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“ pose of observing (and I wish that the observation “ may weigh with all my readers) that the custom of “ treating their characters and persons, their preaching “ or their preachers, their meetings or worship, with 166 scorn, has the pernicious consequence of destroying “our own seriousness, together with the seriousness of “ those who hear, or join in, such conversation ; espe“ cially if they be young persons; and I am per“ suaded that much mischief is actually done in this s very way.” (v)
Leaving these admirable sentiments to make their full impression on your mind, or to steel you against the puny attacks of those who imagine burlesque and buffoonery are the proper instruments to correct what they deem fanatical eccentricities, while others may class them among religious excellencies :
Your sincere Friend. May 30, 1811.
(v) Dr. Paley's Posthumous Sermons, Ser. 1: On “ Seriousness in “ Religion indispensable above all other Dispositions."
On the Fall of Man, and the Depravity of Human
Plato, as you will doubtless recollect, defined man, in his time, a biped without feathers : and DIOGENES, in order to show what he deemed the absurdity of this definition, plucked all the feathers from a cock, and placing it in the midst of the academy, exclaimed, “ There is one of Plato's men !” Diogenes, it seems, was not aware that Plato's definition was suggested by a tradition which had reached him, that man was once in a far superior state with regard to morals, but had been degraded by vice, and was now so lowered as to become, with respect to his former condition, what a bird would be when stripped of his feathers, so as to be no longer able to fly. In conformity with this, the Platonists in general believed a pre-existent state, in which all souls had sinned, and thus lost their wings, whereby they were once capable of ascending; and so they sunk into these bodies partly as a punishment for former follies. This was called in their form of speech 7 Tepop punois, or a moulting of their wings. Their daily experience in themselves, and their wise observance of others, convincing them that all mankind come into the world with a propensity to vice rather than to virtue ; and that man is not such a creature now as he came from his Maker's hand, but is some way or other plucked of his feathers, or degenerated from his primitive rectitude and glory.
So again, MARCUS ANTONIUS confessed that men were born mere slaves to their appetites and passions ; and very many of the Heathen philosophers, guided only by the light of nature, affirmed that men are of themselves destitute of true knowledge, purity, and reason: while in the Hebrew Scriptures, the word used for man as the son of Adam, is Enosh, indicating that he is “ sorry, wretched, and incurably sick.” Several modern philosophers, however, and some modern Divines, represent this doctrine as absurd and con, temptible in the highest degree : on which account it will be proper to employ a little time in ascertaining its correctness, and evincing its conformity, as well with what may be observed in the world, as with the declarations of Scripture.
According to every conception we can form of the wisdom and goodness of the Deity, as well as according to the most express and unequivocal language of the Bible, “ God formed man upright:” he was furnished with a clear and sagacious mind, with reason bright and strong, and possessed transcendent qualifications for the most elevated happiness. But, that he might be accountable, he was necessarily created free; and, that he might never forget that he was under the cognizance and dominion of a moral governor, a test of obedience was set before him.
“ God made thee perfect, not immutable;
“ By nature free, not overruld by fate
Not our necessitated; such with him
In this respect, God did not deal worse with man than with his other creatures; but man acted worse towards his Maker than any of them. He did not conform to the laws of his nature, but broke his allegiance to God by choosing evil instead of good. Thus he sunk from his original happy state, and, according to the constitution of things,
“ Brought death into the world, and all our woe;" his whole nature and race becoming tainted, so that he was viler than the brutes that perish, forfeited his native blessings, and, with his progeny, became rebels, and obnoxious to their Maker's displeasure. Thus, it was the sin of man that filled the creature with vanity; .and it is the vanity of the creature that fills the soul of man with vexation : such is the circle of unrenewed nature. Without having regard to this original degeneracy, it is hard, nay, I believe impossible, to account satisfactorily for the poor, dark, stupid, and wretched circumstances, in which so great a part of mankind are brought into this world, in which they grow up age after age in gross ignorance and vice, thoughtless of their duty to the God that created them, and negligent of the true happiness which flows from the enjoyment of his favour. For, on looking upon man before he is turned unto God by the spirit of holiness, what do you find ? The mind, full of vanity, ignorance, darkness, contradiction: the conscience full of insensibility or of false excuses: the heart, full of deceit, impenitence, and hardness; no sins, no judgments, no mercies, no allurements, no hopes, no fears, able to awake and shape it aright, without Divine energy: the will, full of disability, of aversion, of enmity, and opposition: the memory, unfaithful in retaining the good, tenacious in recollecting the evil: and thence is the whole man full of perturbation and disorder.
The history of the Fall of Man is succinctly related, as you will doubtless remember, in the third chapter of the book of Genesis. Its effects are indelibly marked upon every individual, inasmuch as “in Adam 66. all die ;” and even upon the earth itself, which, still groaning under the original malediction, brings forth " thorns, and thistles, and briars,” and thus will continue to do till “ the restitution of all things.” These are not, as has been often insinuated, the notions of men of distempered minds, made imbecile by infirmity, or soured by disappointment; but of the wisest and best men in all ages. Consult the writings of the Christian Fathers, and you will find Justin MARTYR, in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, saying, “ The “ whole race of men descending from Adam, have “ become liable to death and to the deception of the “ serpent, each of them by reason of the same thing “ having fallen under the influence of sin.” CLEMENS ROMANUS, and others, most fully express the same