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Wherein it is inquired, whether there be any thing in the history of the three first chapters of Genesis, which should lead us to suppose, that God, in his constitution with Adam, dealt with mankind in general, as included in their first father, and that the threatening of death, in case he should eat the forbidden fruit, had respect not only to him, but his posterity?
Dr. T. rehearsing that threatening to Adam, Thou shalt surely die, and giving us his paraphrase of it, (p. 7, 8.) 183 concludes thus; “Observe, here is not one word relating to Adam’s posterity.” But it may be observed, in opposition to this, that there is scarcely one word that we have an account of, which God ever said to Adam or Eve, but what does manifestly include their posterity in the meaning and design of it. There is as much of a word said about Adam’s posterity in that threatening, as there is in those words of God to Adam and Eve, Gen. i. 28. “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it;” and as much in events, to lead us to suppose Adam’s posterity to be included. There is as much a word of his posterity in that threatening, as in those words, (Gen. i. 29.) “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed,—and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed,” &c. Even when God was about to create Adam, what he said on that occasion, had not respect only to Adam, but to his posterity. Gen. i. 26. “Let us make man in our image, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,” &c. And, what is more remarkable, there is as much of a word said about Adam’s posterity in the threatening of death, as there is in that sentence (Gen. iii. 19.) “Unto dust shalt thou return.” Which Dr. T. himself supposes to be a sentence pronounced for the execution of that very threatening, Thou shalt surely die. This sentence he himself also often speaks of as including Adam’s posterity: and, what is much more remarkable still, is a sentence which Dr. T. himself often speaks of, as including his posterity, as a sentence of condemnation, as a judicial sentence, and a sentence which God pronounced with regard to Adam’s posterity, acting the part of a judge, and as such condemning them to temporal death.—Though he is therein utterly inconsistent with himself, inasmuch as he at the same time abundantly insists, that death is not brought on Adam’s posterity in consequence of his sin, at all as a punishment; but merely by the gracious disposal of a father, bestowing a benefit of the highest nature upon him. 272272 Page 27. S.
But I shall show, that I do not in any of these things falsely charge or misrepresent Dr. T.—He speaks of the sentence in Gen. iii. 19. as pronounced in pursuance of the threatening in the former chapter, in these words, (p. 17, 18) “The sentence upon the man, ver. 17, 18, 19. first affects the earth, upon which he is to subsist: the ground should be encumbered with many noxious weeds, and the tillage of it more toilsome: which would oblige the man to procure a sustenance by hard labour, till he should die, and drop into the ground, from whence he was taken. Thus death entered by sin into the world, and man became mortal, 273273 The subsequent part of the quotation the reader will not meet with in the third edition of Dr. T. but the second, of 1711. according to the threatening in the former chapter.” Now, if mankind became mortal, and must die, according to the threatening in the former chapter, then doubtless the threatening in the former chapter, Thou shalt die, had respect not only to Adam, but to mankind, and included Adam’s posterity. Yea, and Dr. T. is express in it, and very often so, that the sentence concerning dropping into the ground, or returning to the dust, did include Adam’s posterity. So, p. 20. speaking there of that sentence, “Observe (says he) that we their posterity are in fact subjected to the same affliction and mortality, here by sentence inflicted on our first parents.”—P. 42. Note. “But yet men through that long tract, were all subject to death, therefore they must be included in the sentence.” The same he affirms in innumerable other places, some of which I shall have occasion to mention presently.
The sentence which is founded on the threatening, and (as Dr. T. says) according to the threatening, extends to as many as were included in the threatening, and to no more. If the sentence be upon a collective subject, indefinitely, the greatest part of which were not included in the threatening, nor were ever threatened at all, then certainly this sentence is not according to the threatening, nor built upon it. If the sentence be according to the threatening, then we may justly explain the threatening by sentence. And if we find the sentence spoken to the same person whom the threatening was spoken, and spoken in the second person singular in like manner with the threatening, founded on the threatening, and according to it; and if we find the sentence includes Adam’s posterity, then we may certainly infer, that so did the threatening. And hence, that both the threatening and the sentence were delivered to Adam as the public head and representative of his posterity.
