, o how quickly would even those who are regenerated sin themselves into hell, if they were not preserved by a greater power than their own; nay, kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ? God left some of the angels to themselves, and they turned devils; and he left innocent Adam, and he fell into a gulf of misery. May we not then much more now say, 'Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall;' especially seeing we have a violent bent and strong propensity of heart and will to go away from God, which Adam had not.
2. There is no reason to blame God for the misery of the fall. He gave man sufficient power and ability to stand if he would, promised a large reward to excite his obedience, and severely threatened disobedience: but man would needs try experiments to make his case better than God made it; and so fell by his own inventions. The fault then was his own, he alone was culpable, and he was the author of his own ruin.
3. Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation. You see that you have to do with an impudent devil, who is still going about seeking whom he may devour. No state, while ye are in this world, can secure you from his temptations.
Though ye be in a state of reconciliation and friendship with God, ye are not secure from his assaults. No place, though it were a paradise, can protect you. He has malice enough to push you on to the most atrocious sins; subtilty and ex. perience, acquired by hellish art in the course of some thou. sand years, to suit his baits so as they may best take with you. Do not parley with the tempter : listening to him may bring on doubting, and doubting may bring on the denial of God's truths, and so end in full compliance with his horrid temptations, as it did with our first mother.
4. If Adam fell so soon after he was created, and could not be his own keeper, then certainly he can much less be his own saviour. If he could not preserve himself from falling into the gulf, much less can he pull himself out of it again. We are by nature without strength, and have no inclination to that which is good; and therefore God'must work pow. erfully and efficaciously in us. We cannot break the chains and knock off the fetters of sin and Satan, by which we are held. We can make no reparation to the honour of God for the wrongs and indignities we have done him. To Christ alone we must be indebted for all this. We have destroyed ourselves, but in him is our help.
5. There is no justification by the works of the law. Adam broke the covenant of works, and so rendered it impracticable for him or his posterity to attain to life and happiness by it. For 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. iii. 10. • As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. The law re. quires a perfect spotless righteousness, but the best righteousness of fallen man is but filthy rags. It is not only torn and ragged, but polluted and defiled. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God: and there is no possibility of obtaining justification by the works of the law now; • for by the works of the law (says Paul) shall no flesh be justified.'
6. Lastly, See your absolute need of Christ; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby ye can be saved. Go not about to establish a righteousness of your own, or seek to get to heaven by any works of your own.
That is indeed still the thing man aims at. First he sins, and then, like Adam, sets to work
to cover himself with a cover of his own making, to procure a title to eternal life by his own works. But is it easier to recover yourselves from the ruins of the fall, than to stand while yet in an innocent and upright state? Have ye gathered strength by sinning, and are ye able to walk to heaven on your own legs? Come then to Christ, who by his obedience and death hath procured a righteousness which alone can stand you in stead, and by which alone you can obtain a right to eternal life. Ye must then either come to Christ, or perish for ever.
OF SIN IN GENERAL
1 JOHN iii. 4.
Sin is the transgression of the law,
N these words we have an answer to that question, 'What
is sin ?' It is a transgression of the law: for 'where no law is, there is no transgression, Rom, iv. 15. But because the word transgression seems to import something positive and actual, therefore it is added in the Catechism, it is a • want of conformity unto the law,' which is a more gene, ral definition: and this meaning the word in the original most properly bears. Hence both a want of conformity unto the law of God, and a transgression of it, are taken into the description; and in effect they are both one thing,
In the further illustration of this subject, it will be pro per to shew,
1. What that law is whereof sin is the transgression.
1. I am to shew what is that law whereof sin is the trans. gression. It is the law of God, even any law of his whereby he lays any duty upon any of the children of men, whether it be the natural law which is written even in the hearts of all men, Rom. li. 15. or the revealed law and will of God, written in the Bible, whether it be the law strictly so called, or the gospel, whose great command is to believe in Christ; the transgression of which command is the great sin of the bearers of the gospel. In a word, the law of which sip is
the transgression, is any law or command of God which he obliges us to obey. More particularly, · 1. There is a law engraven upon the hearts of men by na. ture, which was in force long before the promulgation of the law from Mount Sinai. This is the light of reason, and the dictates of natural conscience concerning those moral principles of good and evil, which have an essential equity in them, and shew man his duty to God, to his neighbour, and to himself. There is a law in all men by nature, which is a rule of good and evil. They have no. tions of right and wrong in their consciences; which is evi. dent by those laws which are common in all națions for the preservation of human society, the encouraging of virtue, and discouraging of vice. These laws are to be found among men who have not the benefit of divine reve. lation for regulating their lives. Now, what standard else can they have for these but common reason, and the light of nature ? Every son and daughter of Adam brings with them into the world a law in their breast; and when reason clears up itself from the clouds of sense, they can distinguish between good and evil, between things which ought to be done, and things which they should avoid. Every man finds a law in his heart that checks and rebukes when he offends, and cherishes and encourages him when he does good. None are without a legal indictment and a legal execution within themselves, Rom. ii. 14, 15.
2. There is another law which was given to the Jewish nation by the ministry of Moses. This is spoken of by Christ, John vii. 19. Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law ? By this we are to understand the whole system of divine precepts concerning ceremonial rites, judicial processes, and moral duties. Accordingly there was a threefold law given by Moses.
(i.) The ceremonial law, which was a certain system of divine positive precepts, with relation to the external wor. ship of God. It was wholly taken up in injoining those observances of sacrifices and offerings, and various methods of purifications and cleansings which were typical of Christ, and of that sacrifice of his which alone was able to take
(2.) The judicial law consisted of those institutions