|« Prev||Lecture XXIV. Preached March 17, 1694.||Next »|
And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
FROM the former part of this scripture, we have insisted upon the fall of the first man; “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;” his fall, by sin, into death. And so you have seen the entrance of both these, sin and death, into the world, in the fall of that one man. Now we come in the next place;
II. To speak, from the latter words, of the fallen state of man, generally considered. And you see the ground of that, too, lies as fully in the latter words of the text, that “death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” I read the words according to our translation, though some would have them to be otherwise read, and the letter of the text doth admit of another reading: instead of “for that,” they read “in whom,” all have sinned. But of that there will be more occasion to speak hereafter.
In the mean while we are to consider the fallen state of men in general, according as these expressions do represent and hold forth to us. And they do represent his state to be a state of sin and death; these two complicated with one another. “Death hath passed upon all, for that all have sinned.” And, 368according to that reading of the words, and the nature of the thing, that which is here last mentioned., requires to be considered first, though these are complicated with one another; sin and death run into one another, are most inseparably conjunct; yet, they are all some way distinct. And so far as they do admit of being distinguished, we shall consider and speak to them distinctly. And so,
1. Of the sinful stale of men in general. Now, in speaking to this, as the letter of the text leads us, we shall—consider the nature, and—the universality, chiefly, of this sin that is thus spread through the world. We are,
( 1.) To consider the nature of it. The general nature of sin is plainly expressed 1 John iii. 4. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” And therefore, that we may shew you more distinctly the nature of that sin which hath so generally diffused itself among men, (as we shall afterwards shew,) it will be needful to inquire, What it is that we must take for the mea sure of such sin? inasmuch as the following words here do plainly tell us, in the latter part of the 13th verse, that “sin is not imputed where there is no law:” wherever any sin is, some law must be supposed to be. And what is that law, against which it can be understood that men might so gene rally sin?
You have heard, by what law the first sin of man was to be measured: that was partly a positive law, a particular precept, a law made by a spiritual revelation to him: but much more principally a natural law, which was violated in the violation of that positive one, inasmuch as that positive law had its immediate root and foundation in the natural one: nothing being more apparently natural, than that the reasonable creature ought to comply with the will of his Maker being once known. But though it were very apparent what law ‘that first sin did transgress, yet it is not so apparent what law it is that the common sin of mankind doth now transgress. And so that needs to be inquired into.
In the general, it may be said, that the law that doth obtain in the world now, and from age to age, doth consist of two parts, as the law at first did which was given to Adam, even in his innocency; to wit, that it is partly natural, and partly by superadded Revelation. So it was at first, so it is still; but with great and remarkable difference. That whereas, at first, the natural law was full, perfect, intire, most comprehensive, and large, even in the discernible impressions of it; and the superadded law by special Revelation narrow, lying in a very little compass (one particular interdict only with its penalty establishing 369it) that we read or are informed of. But now the case is very diverse and opposite: that is, the natural is diminished, not in the obligation of it, but in the impression, the discernible or discerned impression, that frame in the heart or mind of man broken into fragments, many parts very obscure and illegible, and divers, with many of the inhabitants of this earth, (as it were,) lost through inadvertency, and their not reflecting upon themselves so as to discern and find out the sculpture of what remains engraven upon their hearts. And the revealed law, (where that obtains,) that is so much the more large, and comprehensive, and full, and perfect, so as to discover every false way; and every true and right way: one and the same rule being the same measure, recti et obliqui, of that which is right and that which is wrong too.
And the exigency of the case did require that it should be so: that is, by how much the more that the natural law was erased, broken into fragments and parcels, and many of them (as to their discernibleness) lost with many; so much the more requisite was it, that the superadded law (which was to be by revelation) should be entire and complete, that there should be another impression of that original law, that should collect and gather up all that was lost of it, and rendered it obscure, from the prevailing corruption of the world. And so thus, in short, did these two cases stand in opposition to one another. At first, the natural law was most entire and full and large and comprehensive: and the revealed law narrow, and lying within a very little compass. But now the natural law, to wit, in the discernibleness of its impression, is greatly diminished; and the law that is by revelation so much the more large, comprehensive, entire, and full.