And we may also further infer from it, in another respect, directly contrary to Dr. T.‘s doctrine, that the sentence which included Adam’s posterity, was to death, as a punishment to that posterity, as well as to Adam himself. For a sentence pronounced in execution of a threatening, is for punishment. Threatenings are of punishments. Neither God nor man are wont to threaten others with favours and benefits.
But lest any of this author’s admirers should stand to it, that it may very properly be said, God threatened mankind with bestowing great kindness upon them, I would observe, that Dr. T. himself often speaks of this sentence as pronounced by God on all mankind, as condemning them; as a sentence of condemnation judicially pronounced, or a sentence which God pronounced on all mankind acting as their judge, and in a judicial proceeding. This he affirms in multitudes of places. In p. 20. speaking of this sentence, which he there says, subjects us, Adam’s and Eve’s posterity, to affliction and mortality, he calls it a judicial act of condemnation. “The judicial act of condemnation (says he) clearly implies, a taking him to pieces, and turning him to the ground from whence he was taken.” And (p. 28, 29. Note.) “In all the Scripture from one end to the other, there is recorded but one judgment to condemnation, which came upon all men, and that is Gen. iii. 17-19. Dust thou art, ” &c. P. 40. speaking of the same, he says, ”All men are brought under condemnation.” In p. 27, 28. “By judgment, judgment to condemnation, it appeareth evidently to me, he (Paul) means the being adjudged to the forementioned death; he means the sentence of death, of a general mortality, pronounced upon mankind, in consequence of Adam’s first transgression. And the condemnation inflicted by the judgment of God, answereth to, and is in effect the same thing with, being dead.” P. 30. “The many, that is mankind, were subject to death by the judicial act of God.” P. 31. ” Being made sinners, may very well signify, being adjudged, or condemned to death.—For the Hebrew word, &c. signifies to make one a sinner by a judicial sentence, or to condemn.“—P. 178. Par. on Rom. v. 19. “Upon the account of one man’s disobedience, mankind were judicially constituted sinners; that is, subjected to death, by the sentence of God the Judge.“—And there are many other places where he repeats the same thing. And it is pretty remarkable, that (page 48, 49.) immediately after citing Prov. xvii. 15. “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, are both an abomination to the Lord”—and when he is careful in citing these words, to put us in mind, that it is meant of a judicial act—yet, in the very next words, he supposes that God himself does so, since he constantly supposes that Adam’s posterity, whom God condemns, are innocent. His words are these, “From all this it followeth, that as the judgment, that passed upon all men to condemnation, is death’s coming upon all men, by the judicial act of God, upon the occasion of Adam’s transgression: so,” &c.—And it is very remarkable that (p. 3, 4, 7. S.) he insists, “That in Scripture no action is said to be imputed, reckoned, or accounted to any person for righteousness or condemnation, but the proper act and deed of that person.”—And yet he thus continually affirms, that all mankind are made sinners by a judicial act of God the Judge, even to condemnation, and judicially constituted sinners, and so subjected to a judicial sentence of condemnation, on occasion of Adam’s sin; and all according to the threatening denounced to Adam, “Thou shalt surely die:” though he supposes Adam’s posterity were not included in the threatening, and are looked upon as perfectly innoncent, and treated wholly as such.
