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Concerning the kind of death, threatened to our first parents, if they should eat of the forbidden fruit.
Dr. T. in his observations on the three first chapters of Genesis says, (p. 7.) “The threatening to man in case of transgression was, that he should surely die.—Death is the losing of life. Death is opposed to life, and must be understood according to the nature of that life, to which it is opposed. Now the death here threatened can, with any certainty, be opposed only to the life God gave Adam, when he created him, ( ver. 7.) Any thing besides this must be pure conjecture, without solid foundation.”
To this I would say; it is true, Death it opposed to life, and must be understood according to the nature of that life, to which it is opposed. But does it therefore follow, that nothing can be meant by it but the loss of life? Misery is opposed to happiness, and sorrow is in Scripture often opposed to joy; but can we conclude from thence, that nothing is meant in Scripture by sorrow, but the loss of joy? or that there is no more in misery, than the loss or 181 absence of happiness? And if the death threatened to Adam can, with certainty, be opposed only to the life given to Adam, when God created him; I think, a state of perfect, perpetual, and hopeless misery is properly opposed to that state Adam was in, when God created him. For I suppose it will not be denied, that the life Adam had, was truly a happy life; happy in perfect innocency, in the favour of his Maker, surrounded with the happy fruits and testimonies of his love. And I think it has been proved, that he also was happy in a state of perfect righteousness. Nothing is more manifest, than that it is agreeable to a very common acceptation of the word life, in Scripture, that it be understood as signifying a state of excellent and happy existence. Now that which is most opposite to that life and state in which Adam was created, is a state of total, confirmed wickedness, and perfect hopeless misery, under the divine displeasure and curse; not excluding temporal death, or the destruction of the body, as an introduction to it.
Besides, that which is much more evident, than any thing Dr. T. says on this head, is, that the death which was to come on Adam, as the punishment of his disobedience, was opposed to that life, which he would have had as the reward of his obedience in case he had not sinned. Obedience and disobedience are contraries; the threatenings and promises which are sanctions of a law, are set in direct opposition; and the promises, rewards, and threatened punishments, are most properly taken as each others’ opposites. But none will deny, that the life which would have been Adam’s reward, if he had persisted in obedience, was eternal life. And therefore we argue justly that the death which stands opposed to that life, (Dr. T. himself being judge, p. 120. S.) is manifestly eternal death, a death widely different from the death we now die—to use his own words. If Adam, for his persevering obedience, was to have had everlasting life and happiness, in perfect holiness, union with his Maker, and enjoyment of his favour, and this was the life which was to be confirmed by the tree of life; then, doubtless, the death threatened in case of disobedience, which stands in direct opposition to this, was an exposure to everlasting wickedness and misery, in separation from God, and in enduring his wrath.
When God first made mankind, and made known to them the methods of his moral government towards them, in the revelation he made of himself to the natural head of the whole species—and letting him know, that obedience to him was expected, and enforcing his duty with the sanction of a threatened punishment, called by the name of death—we may with the greatest reason suppose, in such a case, that by death was meant the most proper punishment of the sin of mankind, and which he speaks of under that name throughout the Scripture, as the proper wages of sin; and this was always, from the beginning, understood to be so in the church of God. It would be strange indeed, if it should be otherwise. It would have been strange, if, when the law of God was first given, and enforced by the threatening of a punishment, nothing at all had been mentioned of that great punishment, ever spoken of under the name of death—in the revelations which he has given to mankind from age to age—as the proper punishment of the sin of mankind. And it would be no less strange, if when the punishment which was mentioned and threatened on that occasion, was called by the same name, even death, yet we must not understand it to mean the same thing, but something infinitely diverse, and infinitely more inconsiderable.