At first, that revealed law after the apostasy, must, for several successive ages, be easily transmitted (by reason of the great longevity that remained before and after the flood) from hand to hand by a certain tradition. But afterwards, God provided that it should be collected and gathered up into Sacred Records, though not all written at once, but successively, according as supreme wisdom had determined concerning the different states in the future church, in point of light. And so, what we have of it now, lies entirely and fully in the sacred volumes, of which we have discoursed to you largely hereto fore; but that doth actually obtain but in a small part of the world in comparison: but a very small part. That it doth obtain no further, is owing to the wickedness of the world itself, which obstructs the diffusion of it. God, in his holy wisdom not obtruding, not by extraordinary means and methods making 370way for it, as it were easy for him to do, if it were so agreeable to the counsel of his own wisdom, the results whereof we now see, in fact; and the reasons whereof may be better understood in the appointed season. But we are not to think this wicked world innocent in its having no more of revealed light than it hath; that light shines in darkness, but the darkness doth not comprehend it, strives against it, otherwise there must have been a diffusion, even of most evangelical knowledge many an age ago. Men fence against it and keep it off, and will not let it spread; and God doth not exert the greatness of his power as yet (for ends and purposes best known to himself) for the gaining of a victory over that contumacious darkness.
Yet, in the meantime, where there are no notices of that revealed law, or that law by Revelation, we are not to think that the world is without law: do but observe to this purpose what follows the text: “Until the law (verse 13.) sin was in the world;” until the law. Until what law? It is certain, here, “law” must be taken in a restrained and limited sense, otherwise the expressions in the following part of that verse would contradict those in the former: “Sin is not imputed where there is no law:” then there could have been no such thing as sin, from Adam to Moses, if there had been no law at all in all that interval. When therefore, it is said, “Until the law sin was in the world;” that is, Until the written law, or until the law that was given on mount Sinai, it is not the Jaw simply, but respectively only, that is there meant; not in an absolute and general, but in a particular and limited sense.
It is true, there was a time (that time that is there mentioned, from Adam to Moses) when there was no such law as came afterwards to be in the time of Moses, Not that there was then no law at all; for then there could be no sin; but it is expressly told us, that “sin was in the world” for all that time; and therefore, there was some law; there was a law by which men might be reckoned sinners: for there was such a law according to which they were punished, as the following words shew; “Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses;” there was such a law as made men still liable to death; and therefore, such a law against which men might still sin, even in the long interval from Adam to Moses. “Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.”
I pray consider that expression, “that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” How was that? That is, that did not sin against a particular and express law, 371with its annexed sanction, as Adam did. Some would under stand that of infants; and, it is true, it must include them. But I see no cause at all for such a restriction; but most manifestly the contrary: for infants were not the only ones that did die; death reigned over all, in that interval from Adam to Moses; and so, the sin must be as general as the death. But herein was the great dissimilitude, that, whereas Adam did sin against a framed, express precept, with its annexed penalty in the commination, the generality of men from Adam to Moses, did not so sin; but they sinned against such a law as they had; that is, the relics and fragments of the law of nature, first impressed upon the heart of man, or put into his very nature.
This is agreeable to what we have in this same epistle, chap. ii. 12. “As many as have sinned without the law,” (that is, without a written law,) “shall perish without law;” to wit, without that written law. Some law or other they were still under; they must be supposed to sin against some law; otherwise they could perish -by none. But a written law they had not. “As they that are under the law, (as it there follows,) they are to be judged by the law.” And afterwards, in the 14. and 15. verses of the same chapter: “When the Gentiles who have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, they are a law unto themselves, which shew the works of the law written in their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts in the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” So we read it, and I think very defectively, “accusing and excusing:” it is in the greek, “by turns;” not “one another;” but, “sometimes accusing, and some times excusing.” Not as if their thoughts did accuse one another, or excuse one another; but the expression may admit to be read, I say, a sometimes accusing, and some times excusing,” according to the discernible evidence of the case.
And so you may now easily collect, how, in this general sinful state of the apostate world, men do every where transgress against a law. Those that have a written law, or might more easily have it, they sin against that; to wit, the Revelation that God hath given of his own mind concerning their duty, and in order to their felicity. They that have it, or might more easily have it, I say, sin against it. They that have it not, or from whom it lies more remote, they yet, sin against the dictates of the law which they have in themselves, or which they are to themselves. They that have no other law, being a law to themselves, they having some measures, though broken and 372imperfect ones, of right and wrong in their own minds and natural consciences.