I am sensible Dr. T. does not run into all this inconsistence, only through oversight and blundering; but that he is driven to it, to make out his matters in his evasion of that noted paragraph in the fifth chapter of Romans; especially those three sentences; (Rom. v. 16.) “The judgment was by one to condemnation.” (Rom. v. 18.) “By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation;” and (Rom. v. 19.) “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” 184 And I am also sensible of what he offers to salve the inconvenience, viz. “That if the threatening had immediately been executed on Adam, he would have had no posterity; and that so far the possible existence of Adam’s posterity fell under the threatening of the law, and into the hands of the judge, to be disposed of as he should think fit: and that this is the ground of the judgment to condemnation, coming upon all men.” 274274 Page 95, 90, 91. S But this is trifling, to a great degree: for,
1. Suffering death, and failing of possible existence, are entirely different things. If there had never been any such thing as sin committed, there would have been infinite numbers of possible beings, which would have failed of existence, by God’s appointment. God has appointed (if the phrase be allowable) not to bring into existence numberless possible worlds, each replenished with innumerable possible inhabitants. But is this equivalent to God’s appointing them all to suffer death?
2. Our author represents, that by Adam’s sin, the possible existence of his posterity fell into the hands of the Judge, to be disposed of as he should think fit. But there was no need of any sin of Adam, or of any body else, in order to their being brought into God’s hands, in this respect. The future possible existence of all created beings is in God’s hands, antecedently to the existence of any sin. And therefore, infinite numbers of possible beings, without any relation to Adam, or any other sinning being, fail of their possible existence. And if Adam had never sinned, yet it would be unreasonable to suppose, but that innumerable multitudes of his possible posterity would have failed of existence by God’s disposal. For will any be so unreasonable as to imagine, that God would and must have brought into existence as many of his posterity as it was possible should be, if he had not sinned? Or, that then it would not have been possible, that any other persons of his posterity should ever have existed, than those individual persons who now actually suffer death, and return to the dust?
3. We have many accounts in Scripture, which imply the actual failing of the possible existence of innumerable multitudes of Adam’s posterity, yea, of many more than ever come into existence. As, of the possible posterity of Abel, the possible posterity of all them that were destroyed by the flood, and the possible posterity of the innumerable multitudes, which we read of in Scripture, destroyed by sword, pestilence, &c. And if the threatening to Adam reached his posterity, in no other respect than this, that they were liable to be deprived by it of their possible existence, then these instances are much more property a fulfilment of that threatening, than the suffering of death by such as actually come into existence; and so is that which is most properly the judgment to condemnation, executed by the sentence of the Judge, proceeding on ground of that threatening. But where do we ever find this so represented in Scripture? We read of multitudes cut off for their personal sins, who thereby failed of their possible posterity. And these are mentioned as God’s judgments on them, and effects of God’s condemnation of them: but when are they ever spoken of as God judicially proceeding against, and condemning their possible posterity?
4. Dr. T. in what he says concerning this matter, speaks of the threatening of the law delivered to Adam, which the possible existence of his posterity fell under, as the ground of the judgment to condemnation coming upon all men. But herein he is exceeding inconsistent with himself: for he affirms in a place forecited, that the Scripture never speaks of any sentence of condemnation coming upon all men, but that sentence in the third of Genesis, concerning man turning to dust. But, according to him, the threatening of the law delivered to Adam, could not be the ground of that sentence; for he greatly insists upon it, that that law was entirely abrogated before that sentence was pronounced, had no existence to have any such influence as might procure a sentence of death; and therefore this sentence was introduced entirely on another footing, a new dispensation of grace. The reader may see this matter strenuously urged, and particularly argued by him, p. 113—120. S. So that this sentence could not, according to him, have the threatening of that law for its ground, as he supposes; for it never stood upon that ground. It could not be called a judgment of condemnation, under any such view; for it could not be viewed in circumstances where it never existed.
