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Secondly, that this Messiah, long before promised, was actually exhibited in the world, and had finished the work committed to him, when the apostle wrote this epistle! Exercit. 4–6.
Thirdly, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, and that what he had done and suffered, was the work and duty promised of old concerning him. Exercit. 7, 8.
There is not a line in the epistle to the Hebrews, that doth not virtually begin and end in these principles; not a doctrine, not an exhortation, that is not built upon this triple foundation. They are also the great truths of the Christian religion. The confirmation and vindication of the first of these principles is what our present discourse intends.
82. The very first apprehensions of the nature of God, and the condition of the universe, declare that man was formed free from sin; which is his voluntary subduction of himself from under the government of his Maker; and free from trouble, which is the effect of his displeasure on that subduction or deviation, in which two the whole nature of evil consisteth) so that it must have some other original.
Furthermore, in this first effect of immense power, God glorified himself, not only by the wisdom and goodness wherewith it was accompanied; but also by that righteousness whereby, as the supreme rector and governor of all, he allotted to his rational creatures the law of their obedience, annexing a reward thereto, consisting in a mixture of justice and bounty. For, that obedience should be rewarded is of justice; but that such a reward as the eternal enjoyment of God should be proposed to the temporary obedience of a creature, was of mere grace and bounty. And that mankind should have continued in the state and condition wherein they were created, supposing an accomplishment of the obedience prescribed to them, is manifest from the very notions we have of the nature of God; for we no sooner conceive that he is, but withal we assent, that "he is the rewarder of them “that diligently seek him,” Heb. xi, 6; it being inseparable from his nature, as the sovereign ruler of the works of his hands. And thus was the continuance of this blessed state of the creation provided for, and laid in a tendency to farther glory; being absolutely exclusive of any distance between God and man, besides that which is natural, necessary, and infinite from their beings. There was no sin on the one side, nor disgust on the other. This secured the order of the universe. For, what should cause any confusion there, whilst the law of its creation was observed, and which could not be transgressed by brute and inanimate creatures.
$3. That this state of things hath been altered from time immemorial; that there is a corrupting spring of sin and disorder in the nature of man; that the whole world lieth in ignorance, darkness, evil, and confusion; that there is an alienation and displeasure between God and mankind; God revealing his wrath and judgments from heaven, whence, at first nothing might be expected but fruits of goodness, and pledges of love; and man, naturally dreading the presence of God, and trembling at the effects of it, which at first was his life, joy, and refreshment; reason itself, with prudent obgurvation, will discover. The whole creation groans out this complaint, as the apostle witnesseth, Rom. viii, 20, 21; and God makes it manifest in his judgments every day, Rom. i, 18.
That things were not made at first in that state and condition wherein they are now; that they came not
thus immediately from the hands of Infinite Wisdom and Goodness, is easily discernible. God made not man to be at a perpetual quarrel with him, nor to fill the world with tokens of his displeasure, because of sin. This men saw of old, by the light of nature; but what it should be that opened the floodgates to all that evil and sin, which they saw and observed in the world, they could not tell. But what they could not attain to, and for the want of which they wandered in all their apprehensions about God and themselves, without certainty or consistency, we, by Divine revelation, are clearly acquainted with. T'he sum of it is briefly proposed by the apostle, Rom. v, 12, “By "one man sin entered into the world, and death by “sin.” Sin and death are comprehensive of all that is evil in any kind. All that is morally so, is sin; all that is penally so, is death. Whatever there is of disorder in the nature of things below; whatever is irregular, horrid, unequal, or destructive in the universe; whatever is penal to man in this life, or to eternity; whatever the wrath of the holy righteous God, “re“vealing itself from heaven,” hath brought, or ever shall bring, on the works of his hands, are to be referred to this head.
Now, the work which we assign to the Messiah is, the deliverance of mankind from this state and condition.
$4. The first consequent and effect of the sin of Adam was, the punishment wherewith it was attended, Gen. ii, 17; “Dying thou shalt die.” a Neither can it be reasonably pretended to be singly death to his own person, which is intended in that expression. The event sufficiently evinceth the contrary. Whatever is evil to himself and his whole posterity, with the residue of the creation, so far as he or they might
be any way concerned therein, hath grown out of this commination; which is sufficiently manifested in the first execution of it, Gen. iii, 16-19. The malediction was but the execution of the commination. It was not consistent with the justice of God to increase the penalty (beyond what was threatened) after the sin was committed. The threatening, therefore, was the rule and measure of the curse. But this is here extended by. God himself, not only to all the miseries of man (Adam and his whole posterity) in this life, in labor, disappointment, sweat, and sorrow, with death under the curse, but to the whole earth also, and consequently, to those superior regions and orbs of heaven, by whose influence the earth is, as it were, governed and disposed to the use of man, Hos. ii, 21, 22,
It may be yet farther inquired, what was to be the duration of this punishment? Now, there is not the least intimation of a term wherein it should expire, or that it should not be commensurate to the existence of the sinner. God (as the righteous judge) lays the curse on man, and there he leaves him-leaves him for ever! A miserable life he was to spend, and then to die under this curse of God, without hopes of emerging into a better condition.
Supposing, then, Adam to die penally under the curse of God, as without extraordinary relief he inevitably must have done, the righteousness and truth of God being engaged for the execution of the threatening against him, I desire to know, what should have been the state and condition of his soul? Doth either revelation or reason intimate, that he should not have continued for ever under the same penalty and curse, in a state of death, or separation from God? And if he should have done so, then was death eternal in the commination. This, which is termed by our apostle, (nopyn EPXOMLEVY, 1 Thes. i, 10;) "he wrath to come, is what the Messiah delivers from. And what was inflicted on those who first sinned, all their posterity are liable to. Are they not all subject to death, as was Adam? Are the miseries of man in his labor, or the sorrows of women in child-bearing, taken away? Is the earth itself freed from the effects of the curse? Do they not die who never sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression? The Jews themselves acknowledge that all death is penal;* that Adam was a common head to all mankind;t and some of the most sober of them, that his sin was imputed to all his posterity. The latter masters, I acknowledge, are in this whole matter lubricous and uncertain, especially ever since they began to understand the plea of Christians, for the necessity of satisfaction to be made by the sufferings of the Messiah from the doctrine of the fall. Hence Abarbinel, in his commentary on Isa. liii, expressly argues against those sufferings of the Messiah, from the non-necessity of them, with reference to the sin of Adam. Some of them also contend, that it was not so sorely revenged, as we plead it to have been. “Ask an heretic,” (a Christian) saith Lipman, (in his Nizzachon) "how it can enter into their hearts to think that God should use such great severity against the sin “of Adam, that he should hold him bound for so small
*R. Ame in Talm. Tract. Sabbat. citat. in Sepher Ikharim. Lib. iv, cap. xiii, Maimon. More Nebuch. Par. iii, cap. xvii.
Manass. Ben Israel, De Fragilitate, et De Termino Vitæ, Aben Ezra în Gen. iii, 22.
R. Menahem. Rakanatensis in Sect. Bereshith, &c. The following sentence is remarkable: “When he (Adam) sinned, “the whole world sinned, whose sin we bear and suffer, which is “not so in the sin of his posterity." Joseph Albo in Seher Itharim, lib. i, cap. xi. Targum, in Ruth iv. Vid. Lud. Capell. in Annot. John jji.