« Prev Lecture XXII. Preached February 24, 1694. Next »

LECTURE XXII.3737   Preached February 24, 1694.

But we are to consider in the next place, and that as the main thing more immediately to be considered in this case,

(6.)The primitive state of human nature, in respect of the morality which was founded there, and wherein, or wherewith, man was at first created. You may remember, that speaking 349of that former great head, the state of man by creation, from that text which tells us of “God’s having made him after his own image.” and in speaking of the moral image of God upon man in his creation, comprehending both sanctity and felicity, that there we told you we were neither to lay the matter too low, nor too high: not so low as to make it thence apprehensible, that the sin of man was intrinsically necessary, however it might be extrinsically, with reference to divine foresight; that it should be thought intrinsically necessary would be of horrid consequence to admit; for that would be to make the Author of his being the Author of his sin. Therefore, great care was to be taken, not to lay the matter so low as to exclude the intrinsic possibility of man’s standing: nor again, was it to be laid so high as to exclude the possibility of his falling; which the sad event doth shew.

The matter, therefore, of his fall, is principally to be resolved into the estate wherein, upon the account of his morals, he was created; that is, that he was made innocent, but not impeccable; he was made a sinless creature, but not with an impossibility of sinning: and in particular, his mind, it was made apprehensive, very capable of true and right notions of things, but not incapable of wrong: it was made without error, but not indeceptible, under no present deception as it was made, and yet, not under an impossibility of being deceived and imposed upon by false representations and colours. And so as to his will, it was created without any determination to good; it was made in that state of liberty as to be in a certain sort of equipoise, according as things should be truly or falsely represented, by the leading faculty, to the mind and understanding. And so hereupon, according to this original state of human nature, there was a possibility remaining of what, no doubt, did ensue. As,

[1.] Faulty omission in several respects. As,

First. Of prayer, in the instant and article of temptation. It had been a creaturely part in that instant, presently to have looked up; “Lord I am thy creature, the work of thine hands, leave me not to err in such a critical season as this.” And again,

Secondly. Of dependance. The creature, as such, was by the law of his creation obliged to depend; that is, a reasonable creature capable of being governed by a law, was obliged to an intelligent, voluntary dependance, as all creatures, as creatures, have a natural dependance: and it cannot be otherwise with any of them. There should, by such a dependance, have been a derivation 350and drawing in a sustaining, strengthening influence, de novo, as the exigency of such a case did require.

Thirdly. And of consideration. There was, no doubt, an omission of that; that he did not use the understanding power and faculty that God had endued his nature with, to ponder, and weigh, and balance things in that juncture of time. He being essentially, as to his mind and spirit, a thinking creature, should have used thoughts with more equity; that is, have balanced things on the one hand and the other. And this, it is plain, was not done. And there was no doubt,

Fourthly. An omission of the exercise of the great principle of love, which could not hut be most connatural to such a creature: love to God, love to himself, love to his posterity. This principle was not excited and drawn forth into act and exercise, as it ought, in such an exigency, to have been. And this, as easily made way for,

[2.] Faulty commissions even in the inward man, mental and cordial ones in the mind, and in the heart. As,

First. The allowing himself to aim at greater measures of knowledge, than God had yet thought fit for him: whereas, he should have been content with a state in which God had set him in this respect, and have waited for his further manifestations to him, of what it was fit and convenient for him to know. It is plain, the temptation was specious unto the cognitive power of man: “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil;” a very plausible temptation to a creature made capable of knowing much, and therefore, could not but have a desire (suitable to such a capacity) of knowing more than he yet did. He might easily apprehend that this his state, in this respect, was not so perfect, though it was not sinfully imperfect. He was guilty of no culpable and blameable ignorance before; but not endued with so much knowledge, but that he could easily apprehend it might grow. But it was to have grown in a regular way; partly by his own improvement of his reasoning power; and partly by a patient expectation of God’s further manifestations and discoveries to him. But he complies with the temptation that thus is given to his cognitive faculty, catching at a sudden power of knowing, beyond what belonged to his compass, and was within his reach, by ordinary and allowable methods and means. And then there was no doubt,

Secondly. A sinful cherishing of sensitive appetite, which it belongs to a reasonable creature to have governed, and kept with in limits. He was of a compound nature; intellectual, and sensible; and the sensitive nature is permitted to aspire and set up for the government, and it is yielded. A great violation of the 351law of his nature, and that order that God had settled, at first, of superiority and inferiority between his natural powers. The object, no doubt, was very tempting, fair to the eye, and it is likely might carry a fragrancy and odoriferousness with it to the smell; and, in conjunction with the other methods of temptation, this might signify much. But, in the mean time, the cherishing and indulging sensitive appetite against the law of the mind and rational nature, could not but be a very faulty commission in this respect.