5. If, as our author supposes, that the sentence of death on all men comes under the notion of a judgment to condemnation by this means, viz. that the threatening to Adam was in some respect the ground of it; then it also comes under the notion of a punishment: for threatenings annexed to breaches of laws, are to punishments; and a judgment of condemnation to the thing threatened, must be to punishment; and the thing condemned to, must have as much the notion of a punishment, as the sentence has the notion of a judgment to condemnation. But this Dr. T. wholly denies: he denies that death comes as any punishment at all; but insists that it comes only as a favour and benefit, and a fruit of fatherly love to Adam’s posterity, respected not as guilty, but wholly innocent. So that his scheme will not admit of its coming under the notion of a sentence to condemnation in any respect whatsoever. Our author’s supposition, that the possible existence of Adam’s posterity comes under the threatening of the law, and into the hands of the Judge, and is the ground of the condemnation of all men to death, implies, that death by this sentence is appointed to mankind as an evil, at least negatively so; as it is a privation of good: for he manifestly speaks of a non-existence as a negative evil. But herein he is inconsistent with himself: for he continually insists, that mankind are subjected to death only as a benefit, as has been before shown. According to him, death is not appointed to mankind, as a negative evil, as any cessation of existence, or even diminution of good; but on the contrary, as a means of a more happy existence, and a great increase of good.
So that this evasion of Dr. T. is so far from helping the matter, that it increases and multiplies the inconsistence. And that the law, with the threatening of death annexed, was given to Adam, as the head of mankind, and to his posterity as included in him, not only follow from some of our author’s own assertions—and the plain, full declarations of the apostle in the fifth of Romans, which drove Dr. T. into such gross inconsistencies—but the account given in the three first chapters of Genesis, directly and inevitably lead us to such a conclusion.
Though the sentence, Gen. iii. 19.“Unto dust thou shalt return,” be not of equal extent with the threatening in the foregoing chapter, or an execution of the main curse of the law therein denounced—for, that it should have been so, would have been inconsistent with the intimations of mercy just before given—yet it is plain, this sentence is in pursuance of that threatening, being to something that was included in it. The words of the sentence were delivered to the same person with the words of the threatening, and in the same manner, in like singular terms, and as much without any express mention of his posterity. Yet it manifestly appears by the consequence, as well as all circumstances, that his posterity were included in the words of the sentence; as is confessed on all hands. And as the words were apparently delivered in the form of the sentence of a judge, condemning for something that he was displeased with, and ought to be condemned, viz. sin; and as the sentence to him and his posterity was but one, dooming to the same suffering, under the same circumstances, both the one and the other sentenced in the same words, spoken but once, and immediately to but one person, we hence justly infer, that it was the same thing to both; and not as Dr. T. suggests, (p. 67.) a sentence to a proper punishment to Adam, but a mere promise of favour to his posterity.
Indeed, sometimes our author seems to suppose, that God meant the thing denounced in this sentence, as a favour both to Adam and his posterity. 275275 Page 25, 45, 46. S. But to his posterity, or mankind in general, who are the main subject, he ever insists, that it was purely intended as a favour. And therefore, one would have thought, the sentence should have been delivered, with manifestations and appearances 185 of favour, and not of anger. How could Adam understand it as a promise of great favour, considering the manner and circumstances of the denunciation? How could he think, that God would go about to delude him, by clothing himself with garments of vengeance, using words of displeasure and rebuke, setting forth the heinousness of his crime, attended with cherubim and a flaming sword; when all that he meant was only higher testimonies of favour than he had before in a state of innocence, and to manifest fatherly love and kindness, in promises of great blessings? If this was the case, God’s words to Adam must be understood thus: “Because thou hast done so wickedly, hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, thou shalt not eat of it; therefore I will be more kind to thee than I was in thy state of innocence, and do now appoint for thee the following great favours; Cursed be the ground for thy sake,“ &c. And thus Adam must understand what was said, unless any will say, (and God forbid that any should be so blasphemous,) that God clothed himself with appearances of displeasure, to deceive Adam, and make him believe the contrary of what he intended, and lead him to expect a dismal train of evils on his posterity, contrary to all reason and justice, implying the most horribly unrighteous treatment of millions of perfectly innocent creatures. It is certain, there is not the least appearance in what God said, or the manner of it, as Moses gives us the account, of any other, than that God was now testifying displeasure, condemning the subject of the sentence he was pronouncing, as justly exposed to punishment for sin, and for that sin which he mentions.
