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LECTURE XXI.3636   Preached February 17, 1694.

Rom. v. 12.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and
death by sin; and so death passed upon all men,
for that all have sinned
.

YOU know we have, of late, been treating at large of the creation, and particularly and more especially, of the creation of man, and his original state, as he was created after God’s image; not only his natural, but his moral image, so as to resemble him, both in holiness and blessedness. We come now, from these words, to consider the lapsed, degenerate state of man, now grown most unlike to God in both these respects; to wit, of purity, and of felicity; sunk into a state of sin, and into a state of misery; become a most deplorable, forlorn creature.

An amazing change! And indeed, it might amaze us, that it doth amaze us no more; that we can consider so astonishing a thing as this, with so little concern; when it is not a thing remote from us, but incurs our observation and sense, unavoidably, every day; whether we look about us, or whether we look into ourselves. And it doth so much the more need that such a subject should be insisted upon, the lapse of man, and the lapsed state into which he is come, and in which he is.

It is true, indeed, that usually, immediately upon considering that subject of the creation, providence useth and is wont to be treated in the next place. And that is a method rational 340enough in some respects. But it being my design to speak of the heads of religion as practically as God shall enable me; and the providence of God, (when we shall come to consider that) being for this purpose, is chiefly to be considered as it doth respect man: and the course of his providence towards man, having been for almost six thousand years backward, conversant about fallen man, lapsed man, whereas it was conversant about innocent man but a very little while; it seems to me more reasonable, with reference to the design in hand, to consider God’s providence (especially when we are to consider it in reference to man) rather, first, as conversant about fallen man. And so, first, to consider his fall, and that state into which he was fallen, rather than to bring in the whole head of a discourse about providence, with reference to the very little inch of time wherein he stood in innocency.

And further, too, because the lapsed world of mankind is, as such, thereupon, manifestly put into the hands, and under the government of the Redeemer, who died, and revived, and rose again, that he might be Lord of the living and dead: yea, and not only the lapsed world of mankind, but even the whole creation, as a surplusage of remunerative dignity and glory, for that free and voluntary susception and undertaking of his, it will be, thereupon, most suitable to my design, to bring in the consideration of providence, under the mediatory kingdom of our Lord, and as it belongs to that vicegerency of his which he holds now, not only over this lapsed world, but over the whole creation, as by whom all things consist and are held together. And so, the discourse of the fall, in reference to this design of mine, very fitly intervening, I have chosen to pitch it on this place, from this text of Scripture now read.

In which we may take notice, that there is that which is called a protasis, the former part of a sentence, without an apodosis, or latter part in form, answering thereunto. Through that rich abundance of divine sense wherewith the apostle’s mind and understanding did abound, and was replenished, it was not so well capable of being comprehended and limited by rules of art, or within artificial limits. But yet we may take notice too, that in the following verses there is that apodosis, the latter part of the intended sentence in substance, most fully and most copiously represented; the design of the whole paragraph being, in short, this only, to shew that as Adam, the first man, was to be a root and fountain of sin and death unto all his seed; so the second Adam would be, of righteousness and life to all his seed, there being a resemblance in the former of the latter, according to what is elsewhere said, that “the first 341Adam was a figure of him that was to come,” of the second that was to follow: though, there is not, it is true, an absolute and exact parallel or parity, as is never to be expected, in such cases, throughout.

My business will only be with what we call the protasis, the former of these parts, and that abstractly and by itself considered, without present reference to what follows in the succeeding verses. And so we are to shew you, that whereas, according to the tenour of the last discourse, man was created after God’s image, not only his natural, but his moral image, made like him in respect of sanctity and felicity; he is now fallen into a state wherein he is most unlike God in these two things; to wit, into a state of sin, and into a state of misery. Both these, the text expressly represents and lays before us: “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.”

Here was the state of the one, the first apostate; he sins -first, and thereby becomes miserable. He did represent and resemble God in holiness, purity and sanctity; now he is be come a sinner. He did represent and resemble God in felicity and blessedness, in perfection and fulness of life; (not absolute perfection, it is true, not consummate perfection, but a perfection suitable to his present state;) and now he is be come a creature lost in death: death immediately pursued the sin into which he lapsed and fell.

And thus it was, not only with the first sinner personally considered, but with all that were virtually comprehended in him; the whole offspring, the whole progeny: and the same two things have ensued upon them all; that is, sin, by that one being introduced, hath spread itself over all: and death, that way introduced, hath also diffused itself, and equally spread over all: all lost in death, inasmuch as all have sinned.