And so, altogether comes to discover the difference between paradise and heaven, the paradisiacal state and the heavenly state. There was at first, in paradise, sinlessness; thus far, there was a posse non peccare, a possibility of not sinning: but in the heavenly state a non posse peccare, an impossibility of sinning. This difference was soon to be understood; that is, it is now to be collected from what did soon and early appear in view. Man was not made in a state of comprehensor, in that which was to be his ultimate and consummate state; but in a state of probation, made a probationer, in order to some further state, which upon his approving himself he was to be introduced into. And such a defectibility, a possibility of understanding things wrong, and choosing wrong, it was most suitable to the primitive state of man. According to all that we can apprehend of the wisdom of God, there must be a state of probation, before a state of retribution; before punishment or reward, there must be an obediential state, wherein a man shall, as he acquits himself, be capable of, or liable to, the one or to the other. Nothing could be more congruous unto the perfection of that Supreme Being who was the Author of our being, than, that this should be the state of things between him and man, at the first.

And now, before we pass from this head, there are sundry instructive corollaries or inferences, that we may take up from it.

1. One we have mentioned already, (as it the last time came in our way), that is, of what concernment it is to the female sex to take heed of comporting duly with, or lest they should violate or pervert the intent of, their being made what they are: and that they, coming into the conjugal estate, should be helpers to them with whom they are conjoined in that state. “Let us make for man a help meet for him:” we see how the design of that very institution was perverted and lost at first. A help! such a help as helped to destroy him, and ruin the world with him. It was not he that was deceived; (as the apostle to Timothy notes;) that is, not first deceived, 352but she, a woman that God had given him. And it is not without apparent need, but most agreeable to the ducture of Scripture in this case, that such a remark as this should be made; and that they whom it concerns, should receive instruction by it: for history is full of many dreadful instances, what tragedies, feminine subtilties, and pride, and lust, and envy, and vindictiveness, hath brought about in this wretched world. But,

2. We may further learn from the whole, that it is of equal concern to that sex to which God hath given the priority, that they keep up to the law of their state; which is to be leaders and guiders in the state of marriage when they come thereinto; and that they dwell with the other relative, according to knowledge; (as the apostle Peter’s expression is, 1 Pet. iii. 7.) that they comport with the obligation that the original institution hath laid upon them as to this. For we are not to think that Adam could, therefore, be excused because Eve solicited him, having of fended first: no more than afterwards, Ahab was excused for being a wicked man above all others, (upon the matter there was none like him for wickedness,) because that Jezebel his wife stirred him up, as it is, 1 Kings xxi. 25. He was not, therefore, a more innocent person; no, he was wicked, even beyond parallel, though Jezebel his wife stirred him up: for Adam ought to have done the business of his station. He that is first in such a relation and that hath the higher dignity, ought to comport with the obligation of the law of his state, and to exercise that more confirmed judgment which is supposed did belong to him. That he did not so, this made him guilty before the Supreme Judge. “Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife:” (Gen. iii. 17.) therefore, the malediction of the doom comes upon him, which hath been so generally transmitted as we know. Again,

3. We learn, hence, that the grace of God, not as it is eminent in himself, but as it is transient, doth issue forth, and is communicated and imparted here and there, doth admit of degrees: there may be more, or there may be less, given forth, according to the mere pleasure of the Free-giver. A contemplation that tends highly and justly to exalt and magnify the grace of God, and the God of all grace, in the absoluteness of that liberty which maketh it what it is, that is, “grace. “It could not be grace if it were not most free. And being so, then he might dispense more, or he might dispense less, as to him seemeth good. We are not to think there was nothing of grace, nothing of dignation, nothing of vouchsafement, in God’s first treatment of Adam: that he would make him such a creature, 353that he would give him such endowments as he did, it was all of good pleasure. But so absolute liberty, as doth belong to grace, might issue forth in higher or in lower degrees, as should seem meet to the Free-giver: he might give so much of his own influence, as by which it was intrinsically possible (as was said before) not to have sinned; while he was under no obligation to give forth so much as to make it impossible to sin. Again,

4. We may further learn, hence, that by the same steps and degrees by which man did at first depart from God, God did depart from man; forsook not, but being forsaken: so that the measure which he gave long after, was at first observed strictly; (as it still is every where in the world;) God is with you while you are with him: so it ever was, so it ever will be, between him and his intelligent creatures. As the creature goes off from him, he righteously recedes and goes from the creature. Not, that on the part of favour he puts himself under any negative tie, that is not to be thought or imagined, but he is pleased to put himself under a positive one; that is, he hath put himself under no obligation to do more than according to this rule. For that he most frequently doth: and (in the state of apostasy) without it, who could be saved? None could, if God did not draw nigh to men; or took up a thought so to do. That rule is no negative tie upon God: but he hath been pleased to put himself under a positive tie; that is, such as are in the state of grace now, God will be with them while they are with him. As to Adam, who was in a state of grace of another kind at first, God would most certainly be with him as long as he was with God. And so it is still, with any that are in a state of grace, any that God takes to be his peculiar people: “I will be with you while you are with me;” he will never do less than that. He may, many times, do more, incomparably more, unspeakably more: he may prevent, and be beforehand; or he may follow men in their wanderings, even as he did Adam himself when he was wandered and gone off. But he would never go off from Adam first; he only did go off and depart from him by such steps as by which Adam did depart from God: and not being tied to the contrary, he might do so, and for wise and holy ends did. But again,