When God was pronouncing this sentence, Adam doubtless understood, that God had respect to his posterity, as well as himself; though God spake wholly in the second person singular, Because thou hast eaten,—In sorrow thou shalt eat,—Unto the dust shalt thou return. But he had as much reason to understand God as having respect to his posterity, when he directed his speech to him in like manner in the threatening, Thou shalt surely die. The sentence plainly refers to the threatening, and results from it. The threatening says, If thou eat, thou shalt die: the sentence says, Because thou hast eaten thou shalt die. And Moses, who wrote the account, had no reason to doubt but that the affair would be thus understood by his readers; for such a way of speaking was well understood in those days: the history he gives us of the origin of things, abounds with it. Such a manner of speaking to the heads of the race, having respect to the progeny, is not only used in almost every thing that God said to Adam and Eve, but even in what he said to the very birds and fishes, Gen. i. 22. And also in what he said afterwards to Noah, Gen. ix. to Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Canaan, Gen. ix. 25-27. So in promises made to Abraham, God directed his speech to him, and spake in the second person singular, from time to time, but meant chiefly his posterity: To thee will I give this land. In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed, &c. &c. And in what is said of Ishmael, as of his person, but meant chiefly of his posterity, Gen. xvi. 12. and Gen. xvii. 20. Thus in what Isaac said to Esau and Jacob, in his blessing he spake to them in the second person singular; but meant chiefly their posterity. And so for the most part in the promises made to Isaac and Jacob; and in Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, and his twelve sons.
But I shall take notice of one or two things further, showing that Adam’s posterity were included in God’s establishment with him, and the threatening denounced for his sin; and that the calamities which come upon them in consequence of his sin, are brought on them as punishments.
This is evident from the curse on the ground; which if it be any curse at all, comes equally on Adam’s posterity with himself. And if it be a curse, then against whomsoever it is designed, and on whomsoever it terminates, it comes as a punishment, and not as a blessing, so far as it comes in consequence of that sentence.
Dr. T. (p. 19.) says, “A curse is pronounced upon the ground, but no curse upon the woman and the man.” And (p. 45, 46. S.) he insists, that the ground only was cursed, and not the man: as though a curse could terminate on lifeless, senseless earth! To understand this curse otherwise than as terminating upon man through the ground, would be as senseless as to suppose the meaning to be, The ground shall be punished and shall be miserable for thy sake. Our author interprets the curse on the ground, of its being encumbered with noxious weeds: but would these weeds have been any curse on the ground, if there had been no inhabitants, or if the inhabitants had been of such a nature, that these weeds should not have been noxious, but useful to them? It is said, Deut. xxviii. 17.“Cursed shall be thy basket, and thy store:” and would he not be thought to talk very ridiculously, who should say, “Here is a curse upon the basket; but not a word of any curse upon the owner: and therefore we have no reason at all to look upon it as any punishment upon him, or any testimony of God’s displeasure towards him.” How plain is it, that when lifeless things, not capable either of benefit or suffering, are said to be cursed or blessed with regard to sensible beings—who use or possess these things, or have connexion with them—the meaning must be, that these sensible beings are cursed or blessed in the other, or with respect to them! In Exod. xxiii. 25. it is said, “He shall bless thy bread and thy water.” And I suppose, never any body yet proceeded to such a degree of subtilty in distinguishing, as to say, “Here is a blessing on the bread and the water, which went into the possessor’s mouth, but no blessing on him.” To make such a distinction, with regard to the curse God pronounced on the ground, would in some respects be more unreasonable; because God is express in explaining the matter, declaring that it was for man’s sake, expressly referring this curse to him, as being for the sake of his guilt; and as consisting in the sorrow and suffering he should have from it: “In sorrow shalt thou eat of it.—Thorns and thistles shalt it bring forth to thee.“ So that God’s own words tell us where the curse terminates. The words are parallel with those in Deut. xxviii. 16. but only more plain and explicit, “Cursed shalt thou be in the field, or in the ground.”