But now let us consider what that death is, which the Scripture ever speaks of as the proper wages of sin, and is spoken of as such by God’s saints in all ages of the church. I will begin with the New Testament. When the apostle Paul says, (Rom. vi. 23.) “The wages of sin is death,“ Dr. T. tells us, (p. 120. S.) that this means eternal death, the second death, a death widely different from the death we now die. The same apostle speaks of death as the proper punishment due for sin, Rom. vii. 5. and Rom. viii. 13. 2 Cor. iii. 7. 1 Cor. xv. 56. In all which places, Dr. T. himself supposes the apostle to intend eternal death. 267267 See p. 78, note on Rom. vii. 5. and note on Rom. vii. 6. Note on Rom. vii. 8 And when the apostle James speaks of death, as the proper reward, fruit, and end of sin, (James i. 15.) “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death;” it is manifest, that our author supposes eternal destruction to be meant. 268268 By comparing what he says, p. 126, with what he often says of that death and destruction which is the demerit and end of personal sin, which he says is the second death or eternal destruction. And the apostle John, agreeably to Dr. T.‘s sense, speaks of the second death as that which sin unrepented of will bring all men to at last. Rev. ii. 11. Rev. xx. 6, 14. Rev. xxi. 8. In the same sense the apostle John uses the word in his first epistle, 1 John iii. 14. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that hateth his brother, abideth in death.” In the same manner Christ used the word from time to time, when he was on earth, and spake concerning the punishment of sin. John v. 24. “He that heareth my word, and believeth, &c. hath everlasting life; and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life.” Where, according to Dr. T.‘s own way of arguing, it cannot be the death which we now die, that Christ speaks of, but eternal death, because it is set in opposition to everlasting life. John vi. 50. “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.“ John viii. 51. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.“ John xi. 26.“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.“ In which places it is plain Christ does not mean that believers shall never see temporal death. (See also Matt. x. 28. and Luke x. 28.) In like manner, the word was commonly used by the prophets of old, when they spake of death as the proper end and recompence of sin. So, abundantly by the prophet Ezekiel. Ezek. iii. 18. “When I say unto the wicked man, thou shall surely die.“ In the original it is, Dying thou shalt die: the same form of expression, which God used in the threatening to Adam. We have the same words again, Ezek. xxxiii. 18.— In Ezek. xviii. 4. it is said, “The soul that sinneth it shall die. 269269 To the like purposes are Ezek. iii. 19, 20. and Ezek. xviii. 4, 9, 13, 17-21, 24, 26, 28. Ezek. xxxiii 8, 9, 12-14, 19. And that temporal death is not meant in these places is plain, because it is promised most absolutely, that the righteous shall not die the death spoken of. Ezek. xviii. 21.“He shall surely live, he shall not die.“ (So Ezek. xviii. 9, 17 ,19, and 22. and Ezek. iii. 21.) And it is evident the prophet Jeremiah uses the word in the same sense. Jer. xxxi. 30. “Every one shall die for his own iniquity.” And the same death is spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. Isa. xi. 4. “With the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” (See also Isa. lxvi. 16. with Isa. lxvi. 24.) Solomon, who we must suppose was thoroughly acquainted with the sense in which the word was used by the wise, and by the ancients, continually speaks of death as the proper fruit, issue, and recompence of sin, using the world only in this sense. Prov. xi. 19.“As righteousness tendeth to life, so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death“ 270270 So Prov. v. 5, 6, 23. Prov. vii. 27. Prov. viii. 36. Prov. ix. 18. Prov. x. 21. Prov. xi. 19. Prov. xiv. 12. Prov. xv. 10. Prov. xviii. 21. Prov. xix. 16, 21. and Prov. xxiii. 13, 14. He cannot mean temporal death, for he often speaks of it as a punishment of the wicked, wherein the righteous shall certainly be distinguished from them: as in Prov. xii. 28.“In the way of righteousness is life, and in the path-way thereof is no death.“ (So in Prov. x. 2. Prov. xi. 4. Prov. xiii. 14. Prov. xiv. 27. and many other places.) But we find this same wise man observes, that as to temporal death, and temporal events in general, there is no distinction, but that they happen alike to good and bad. (Eccl. ii. 4-16. Eccl. viii. 14. and Eccl. ix. 2, 3.) His words are remarkable in Eccl. vii. 15. “There is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness; and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life, in his wickedness.” So we find, David in the book of Psalms uses the word death in the same sense, when he speaks of it as the proper wages and issue of sin, Psal. xxxiv. 21 “Evil shall slay the wicked.” He speaks of it as a certain thing, Psal. cxxxix. 19.“ Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God.” And he speaks of it as a thing wherein the wicked are distinguished from the righteous, Psal. lxix. 28.“Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.”—And thus we find the word death used in the Pentateuch, where we have the account of the threatening of death to Adam. When, in these 182 books, it is spoken of as the proper fruit, and appointed reward of sin, it is to be understood of eternal death. Thus, Deut. xxx. 15. “See, I have set before thee this day life, and good, and death and evil.” Deut. xxx. 19. “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.” The life that is spoken of here, is doubtless the same that is spoken of in Lev. xviii. 5 . “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them.” This the apostle understands of eternal life; as is plain by Rom. x. 5. and Gal. iii. 12. But that the death threatened for sin in thy law of Moses meant eternal death, is what Dr. T. abundantly declares. So in his note on. Rom. v. 20 (Par. p. 291.) ”Such a constitution the law of Moses was , subjecting those who were under it to death for every transgression: meaning by death eternal death.” These are his words. The like he asserts in many other places. When it is said, in the place now mentioned, I have set before thee life and death, blessing and cursing, without doubt, the same blessing and cursing is meant which God had already set before them with such solemnity, in the 27th and 28th chapters where we have the sum of the curses in those last words of the 27th chapter, Cursed is every one, which confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. Which the apostle speaks of as a threatening of eternal death; and with him Dr. T. himself: 271271 Note on Rom. v. 20. Par. p. 291-299 In this sense also Job and his friends spake of death, as the wages and end of sin, who lived before any written revelation, and had their religion, and their phraseology about religion, from the ancients.