Very plain it is, that general notices of these things have obtained in the pagan world: and some of the more instructed and refined pagans have spoken strangely about this; magnifying the original and primitive state of man at first; as that it was a state wherein they did partake of a divine portion; and wherein they lived in that converse with God; and there was among them that righteousness, and that mutual love towards one another, as made this world a pleasant region, and most delectable habitation. We have large discourses in Plato to this purpose; and divers do speak as largely concerning the degenerate state of man;—that he is not the creature that he at first was. And they speak it with a great and most affectionate lamentation, that there should be such a change,

But yet, they having nothing in reference to these matters to 342guide them, hut either dark or dubious conjectures, or false traditions, they could not hut remain very ignorant of much: that is, how long that innocent state did continue; and, wanting divine revelation to guide them herein, some have drawn forth that state to a vast tract of time, speaking of it under the term of the “golden age:” and though it be generally acknowledged among them that there is a degeneracy in man, yet, how he came to fall, and wherein his fall at first stood, and how the dismal effects came to ensue so generally upon man kind; in reference to these things, they speak (as it could not but be) as men quite in the dark.

But here we have a most express and punctual account, and as comprehensive as we can have, in one text of Scripture, in these words of this text; that is, both of the fall of the first man; and then of the fallen state of all men: and both these in the mentioned respects, sin and death, transgression and the consequent doom.

And here are, in reference hereto, these three general heads that require to be distinctly spoken to—the fall of the first transgressor, this one that first sinned; and—the sinful and miserable state of all the whole race of men hereupon; and—the consecution of the latter of these upon the former, that by one that sinned there should be such a diffusion of sin, and consequently of death upon the whole race of men: how from the one man’s sin whereby it first entered into the world, and by which death entered with it, there should be such a transfusion with it of sin and death too, through the world. These are the three general heads of discourse to be insisted upon. We begin with the first,

I. The fall of the first man. And in reference thereto, we have these four things more distinctly to be spoken to—wherein his sin stood by which he fell—how it came to pass that he (an innocent creature, made upright, as in that Eccl. vii. 29) should thus transgress—what the death was that was threatened and did ensue hereupon; and the dueness of this death upon his having once so sinned.

1. We are to consider his sin in itself, wherein that stood: and it is plain,

(1.) That it stood in the breach of a positive precept, which had said to him, that he must by all means abstain from the fruit of such a tree; as you see Gen. ii. 16, 17. “Of all the trees of the garden,” wherein God had placed and set him, he might freely eat; but of that one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he must by no means eat: in the day wherein he did cat of it he must die, fall under death, become mortal. 343There are here, some that would fain imagine another way of understanding this whole history of man’s fall, whom I shall meet with upon a more particular occasion by and by. But this is the first step by which man departed from God: to wit, his making bold in an interdict, in reference whereto, he had a positive expression of the divine pleasure in that signification which God gave him by his mind relating to that matter. He having both a liberty given him, and a limitation: a liberty—“thou mayest freely eat of all the trees of the garden;” and a limitation—“of this one thou mayest not eat:” and that interdict enforced by that tremendous sanction, “Eat and die; if thou eatest, it will be mortal to thee:” it was a breach of this positive law. Take that, (as we shall have occasion to note to you more distinctly anon,) I say, take that act of eating in conjunction with all the concurrents whatsoever it did lead to, or whatsoever was concomitant of that transgressive act. Herein, I say, it first stood, the breach of a positive law. But,

(2,) It did not stand in that alone, but in the violation of the whole law of nature too. This positive law, would never have been understood or known, if it had not been, some way or other, expressly signified. But we must understand a law of nature, besides, to have been given to Adam: to wit, by impression upon his heart; for the remains of such a law are still to be found in the nature of man, as the apostle in that 2. Rom. takes notice: “Men do shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences either accusing or excusing,” or accusing and excusing, alternatim, by turns; sometimes accusing, and sometimes excusing, as they did comport or not comport, with the dictates of their own conscience, which is appointed to be the conservatory of the precepts of that law.

And of this, there are divers celebrated passages among heathens themselves, who have called it not a written but a “born law,” the non scripta, sed nata lex; so Cicero, and divers others, speak much to the same purpose. This same law of nature was transgressed in the transgression of this positive law, this particular interdictive precept, or negative command. For that particular precept had its foundation in the universal natural law; that is, this one comprehensive law must contain in it all the laws that could be supposed; that whatsoever our great Creator should signify to be his mind and pleasure, that, his intelligent, reasonable creature should be obliged to comply with him in. This sums up the whole law of nature, and so cannot but virtually comprehend all positive laws too; when once, by any such law, there is a signification given of the divine 344pleasure, and mind, and will, of him that made me: I ought to obey, when I know his mind; I ought to be ruled and governed by that expression thereof, which he is pleased to afford. This law of nature, (comprehensive of all laws) was broken in this transgression; and sundry great breaches of it, which strike deep into the very foundation, must be contained in this transgression. As for instance,