If this part of the sentence was pronounced under no notion of any curse or punishment at all upon mankind, but, on the contrary, as making an alteration for the better, as to them—that instead of the sweet, but tempting, pernicious fruit of paradise, it might produce wholesome fruits, more for the health of the soul; that it might bring forth thorns and thistles, as excellent medicines, to prevent or cure moral distempers, diseases which would issue in eternal death—then it was a blessing on the ground, and not a curse; and it might more properly have been said, “blessed shall the ground be for thy sake.—I will make a happy change in it, that it may be a habitation more fit for a creature so infirm, and so apt to be overcome with temptation, as thou art.”
The event makes it evident, that in pronouncing this curse, God had as much respect to Adam’s posterity, as to himself. And so it was understood by his pious posterity before the flood; as appears by what Lamech, the father of Noah, says, Gen. v. 29. “And he called his name Noah; saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work, and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed,“
Another thing which argues, that Adam’s posterity were included in the threatening of death—and that our first parents understood, when fallen, that the tempter, in persuading them to eat the forbidden fruit, had aimed at the punishment and ruin of both them and their posterity, and had procured it—is Adam immediately giving his wife that new name, Eve or Life, on the promise or intimation of the disappointment and overthrow of the tempter in that matter, by her seed. This Adam understood to be by his procuring life; not only for themselves, but for many of their posterity; and thereby delivering them from that death and ruin which the serpent had brought upon them. Those that should be thus delivered, and obtain life, Adam calls the living. And because he observed, by what God had said, that deliverance, or life, was to be by the seed of the woman, he therefore remarks, that she is the mother of all living, and thereupon gives her a new name, hwx LIFE . Gen. iii. 20.
There is a great deal of evidence, that this is the occasion of Adam giving his wife her new name. This was her new honour, and the greatest honour, at least in her present 186 state, that the Redeemer was to be of her seed. New names were wont to be given for something that was the person’s peculiar honour. So it was with regard to the new names of Abraham, Sarah, and Israel. Dr. T. himself observes, 276276 Note annexed to § 267. that they who are saved by Christ, are called, (NOT ENGLISH). 2 Cor. iv. 11.) the living or they that live. Thus we find in the Old Testament, the righteous are called by the name of the living, Psal. lxix. 28.“Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” If what Adam meant by her being the mother of all living, was only her being the mother of mankind; and gave her the name life upon that account; it were much the most likely that he would have given her this name at first; when God first united them, under that blessing, be fruitful and multiply, and when he had a prospect of her being the mother of mankind in a state of immortality, living indeed, living and never dying. But that Adam should at that time give her only the name of (NOT ENGLISH) Isha, and then immediately on that melancholy change, by their coming under the sentence of death, with all their posterity—having now a new awful prospect of her being the mother of nothing but a dying race, all from generation to generation turning to dust, through her folly—he should change her name into life, calling her now the mother of all living, is (on that supposition) perfectly unaccountable. Besides, it is manifest, that it was not her being the mother of all mankind—or her relation, as a mother, to her posterity—but the quality of those of whom she was to be the mother, Adam had in view, in giving his wife this new name; as appears by the name itself, which signifies life. And if it had been only a natural and mortal life he had in view, this was nothing to distinguish her posterity from the brutes; for the very same name of living ones, or living things, is given from time to time to them 277277 As in Gen. i. 21, 24, 28. Gen. ii. 19. Gen. vi. 19. Gen. vii. 23. and Gen. viii. 1. and many other places in the Bible. . Besides, if by life the quality of her posterity was not meant, there was nothing in it to distinguish her from Adam; for thus she was no more the mother of all living, than he was the father of all living; and she could no more properly be called by the name of life on any such account, than he: but names are given for distinction. Doubtless Adam took notice of something distinguishing concerning her, that occasioned his giving her this new name. And I think it is exceeding natural to suppose, that as Adam had given her the first name from the manner of her creation, so he gave her the new name from redemption, and as it were new creation, through a Redeemer, of her seed. And, it is equally probable, that he should give her this name from that which comforted him, with respect to the curse that God had pronounced on him and the earth, as Lamech named Noah, Gen. v. 29.“Saying, this same shall comfort us concerning our work, and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.” Accordingly he gave her this new name, not at her first creation, but immediately after the promise of a Redeemer. (See Gen. iii. 15-20.)