And now, the measure being stated by which this general sinfulness of the world is to be estimated, the natural law and, generally, that law that is by Revelation in the word of God, so far as it doth obtain, or might more easily obtain; it will be our further business, in the next place, to open to you the sinfulness of men in reference to this law, of which you have this account. And it is, in the general, the sinfulness of their inclination, or of their nature, that we are obliged, by the design of our present subject, to consider and speak to: “For that all have sinned.”
Here is not, it is true, actual sin: that the expression doth literally signify. But that must be understood as supposing a sinful nature, which is more principally to be considered; or it is to be considered in the first place; that which is the peccatum peccans, as it is significantly enough called by some. That evil heart, that nature, not as it is nature, but as it is depraved, it is now transmitted every where from age to age, and from generation to generation, among men: the fountain from whence all those streams of wickedness flow that have deluged the world, and made a raging ocean, “the waves whereof continually cast forth mire and dirt,” as the prophet expresseth it. Isa. lvii. 20. That nature of man, which as it is degenerate and corrupt, is become a seminary, a seed-plot of all kinds of wickedness.
This is for peccatum originale originatum; as we formerly discoursed to you of the peccatum originale originans, as some do choose to express those things. It is, in the general, a sinful inclination which lies opposite to the law of God, natural or revealed: for we are not to suppose that the love of God doth only provide against sinful acts, or sinful omissions, no, this is the very peculiar excellency of the Divine Government, in contradistinction to any other; that it determines first, what men ought to be, and then, consequently and dependantly, what they ought to do. Human laws and governments do not respect the former of these, otherwise than consequentially. They only take notice of actions, and those, external ones too. But internal inclinations they make little provision about, and do not otherwise take notice of (as indeed the nature of the thing doth not admit they should) but by consequence, as a man’s habit and internal inclination may be collected and gathered from the series and course of his actions. But it is quite contrary as to the Divine Government, and the laws that be long thereunto; that is, that God having an immediate inspection 373into the minds of men, and his government, laying its first obligation there; its laws do first provide what men should be; and then consequentially, what they should do. They should be so and so; be holy, be righteous; and then, all is to correspond hereunto.
Therefore, we must understand that an evil inclination, or a depraved or corrupted nature, is that which doth first violate the law of God, lies first against it: and so, that it is not infelicity only, to be ill inclined, but it is sin—sin in the highest and most eminent sense thereof. It is the habitual frame and bent of the soul, that the law of God doth in the first place direct: and then, it doth direct that men should act correspondency thereunto, So that now that empoisoned nature of man, the malignity of the heart and soul, or inner man, is that which makes the first and principal breach upon the law of God, which is in its own nature holy, just, and good: whatsoever there is of this law left, it is all holy, just and good, even as it doth obtain to be called “the law of nature.” What is truly such, is holy, just, and good, still, as much as ever it was, and as expressive of the mind of God.
Now concerning that corrupt inclination in the minds and souls of men, that doth first violate the law, it is to be under stood agreeably to the law itself. The law itself, is partly preceptive, and partly prohibitive. It consists of these two parts. And these two things are accordingly to be considered in the corrupted state of human nature: to wit, first, that there is a disinclination to all that is truly good; and, secondly, that there is a propensity, a perverse inclination, to all that is sinful and wicked.
[1.] The first of these, that is, which is signified by the want of original righteousness, that rectitude which did first belong to the nature of man, the absence, and not the mere absence; but the want and privation of that, is the first thing we have to consider in the corruption of man’s nature; that now it wants the inclination that there ought to be in it according to its primitive state, and the first obligation of the divine law upon man. This is the loss of God’s image; not by his taking it away, which we must carefully abstain from thinking, even so much as one thought to that purpose; that is, that God took away his image from man, to wit, his image in respect whereof, man was to resemble him in point of holiness; that would be to devolve the sinfulness of man’s nature upon God himself. But God did righteously, upon the first apostasy, withhold his Spirit, whereupon his image, being a created thing, and not capable of self-subsistence, must vanish: and so, as that in effect 374to erase the holy image of God out of his soul. He (man) hath expunged and blotted it out; provoked the Spirit of God to retire; cherished and indulged corrupt inclinations against it, and in opposition to it. And, God finally still retiring, that image falleth and vanisheth: not being withdrawn by him, (speaking of the effect,) but being expelled; not withdrawn, but drawn away; not by violence (as it were) obliterated out of the soul. That which was, indeed, God’s workmanship at first, is defaced by our wicked workmanship: the work of our hands hath so far destroyed the work of his.