If any should insist upon it as an objection—against supposing that death was intended to signify eternal death in the threatening to Adam—that this use of the word is figurative: I reply, that though this should be allowed, yet it is by no means so figurative as many other phrases used in the history contained in these three chapters: as when it is said, God said, Let there be light; God said, let there be firmament, &c. as though God spake such words with a voice. So when it is said, God called the light, day: God called the firmament, heaven, &c. God rested on the seventh day; as though he had been weary, and then rested. And when it is said, They heard the voice of God walking; as though the Deity had feet, and took steps on the ground. Dr. T. supposes, that when it is said of Adam and Eve, Their eyes were opened, and they saw that they were naked; by the word naked is meant a state of guilt. (P. 12.) Which sense of the word, naked, is much further from the common use of the word, than the supposed sense of the word death. So this author supposes the promise concerning the seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head, while the serpent should bruise his heel, is to be understood of the Messiah destroying the power and sovereignty of the devil, and receiving some slight hurt from him. (P. 15, 16.) Which makes the sentence full of figures. And why might not God deliver threatenings to our first parents in figurative expressions, as well as promises?
But indeed, there is no necessity of supposing the word death, or the Hebrew word so translated, if used in the manner that has been supposed, to have been figurative at all. It does not appear but that this word, in its true and proper meaning, might signify perfect misery, and sensible destruction; though the word was also applied to signify something more external and visible. There are many words in our language, such as heart, sense, view, discovery, conception, light, and many others, which are applied to signify external things; as that muscular part of the body called heart; external feelings, called sense; the sight of the bodily eye, called view; the finding of a thing by its being uncovered, called discovery; the first beginning of the fœtus in the womb, called conception; and the rays of the sun, called light. Yet these words do as truly and properly signify other things of a more spiritual internal nature; such as the disposition, affection, perception, and thought of the mind, and manifestation and evidence to the soul. Common use, which governs the propriety of language, makes the latter things to be as much signified by those words, in their proper meaning, as the former. It is especially common in the Hebrew, and I suppose, other Oriental languages, that the same word that signifies something external, does no less properly and usually signify something more spiritual. So the Hebrew words used for breath, have such a double signification; (NOT ENGLISH) Neshama signifies both breath and the soul; and the latter as commonly as the former: (NOT ENGLISH) Ruach is used for breath or wind, but yet more commonly signifies spirit. (NOT ENGLISH) Nephesh is used for breath, but yet more commonly signifies soul. So the word (NOT ENGLISH or NOT ENGLISH) Lébh, heart, no less properly signifies the soul, especially with regard to the will and affections, than that part of the body so called. The word (NOT ENGLISH) Shalom, which we render peace, no less properly signifies prosperity and happiness, than mutual agreement. The word translated life, signifies the natural life of the body, and also the perfect and happy state of sensible active being; and the latter as properly as the former. So the word death, signifies destruction, as to outward sensibility, activity, and enjoyment: but it has most evidently another signification, which in the Hebrew tongue is no less proper, viz. perfect, sensible, hopeless ruin and misery.
It is therefore wholly without reason urged, that death properly signifies only the loss of this present life; and that therefore nothing else was meant by that death which was threatened for eating the forbidden fruit. Nor does it at all appear but that Adam—who, from what God said concerning the seed of the woman, could understand that relief was promised as to the death which was threatened, as Dr. T. himself supposes—understood the death which was threatened, in the more important sense. Especially seeing temporal death, considered originally and in itself, is evermore, excepting as changed by divine grace, an entrance into that dismal state of misery which is shadowed forth by the awful circumstances of this death; circumstances naturally suggesting to the mind the most dreadful state of hopeless, sensible ruin.
As to the objection, that the phrase, Dying thou shalt die, is several times used in the books of Moses, to signify temporal death, it can be of no force. For it has been shown already, that the same phrase is sometimes used in Scripture to signify eternal death, in instances much more parallel with this. But indeed nothing can be certainly argued concerning the nature of the thing intended, from its being expressed in such a manner. For it is evident, that such repetitions of a word in the Hebrew language, are no more than an emphasis upon a word in the more modern languages, to signify the great degree of a thing, the importance or certainty of it, &c. When we would signify and impress these, we commonly put an emphasis on our words. Instead of this, the Hebrews, when they would express a thing strongly, repeated or doubled the word, the more to impress the mind of the hearer; as may be plain to every one in the least conversant with the Hebrew Bible. The repetition in the threatening to Adam, therefore, only implies the solemnity and importance of the threatening. But God may denounce either eternal or temporal death with peremptoriness and solemnity, and nothing can certainly be inferred concerning the nature of the thing threatened, because it is threatened with emphasis, more than this, that the threatening is much to be regarded. Though it be true, that it might in an especial manner be expected that a threatening of eternal death would be denounced with great emphasis, such a threatening being infinitely important, and to be regarded above all others.
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