Now, as to the consequence which I infer from Adam giving his wife this name, on the intimation which God had given—that Satan should by her seed be overthrown and disappointed, as to his malicious design in tempting the woman—it is, that great numbers of mankind should be saved, whom he calls the living; they should be saved from the effects of this malicious design of the old serpent, and from that ruin which he had brought upon them by tempting their first parents to sin; and so the serpent would be, with respect to them, disappointed and overthrown in his design. But how is any death, or indeed any calamity at all, brought upon their posterity by Satan’s malice in that temptation, if instead of that, all the consequent death and sorrow was the fruit of God’s fatherly love? an instance of his free and sovereign favour? And if multitudes of Eve’s posterity are saved from either spiritual or temporal death, by a Redeemer, one of her seed, how is that any disappointment of Satan’s design, in tempting our first parents? How came he to have any such thing in view, as the death of Adam’s and Eve’s posterity, by tempting them to sin, or any expectation that their death would be the consequence, unless he knew that they were included in the threatening?
Some have objected, against his posterity being included in the threatening delivered to Adam, that the threatening itself was inconsistent with his having any posterity: it being that he should die on the day that he sinned. To this I answer, that the threatening was not inconsistent with his having posterity, on two accounts:
I. Those words, In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die, according to the use of such like expressions among the Hebrews, do not signify immediate death, or that the execution shall be within twenty-four hours from the commission of the fact; nor did God by those words limit himself as to the time of executing the threatened punishment; but that was still left to God’s pleasure. Such a phrase, according to the idiom of the Hebrew tongue, signifies no more than these two things:
1. A real connexion between the sin and the punishment. So Ezek. xxxiii. 12, 13.“The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression. As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness: neither shall the righteous be able to live in the day that he sinneth: but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.” Here it is said, that in the day he sinneth, he shall not be able to live, but he shall die; not signifying the time when death shall be executed upon him, but the connexion between his sin and death; such a connexion as in our present common use of language is signified by the adverb of time, when; as if one should say, “According to the laws of our nation, so long as a man behaves himself as a good subject, he may live; but when he turns rebel, he must die:” not signifying the hour, day, or month, in which he must be executed, but only the connexion between his crime and death.
2. Another thing which seems to be signified by such an expression, is, that Adam should be exposed to death by one transgression, without waiting to try him the second time. If he eat of that tree, he should immediately fall under condemnation, though afterwards he might abstain ever so strictly. In this respect the words are much of the same force with those words of Solomon to Shimei; 1 Kings ii. 37. “For it shall be that on the day that thou goest out, and passest over the brook Kidron, thou shalt know for certain, that thou shalt surely die“ Not meaning, that he should certainly be executed on that day, but that he should be assuredly liable to death for the first offence, and that he should not have another trial to see whether he would go over the brook Kidron a second time.—Besides,
II. If the words had implied, that Adam should die that very day (within twenty-four or twelve hours) or that moment in which he transgressed, yet it will by no means follow, that God obliged himself to execute the punishment in its utmost extent on that day. The sentence was in great part executed immediately; he then dies spiritually; he lost his innocence and original righteousness, and the favour of God; a dismal alteration was made in his soul, by the loss of that holy divine principle, which was in the highest sense the life of the soul. In this he was truly ruined and undone that very day; becoming corrupt, miserable, and helpless. And I think it has been shown, that such a spiritual death was one great thing implied in the threatening. And the alteration then made in his body and external state, was the beginning of temporal death. Grievous external calamity is called by the name of death in Scripture, Exod x. 17.—“Entreat the Lord that he may take away this death.” Not only was Adam’s soul ruined that day, but his body was ruined; it lost its beauty and vigour, and became a poor, dull, decaying, dying thing.