Here was contempt of the highest and most indisputable authority. God said, “Do not this thing:” the creature saith, “Aye but I will do it.” God saith, “If thou doest it thou diest:” he saith, “I will do it though I die for it.” Here was no fearfulness of his displeasure, and of his punitive justice, the very sword whereof was drawn, and did glitter before his eyes, in the commination and threatening wherewith God fenced his law. Here was disbelief of the first eternal truth. Here was believing of a creature against the Creator. Whether that were an innocent creature, or a fallen creature, though he could not tell, yet he could tell it was a creature that spake to him and tempted him: and yet, this creature is believed against God; and here was an interpretative, constructive saying, “God is a liar; this creature speaks more truly than he.” Here was vain curiosity, an affectation of knowing more than God yet thought fit for his estate. Here was impatiency of waiting for God’s further most seasonable and opportune discovery. Here was discontent with that excellent state in which God had set him. Here was pride and ambition; he must be some greater thing than God had made him; “Ye shall be as gods.” This is contained in it. So that we are not to think that the bare act of eating the forbidden fruit did constitute all the sin of man. But there are all these horrid things complicated and meeting together in it, which made it a sin most exceedingly sinful; especially for him that was hitherto in a right mind; upon whom clear light shone; no cloud upon his understanding; no perverseness hitherto in his will; a power to master the appetite, and keep under the otherwise mutinous inclinations of sensitive nature. Take all together, and we find, here was not only a transgression of the positive precept, but here was also a most manifest breach of the natural law, in the greatest and deepest foundations thereof. Now, herein stood this sin, which was the first thing to be spoken to about that first more general head. But,

2. We are to consider, next, how this should come to pass, that a creature perfectly intelligent, and perfectly holy, yet in his integrity should come to be guilty of so horrid a violation of the divine law as this. It is an astonishing thing, to think 345of, or speak to; but an account is to be given of it so far as God hath been pleased to give it us. And so, to the inquiry, “How came this sin into the world by this one man?” we must answer, “It came so as the divine history doth inform us.” The law given him, you have in the 2 chapter of Gen. 16, 17. verses: the violation of it, in the 3 chapter, at large, as distinctly as the divine wisdom did think needful for us. And so you find several things to concur, and must be understood so to have done to the bringing of this matter about, or that there should be such a thing as sin thus entering into the world. As,

(1.) We are to consider herein the divine permission. Most certain it is, that God did permit, or otherwise it could not have been. And it is easy and obvious to us all to apprehend, that if he had pleased, he could easily have hindered it. The event shews that he did permit; for it did evince, it did come to pass, and he could easily have prevented so dismal an issue, if he had thought fit. But concerning that permission; it is true we are to refer it to the divine permission, in very great part, to whom it did belong to prescribe, but not to be prescribed unto; that he might do what he pleased with his own; give more or less of a gracious influence as he saw fit. But we are not to ascribe it to his sovereignty alone, or to the absoluteness of his power, but to that power of his, guided by the supreme wisdom, that discerns all the reasons of things.

We have, you know, discoursed largely upon that text, “Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” All things that he doth and permits; all things that he suffers and lets his people do: all do fall under the determination of the wisest, and deepest, and most righteous counsels: nothing is done rashly; nothing incogitantly done, or permitted to be done. That, therefore, is to be considered in the first place, how it came to pass, that there should be such a transgression of the divine law, both positive and natural together God permitted it. And,

(2.) This is further to be considered, that the apostate an gels (who made a defection from God) were manifestly apostatized, and had made that defection before. They were gone off from God, had made a schism in heaven, and forsook their first station. And,

(3.) Nothing was, hereupon, more obvious, than that they should affect to draw this new made creature (man) into a combination and confederacy with them, against the rightful, sovereign Lord of all. And,

(4.) It is plain, that as they were inclined to it, (and easy it 346was to suppose that they would be inclined to it,) so we find that they did actually attempt it. It is likely, one of their number and, most probably, their prince, the arch-devil; it was he that made this attempt. The matter is put into his hands to make trial, whether he can draw off this new-made creature from his loyalty, and involve him in the same guilt and misery with himself and his companions; and bring him under the displeasure and curse of his and their Maker, as they were.