There is, therefore, in the corrupt nature of man, a disinclination to all that which it ought to be inclined to; that is, both to objects and acts, that it ought to be inclined to. We are principally to consider the objects; the acts will of course most obviously ensue. The objects wherewith man was to have to do, were God himself, his fellow creatures, (those especially of his own order,) and himself.
There was, upon God’s having made man, the direct relation first between Creator and creature; and then, hereupon, (there being divers such of the same order,) there follows, of course, a collateral relation between one such creature and another. In the first respect, man being a reasonable creature by his nature, a creature and a reasonable one, he comes under obligation to God most directly: and then, collaterally, (from God still,) he comes to be under obligation to his fellow-creatures of his own order: and inasmuch as he is capable of bearing a relation to himself, so he comes to owe duty to himself also.
To God in the first place. There is an aversion from God, to be considered in this fallen state of man, not of one single faculty of the soul alone, but even of the whole soul, and of all the faculties of it. But according to the natural order wherein they lie towards one another, the whole soul is gone off from God; mind, and will, and affections, and executive powers, al together turned off from God. So is the account given of the fallen state of man in that xiv. and liii. Psalm, from which texts and from others, you have so many quotations taken in the 3d. chapter of his epistle to the Romans, all summed in this, that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” This, then, is the great thing that, in the first place, is held forth in this text; to wit, that the state of man is a state of apostasy and recess from God; he hath withdrawn himself, and stands now in his whole soul in a quite averse posture from God; towards whom he was originally and naturally most propense.
But then, whereas God, the Object of this aversion, is to be 375considered two ways; as our Supreme and Sovereign Lord, and as our Supreme and Sovereign Good, the soul of man is averse to him under both these notions; refuseth to take him as his Supreme Lord; or. for his Supreme Good; that is, it will neither obey him, nor be happy in him. And whereas, under this twofold notion, we are to consider God the Object of this aversion, it is under the former of these notions that we are to consider it now, while we are speaking of the sinful state of man, or the sin of man. It will be under the latter of these notions that we are to consider it, when we speak of the death that hath passed over all men, as that whereunto it doth more peculiarly and properly belong.
But consider God as the Supreme Lord, and the sinfulness of man’s nature, in this respect, lies in this, that he is, under this notion, averse to, and turned off, from him, and declines obedience to him. And the whole is, under this notion, averse; that is, the mind is averse, not only doth not know him, but declines knowing him, labours under, not a mere nescience of God, but an affected and chosen ignorance, desires not to know him. So is the representation made to us of the opposite state and condition of man in those mentioned psalms, the 53, most fully, 2, 3 verses; that is, “That God looking down from heaven upon the children of men to see who would inquire, who would seek after God, he finds them all gone back;” (the Hebrew word signifies a perverse retrocision, waywardly gone back;) no, here is no inclination to inquire after God; according to that, Job xxi. 14. “They say unto God, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways,” of thy concerns, and of thy methods. Those ways of intercourse that thou wouldst have to be between thee and us; these ways of thine we do not desire to know; we do not desire there should be any intermeddling, any intercourse between thee and us. And according to that Rom. i. 28. “They liked not to retain God in their knowledge.” They did not only, or barely, not know him, but disliked to know, refused to know him. “Through deceit they refused to know me,” saith the Lord, Jer. ix. 6. The same corrupt nature remaining, even under a professed relation to him, with the generality of that wicked people.
And so, in this respect, the state of man is a state of darkness: to wit, of affected darkness. “There is no darkness or shadow of death where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves.” It speaks the inclination of men’s minds that they would fain hide themselves in some darkness or shadow of death if they could; but they can find none, none that hides them from him, though they can easily so inwrap themselves 376in darkness, as not to behold him. Their darkness is a fence against themselves; but not against him. They make it so thick that they cannot penetrate it; but he most easily can. They would fain have such a darkness as that he might not see them; but there is none, they cannot find any: “There is no darkness or shadow of death where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves. “But, in the mean time, that speaks the inclinations of their minds: “O! that we could be hid from God, and that there might be nothing at all to do between him and us.” “Ye were darkness,” (here is the common state of the unconverted, unregenerate world,) Ephes. v. 8. “Ye were darkness,” not merely in the dark, but darkness itself. “The light that is in them is darkness,” as our Saviour speaks, Mat. vi. 23. “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.” This, I say, speaks an aversion of mind from God; they care not to know him; they desire not to know him.