And besides all this, Adam was that day undone in a more dreadful sense; he immediately fell under the curse of the law, and condemnation to eternal perdition. In the language of Scripture, he is dead, that is, in a state of condemnation to death; even as our author often explains this language in his exposition upon Romans. In scripture language, he that believes in Christ, immediately receives life. He passes at that time from death to life, and thenceforward (to use the apostle John’s phrase) “has 187 eternal life abiding in him.” But yet, he does not then receive eternal life in its highest completion; he has but the beginning of it; and receives it in a vastly greater degree at death. The proper time for the complete fulness, is not till the day of Judgment. When the angels sinned, their punishment was immediately executed in a degree; but their full punishment is not till the end of the world. And there is nothing in God’s threatening to Adam that bound him to execute his full punishment at once; nor any thing which determines, that he should have no posterity. The constitution which God established and declared, determined, that IF he sinned, and had posterity, he and they should die. But there was no constitution determining the actual being of his posterity in this case; what posterity he should have, how many, or whether any at all. All these things God had reserved in his own power; the law and its sanction intermeddled not with the matter.
It may be proper in this place also to take some notice of that objection of Dr. T. against Adam being supposed to be a federal head for his posterity, that it gives him greater honour than Christ, as it supposes that all his posterity would have had eternal life by his obedience, if he had stood; and so a greater number would have had the benefit of his obedience, than are saved by Christ. 278278 Page 120, &c. S. —I think, a very little consideration is sufficient to show, that there is no weight in this objection. For the benefit of Christ’s merit may nevertheless be vastly beyond that which would have been by the obedience of Adam. For those that are saved by Christ, are not merely advanced to happiness by his merits, but saved from the infinitely dreadful effects of Adam’s sin, and many from immense guilt, pollution, and misery, by personal sins. They are also brought to a holy and happy state through infinite obstacles; and exalted to a far greater degree of dignity, felicity, and glory, than would have been due for Adam’s obedience; for aught I know, many thousand times so great. And there is enough in the gospel-dispensation, clearly to manifest the sufficiency of Christ’s merits for such effects in all mankind. And how great the number will be, that shall actually be the subjects of them, or how great a proportion of the whole race, considering the vast success of the gospel that shall be in that future, extraordinary, and glorious season, often spoken of, none can tell. And the honour of these two federal heads arises not so much from what was proposed to each for his trial, as from their success, and the good actually obtained; and also the manner of obtaining. Christ obtains the benefits men have through him by proper merit of condignity, and a true purchase by an equivalent; which would not have been the case with Adam if he had obeyed.
I have now particularly considered the account which Moses gives us, in the beginning of the Bible, of our first parents, and God’s dealings with them; the constitution he established with them, their transgression, and what followed. And on the whole, if we consider the manner in which God apparently speaks to Adam from time to time; and particularly, if we consider how plainly and undeniably his posterity are included in the sentence of death pronounced on him after his fall, founded on the foregoing threatening; and consider the curse denounced on the ground for his sake, for his sorrow, and that of his posterity; and also consider, what is evidently the occasion of his giving his wife the new name of Eve, and his meaning in it—and withal consider apparent fact in constant and universal events, with relation to the state of our first parents and their posterity from that time forward, through all ages of the world—I cannot but think, it must appear to every impartial person, that Moses’s account does, with sufficient evidence, lead all mankind, to whom his account is communicated, to understand, that God, in his constitution with Adam, dealt with him as a public person—as the head of the human species—and had respect to his posterity, as included in him. And it must appear, that this history is given by divine direction, in the beginning of the first written revelation, in order to exhibit to our view the origin of the present sinful, miserable state of mankind, that we might see what that was, which first gave occasion for all those consequent wonderful dispensations of divine mercy and grace towards mankind, which are the great subject of the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament; and that these things are not obscurely and doubtfully pointed forth, but delivered in a plain account of things, which easily and naturally exhibits them to our understandings.
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