« AnteriorContinuar »
innocence fear in the eternal world, if such were its original allotments in the present? And, if death and misery were the natural birth-right of innocence, what darkness and gloom must necessarily rest upon the prospects of sinners, and of all mankind, whom the Scripture represents as transgressors? With respect to the penalty of transgression, “ Thou shalt surely die,” Mr. Locke has observed, that it is “a strange way of understanding a law, (which requires the plainest and directest words,) that by death should be meant eternal life in misery,” which sentiment the Bishop triumphantly adopts. Some other writers have represented it as impossible that the parents of the human race ever could, from the words of the threat, understand that so dreadful a punishment as eternal misery was suspended over them, and that, by consequence, the infliction of such a punishment would be unjust, as they had not been fairly warned of their danger.
It seems necessary here to observe, in the first place, that from the conciseness of the history of this whole transaction, we have no reason to infer, that the words preserved on record constituted the whole of that warning which was given to the parents, and the representatives of the human race. They probably were accompanied with explanations the most pointed, and which exempted them from every ambiguity of meaning. They probably were not left to reason by inference on the punishment that was to be awarded to human guilt, but instructed in the most explicit terms of its eternal import. In the second place, even from the words recorded, it is evident that our first parents must have understood them as a threat of the anger and wrath of their Maker, immediately pointed against their disobedience and rebellion. He who understands that rebellion against God must necessarily expose him to the vengeance of him, who is able to destroy both his soul and body, has the most awful warning; and, if he slights it, he sins against his own soul, as well as against God. The penalties of human laws should be accurately fixed, because nothing should be left to caprice, to passion, or to resentment. But the sanctions of the laws of God never can be fully understood. With respect to the latter, it is enough for us to know, that as God is the avenger, the punishment can only be measured by his infinite power and wisdom. Further, we cannot suppose that Adam, had he been left to collect the interpretation of the penalty, by weighing the words in the scale of reason, would ever have hoped to escape from the consequences of guilt, by a stroke which would place him for ever beyond the tribunal of his Maker, and the fear of all future evil. sition that he would interpret what he knew to be at once the marked expression of the Divine displeasure, the awful penalty of rebellion, and the strongest motive to obedience, in a manner which carried so little alarm to his mind, and attached so little importance to his actions, does not bear even the appearance of probability. In the third place, we must observe, that upon the supposition that the penalty had been simply the loss of existence, the forfeiture must, according to the threat, have been exacted on the very day of human disobedience, according to the declaration of God,—In the day, &c.” The idea of death, as a simple privation of existence, admits of no complexness of parts; and, according to this supposition, in no respect whatsoever, did man die in the day of his rebellion. But, admitting that complex idea of death which the New Testament so clearly establishes, as con
sisting in the loss of God's moral image, and which it calls a “death in trespasses and sins," and the liability to natural and eternal death, the necessary consequence of the former, we see that this moral death had immediately seized upon
his soul, and that in the most awful sense of the word, he had died that death which is the seed and principle of every other, when he became a sinner. We no sooner behold the act of transgression finished, than we behold man contriving to escape from the presence and converse of his Creator ; and we see the former vigorous and spiritual powers of his intellect so dim, so obtuse, and so depressed, that he hoped to find a covert from the eyes of Omniscience, among the trees of the garden. Here, then, we perceive the faithfulness of Jeho. vah, and spiritual death, the parent of natural and eternal death, already in possession of the human race, and preparing the way for the future ravages of the other approaching ministers of Divine vengeance.
In the fourth place, it deserves our attention, that even in the Old Testament, we find the expressions, to die, and to live, so appropriated to spiritual and eternal death, and to spiritual and eternal life, as to render their meaning obvious and incontestable. “ As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel ?"_Ezek. xxxii. See also xviii. 31.
Let us suppose, in the last place, that some degree of ambiguity rests upon the nature of that death, with which the Almighty sanctioned the authority of the positive law, originally given to man; where, but in the New Testament, are we to seek that additional information, which will enable us to ascertain its true import and meaning? It was to provide a remedy against the triumph of sin and death, introduced into this world by the fall of man, that God sent his son into it; teaching us the greatuess of our sio and danger, by the greatness of the means he employed for our restoration to his favour and to his image. Had Bishop Warburton, and Mr. Locke, brought the original penalty of human disobedience to be tried by the decisions of New Testameut revelation, the sanctions of which are all connected with eternity, they would have found that the wages of sin continue to be what they were from the beginning,--death. This death eridently means existence in everlasting misery, as it stands opposed to eternal life, which is everlasting existence in bliss and happiness. Indeed death, in the epistles of the Apostles, is a term generally appropriated to describe the punishments of a future state, as even a very imperfect
acquaintance with the language of those epistles will be - sufficient to demonstrate :-“If ye live after the flesh ye shall die ; but if ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”-Rom. viii. 13. “To be carnally minded is death."-6. “ The end of those things is death."-Rom. vi. 21. « For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.”Rom. vii. 5. “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”—James, v. 20. In all these instances, and in many more that might be quoted, death is a term evidently employed to denote the punishment of sin in the eternal world. In the Book of Revelation, the second death is a term repeatedly employed to express the same punishment in the eternal world. “Let it be remembered," says Dr. Paley, in one
of his sermons, “that death, in St. Paul's Epistles, hardly ever signifies a natural death, to which all men of all kinds are equally subjected; but it means a spiritual death, or that perdition and destruction, to which sin brings man in a future state. “ The wages of sin is death ;' not the death which we must undergo in this world, for that is the fate of righteousness as well as of sin; but the state, whatever it be, to which sin and sinners shall be consigned in the world to come. It is well worthy of observation, that this was indeed the only death which those who wrote the New Testament, and probably all sincere Christians of that age, regarded as important, as the subject of their awe, and dread, and solicitude.”*
Whoever reflects on the manner in which the threat suspended over man, to deter him from guilt; and the first promise of pardon given to him after he had contracted it, are conveyed to us in the Book of Genesis, cannot but observe, that they are correlates, and that both of them were to be more amply illustrated, by a gradual accession of light and evidence. The hope of Adam, as well as of his posterity, for pardon and reconciliation with God, was directed to him, who in the first promise, is called the seed of the woman. But, were any man to contend, that we ought to be satisfied with this primary and feeble ray of light, and to seek no further satisfaction with respect to the nature of our Redemption, and the offices of our Redeemer, than this promise communicates, his argument, to every reflecting mind, would appear preposterous and absurd. We are to place the first promise in the light which the day-spring from on high hath