And hereupon, it becomes so unaccustomed a thing to think of him. Thence is the character of a wicked, unregenerate man, “A forgetter of God.” It is his usual paraphrase in Scripture; “A wicked man,” and that lies, as such, under doom, is under such a character as this, one that is “A forgetter of God:” “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” Psalm ix. And in opposition hereunto, a regenerate man, a holy man, a renewed man, is characterized by one that remembers God, that thinks of God: “A book of remembrance was written for them that feared the Lord, and thought upon his name.” Whereas, it is said of the wicked man; “God is not in all his thoughts.” Compare these two places together, Psalm x. 4. Mal. iii. 16. A good man is such a one as thinks much of the name of God, hath God’s name impressed on his mind: so as every actual thought of God, it is only reading the letters that do (as it were) compose that name, and that are impressed on his own mind; to wit, his actual thinking of God. Now a book of remembrance was written for them that feared the Lord, and thought of his name. As if it had been said; “Well, is there so much kindness towards me yet to be found in this revolted world, that they will remember me? I will have a book of remembrance for them; there shall be remembrance for remembrance. Do they think of me? I will think of them too: have they kind thoughts of me? I will have much kinder thoughts of them: I will book it up. Every kind thought that is taken up concerning me, in this general apostasy and revoltedness of the world from me, I will set it down, I will have a book of remembrance 377for every one that has any thoughts of me, in this forlorn state of things.”
And then, as this aversion hath place in the minds of men, it hath so, more formally, in their wills: they will not have this Lord to be their God; he shall not reign over them; they refuse his empire; throw off the reins: “Let us cast away his cords, and break his bands off from us.” So, in the apostate world, do the princes and people combine together against the divine government: and those that lead others consent to be led themselves in this case, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us:” (Psalm ii.) those of God, and of his Anointed, the Redeemer, the Messiah, as that word signifies.
And then, likewise, there is a consequent averse or transverse posture in the affections of the soul, whereof, indeed, the will is the seat and subject; desires, fears, hopes, delights, anger, sorrow, all transversed in a quite contrary course and being, to what they should be: and so it is proportionably towards men, so far as men are concerned with men; and so it is towards ourselves. We should have discoursed of these distinctly, but cannot now.
It is, in the mean time, strange, (and let us consider that with ourselves,) that this being so apparently the common case, it should be so little considered; that men take such complacency in themselves; that it comes so seldom into the thoughts of any to think, “I either am, or have been, an apostate creature, quite turned off from God.” It is to be admired, that men’s own thoughts are not painful to them upon this account. Certain it is, that I, and the rest of the world, have been all in an apostasy from God. This hath been my state; it is my present state. I am either an apostate creature, or a returned creature: either still apostate, or renewed towards him, altered in my habitual frame and inclination. How is it with me? am I one of the reduces? one that the mighty hand and power of the Redeemer (he that died, “the just for the unjust to bring us to God”) hath reduced and fetched back to God.
Or is this the case of none of us? That whereas we were all off from God, in an averse posture to him, are we not striving against the design of the merciful Redeemer, who is still striving to bring us back, and who strove herein unto blood, resisting against the wicked inclinations of degenerate, apostate men? “He resisted to blood striving against sin.” That is the thing plainly implied in that of the apostle to the Hebrews, chap. xii. 4. “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin;” whereas, he had been, immediately before, bespeaking them 378to “run with patience the race that was set before them, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of the faith: who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame.” But why did he endure that cross and shame which we find him to have despised? The following words shew, he had been striving against sin. But that is none of your case: it was his. He suffered that cross, and fell under all that opprobium, ignominy and shame, in this striving against sin even unto blood; that sin by which men are held off from God, continued in a state of apostasy from him.
Now let us bethink ourselves what the Son of God hath been striving unto blood against; to wit, “sin;” which hath turned us off from God, and kept us off from God: and are we striving against him, will not be reduced, will not be brought back? Strangers to God we have been, and so we will be still: go from day to day, from morning to night, and will have no concern with God; we will not pray to him; we will not think of his name; we will entertain no converse with him.
But the further Use is referred to be spoken to, after a further explication of the sinful state of mankind.
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