It is very plain, that it was the devil that tempted in, and by, the serpent. The Scripture doth expressly call him “the old serpent, the devil, and satan,” as you see, Rev. xii. 9. That puts the matter out of all doubt. And that he might not fright Adam, (who possibly might hitherto be ignorant of a superior order of creatures,) by appearing to him (as it were) in some angelic form: and Adam very well knowing, that there were*not any other men besides himself: therefore, the devil slides into the body of the serpent to tempt. I know no reason we have to suppose or imagine that the devil did form of condensed air, another body like that of the serpent, (though that might be no impossible thing to do, as there are frequent instances in following times and ages,) but there being such a creature already formed, it is a great deal more probable, that he should insinuate and slide into the body of that: and how often hath he possessed human bodies, even when they have been alive, and sometimes when they have been dead! Histories give us many instances of it: and it is, therefore, not at all strange that he should possess the body of the serpent for such a purpose as this, and some way or other speak in, or by it. He hath spoken in the bodies of men, many times, (the stories themselves that we have of that sort importing plainly so much,) not making use of their organs of speech, but speaking more deeply in them than their organs of speech did lie. And so it is not strange, that though such a creature was not naturally furnished with the power of speech, yet that he might speak in it, and by it.

And now here it is true, there are those who are so over wise above, and beyond, what is written, that they think it a mean thing to understand the history of the creation; and then, of the fall of man, according to the true literal meaning and import of the words wherein it is given. And as they are too wise (I hope) to be our instructors in such a case, so I hope we shall not be foolish enough to be instructed and taught by them. The apostle himself, if it were mean and low to under stand that history in the literal sense, was content to be of that low form, when he told us “the serpent beguiled Eve,” and “he was afraid lest they should be beguiled, as the serpent by 317his subtilty beguiled Eve,” 2 Cor. xi. 3. Pray let us content ourselves to be of that lower form with the apostle; that is, modestly understand this history just as it lies.

For the history of the creation, some are sick of it, because they cannot tell how to reconcile the literal account thereof, in the beginning of Genesis, with the philosophy of their Descartes: as if his reputation were a thing more studiously to be preserved than that of Moses; though, yet, more might be said than hath been, to reconcile with rational principles, even the whole history of the creation: and it might be discerned even by themselves, if there were not more ill will, and an affectation to slur Scripture in the case, than the love of reason. Most plain it is, that it is a very ill compliment which they put upon Moses, when they would have him to have written the story of the creation, and of the fall of man, in that form wherein we find it, only to amuse the people over whom he was set: some account or other must be given; and such a one as this, would serve their turn, and help to awe them, and render them more governable.

This is the account that some presume to give of this part of the divine Revelation: and therein, they express a great deal less reverence for, and esteem of, Moses, than some heathens have done: Diodorus Siculus, in particular, who magnifies him as one of the wisest men that the world hath had. But certainly, as these persons do take off all that can be imagined, from the integrity of any honest historian, so they did it without any respect to the reputation of his wisdom too. For if it were to be supposed that the fidelity of an historiographer were to be dispensed and laid aside: and if Moses could have obtained of himself to have done that, surely he might easily have contrived a more plausible romance than this that is supposed to be feigned by him: so as that no man can imagine what should induce him to give such a narrative, but only the known revealed truth of the things themselves. If one would have deviated from that, it might have been with a great deal more speciousness than this hath been.

And it is, likewise, a very ill compliment that such, too, put upon the people of the Jews; yea, and upon all mankind., to suppose that they would be capable of being so imposed upon, if there be not evidence in the things themselves related to them and reported,

But it is the greatest slur of all the rest, which they put upon divine Revelation, that when that appears and is so manifestly allowed to have been written for the instructing of men, it should yet be supposed to be written for the cheating of 348them. It is, therefore, plain and out of question, that the devil did tempt this new made creature man, in the serpent, into which he insinuated himself to this purpose, unto this transgression. And that is the fourth thing we are to consider about the manner of this sin coming to pass.

(5.) And that the devil applied himself to Eve apart (as it is apparent) from her husband, when there was not an opportunity of consulting with him, she being, though (it may be) not of less clear, yet of less strong intellectuals; and in that respect the weaker vessel; her, he attempts: for Adam was not deceived, but Eve; that is, not first, but she first; and so was made use of as an instrument to deceive him, as the apostle tells us: 1 Tim. ii. 14.

And because time doth allow me to go no further now, let me only close what hath been now said, with a caution to that sex: and especially those that are in the conjugal relation. Let them consider what God hath appointed that relation for. He gave Eve to Adam as a help meet. We see what a help she proved; a help to destroy him; a help to undo him, and his whole race and progeny; perverting the very end for which God appointed that relation. O! let such consider and look to it, that are apt to tempt their husbands into sin, because of their relation; because of the affection that they hear to them; because of the constant opportunity they have to insinuate into them, when their pride, and their vanity, and their vindictiveness, very often, must be all employed and set on work to draw their relative into sinful combinations with them against God, when he appointed them to be helps in the relation and capacity wherein they are set. They should be helps to duty; helps Godward; helps heavenward; joint helps, walking in the way to life. It lies in my way to note this; and let it be seriously considered and noted, according to the import and concernment of it.


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