5. We may further learn, hence, that such a liberty of will as stands in a mere indifferency to good or evil, is no perfection unalterably and immutably belonging to the nature of man: nothing can be more apparent, such a liberty as that, is most unfit to be magnified and made such an idol of as it hath, by many 354within the Christian world. For it is plain, and nothing can be plainer, that it did not belong as a perfection, immutably, to the nature of man. It was very suitable to that less perfect state in which man was created and made. But it is not to be found agreeing to it immutably, and without variation, at any time since, or ever will again. It just served for that state wherein he was at first made, such a liberty as stood with an indifferency to good and evil, (whether that good or evil should lie in doing or not doing, or whether it should lie in doing this or doing that,) it never belonged to man, but only in that first juncture, as being very suitable to the state in which man, as a probationer, was made and set at first. But it is not found to be with man ever since, or is ever like to be again: for in the unregenerate state, there is a liberty only unto evil, so as “all the imaginations of men’s hearts are only evil, and that continually.” There is no liberty as to any spiritual good, saving good. And again, even the regenerate state, though there be a liberty to good through grace, yet it is very imperfect. And then, look to the consummate state of saints in glory, and there is only liberty to good; no liberty of sinning: nay, no liberty to good or evil, (consider the matter morally,) not at all. So that so magnified an idol of liberty of will, as if it were an inseparable perfection of the nature of man, was never known to agree to it; but in its first state: and no more was ever found belonging to it since, nor ever will be.

It may be said, it is only the moral good and evil, which is superadded to the nature of man, that alters the case with him; and that doth not change his nature; but that his nature will still be the same. And it is very true, his nature is the same that at first it was; otherwise, he could not be the same creature that did offend, and comes to be punished; or that shall, by grace, be made to comply with the terms of God’s gracious covenant; and that shall afterwards come to be, through grace, rewarded. He would not be the same creature, if there were a change, quite, of his nature, and the essentials of his being: man would not be man, he would be another thing. But then, as moral good superadded hereunto, the one or the other of them may be without making his nature another thing. It can not, therefore, be said, that this liberty of will is altogether in separable from his nature. And if, in the heavenly state, (which is most plain and evident,) confirmation in good, doth nothing spoil a man’s liberty, then, the efficacy of his grace in his present state, doth not spoil a man’s liberty neither: nay, it doth much less; for if it should be supposed to do so, then, a man 355would be less a man for being a glorified man; it would be a diminution to the dignity of man, and he would be the worse for going to heaven; because there, his liberty ceaseth, a liberty to good or evil. What an unimaginable thing is that, that it should be a depression, a diminution, to a man, to glorify him! that that should be a maim of his nature! But if the glory of heaven do not diminish a man, or be a maim to him, because it takes away the possibility of sinning in the heavenly state; then, the efficacy of grace, in the present state, is no diminution, nor blemish, nor maim to the nature of man now neither. Again,

6. We may further learn, hence, what cause we have to apprehend and dread the destructive designs of the devil. For what! do we apprehend that he is less an enemy to God, or less an enemy to man, now, than he was at first? Do you think the devil is grown kinder, more good natured, less intent upon the destruction of souls, and less malicious against heaven? It is a most intolerable, most inexcusable thing, that we who pretend to believe the Revelation of God about these things, and do hereby know the devil to have been a “murderer from the beginning,” and may collect, that he is still going about, that he may destroy and devour as a roaring lion; I say, the Lord have mercy upon us, that notwithstanding we pretend to know and believe all this, we should Jive so secure as we do, without any thought of any such thing. And,

7. It may give us to understand the madness of self-confidence, that we should be so little afraid of sin; that we should be so little afraid of temptation; that we should be so apt to trust our own strength: and when that perfect state wherein Adam was made in paradise, was not enough to secure him, that we should live such independent lives, so seldom look up, that we have not the sense of that petition more deeply wrought into our souls, “that we may not be led into temptation.” Divers other things there are that might be hinted, but I shall only add this, for the present,

8. We may further learn, that there is no need that there should be any new invented account of the first apostasy of man, so as therein to depart from the plainness and simplicity of the letter of that history, which God hath given us of it; there is no need of any such thing. The matter, as Scripture represents it, and as we have (though less perfectly) represented it from Scripture, as it lies, is rational and congruous enough; and such as we need not be ashamed to own and avow to the world. There are those that are so over-officious 356in these matters, as to trouble the world with their fine notions and accounts thereof, altogether alien from the letter of the history, that so they may (as is pretended) make things look a little more plausibly than the letter of history doth represent them; when indeed, if the matter be searched into, the design seems to be, not to make them look plausible, but ridiculous: and their business is not to expound Scripture, but to expose it, and the whole of our religion. But I shall say no more to them now neither.

« Prev Lecture XXII. Preached February 24, 1694. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection