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214 PROVED FROM HISTORY.
degrees into almost universal idolatry and sin. The Canaanitish nations, more especially, were so full of iniquity, that they became the conspicuous subjects of the divine vengeance; and God selected a peculiar people, to whom he had condescended to reveal his will, and to commit the keeping of his divine oracles, to be the instruments of his wrath. That people was favoured above all the nations of the earth by the Supreme Being, and instructed by the frequent miraculous displays of his love and power. Yet, even in them we perceive an almost unvarying propensity to rebellion and transgression. "Ah! sinful nation," cried" their prophet Isaiah, "a people laden with iniquity; a seed of evil doers; children that are corrupters; they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger; they are gone
away backward" "From the sole of the foot, even
unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment:" i, 4—6. Thus degraded and corrupted, the Israelites were themselves chastised by severe temporal calamities, and were at length carried captive into the land of their enemies. At an appointed period, however, a certain proportion of them were permitted to return into the country of their fathers, and to rebuild their city and temple, under the renewed and especial manifestations of divine love. Yet a depraved nature soon again displayed itself in this favoured race. Although they abstained from idolatry, it is evident from various passages in the New Testament, that they became exceedingly vicious, and at length they consummated their national criminality by crucifying their Messiah.
REMNANT OF VIRTUE IN MAN. 215
That modern history affords abundant lessons to the same effect, and that the knowledge which we have of the lasciviousness, pride, covetousness, and cruelty, still so prevalent in the world—not to mention the secret "plague" of our own hearts—amply confirms these lessons, will scarcely be denied by any person who reflects on the subject with calmness; who takes a just view, on the one hand, of the requisitions of the divine law, and, on the other, of the innumerable iniquities by which it is infringed.
True indeed it is, that with the evil abounding in the world, there is still to be found, in almost every class of mankind, a considerable mixture of good. Ruined as man is by nature, it may readily be acknowledged, that he retains some few traces of his original excellence; and that although ever prone to sin, he is not solely, entirely, exclusively, sinful. Such an allowance, however, requires to be carefully guarded; nor can I venture to make it, without observing,j/&\tf, that much of the virtue sometimes apparent in persons who have little serious sense of religion, ought probably to be attributed, not to their own diseased and degraded nature, but either to the indirect operation of Christianity as it is outwardly revealed, or to the secret visitations of a divine influence; for we have surely strong reasons to believe, that such an influence is given to all men to be theii cure; often strives with them from infancy to advanced age; is seldom, perhaps, during the course of their lives, entirely withdrawn from them; and if fully submitted to, would extend and complete that work of righteousness which is now inadequate, partial, and defective. Secondly, the real virtue of actions, apparently good, depends upon the motives out of which they spring; and God,
216 HIS GUILT AND CONDEMNATION.
who searches the heart, may frequently condemn in us those very works which satisfy our own self-righteousness, and which are warmly applauded by our fellow creatures. Thirdly, although the moral disease inherent in our fallen nature, does not display itself in every individual of the species in the same particular form, there is, nevertheless, not a man upon earth in whom it has not been manifested in some form or other; not one who is not guilty of sin; not one who is free from a natural propensity to some besetting iniquity.
4. In conclusion, therefore, let us notice the comprehensive nature of that curse, which is declared in the Scriptures to be the consequence of sin. While "they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham, as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them ;" Gal. iii, 9,10; comp. Deut. xxvii, 26. As these words were applied by Moses to the whole Jewish legal institution, so are they applicable, with an especial degree of force, to that moral law of God, which formed its most essential feature. Accordingly, we are taught by the apostle James, that " whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all: for he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now," adds the apostle, "if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law:" James ii, 10,11.
Whatsoever, therefore, may be our besetting iniquity—whatsoever the particular respect in which we have forsaken the path of duty—it is plain that we are justly exposed to divine condemnation both here
and hereafter. Since all the world " lieth in wickedness;" all the world is become "guilty before God." We have all infringed the law of God: therefore we are all exposed to the curse pronounced on its infringement. We are all "by nature the children of corruption;" therefore we are all " by nature the children of wrath:" Eph. ii, 3. "All have sinned;" therefore (were the voice of the law alone to be heard) "all" must Die.
I may now proceed to recapitulate the principal truths which have formed the subject of the present essay. It may be recollected, First, that man was formed, like other animals, out of the dust of the ground to be a living creature: that he was created liable to mortality: that after he had sinned, he received the sentence of natural death: "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return:" and further, that as he is himself mortal, so those earthly objects which here occupy his attention and engage his affections, are all of a transitory nature, and are invariably inscribed with the mark of " vanity of vanities."
Secondly, that man is nevertheless the child of eternity, because being made in the image of God, he possesses a never-dying soul; that the existence of a soul as well as a body in man, is plainly recognized by the inspired writers; and that there are many clear passages of Holy Writ, from which we learn that after death, and before the resurrection, the souls of the righteous are with Christ in blessedness, and the souls of the wicked reserved, in a condition of suffering, for judgment.
Thirdly, that man is the child of eternity in another respect also, because, at an appointed time to come, there will be a resurrection from death,
both of the just and of the unjust, when even our mortal part will be clothed with immortality: and that the resurrection of the righteous, more especially will be attended with circumstances unspeakably joyful and glorious, and will constitute the victory of the Messiah over that last enemy—death.
Fourthly, that man is a moral agent, capable either of righteousness or of sin; the standard of the former being the will or law of a perfectly holy God—and the latter being the infraction of that will or law— that we are made free to choose either good or evil, either life or death—that we are, in every particular of our life and conversation, responsible to God from whom alone we derive all things which we possess, and to whom we must individually, in a future world, render the account of our stewardship—and that when this account has been given, we shall be judged by the Son of God, and punished or rewarded individually, after a rule of perfect justice and equity, according to our works.
Fifthly, that the future rewards and punishments of men are declared by the apostles, and by our Lord himself, to be everlasting; and that for many plain critical reasons the term everlasting, as it is applied to future punishment, cannot be fairly construed otherwise than in its highest sense. That this conclusion is confirmed by a very plain consideration; namely, that the present life alone is the period of our probation; the world to come being ever represented in Scripture (conformably with the dictates of natural religion) to be one of fixed and permanent retribution.
Sixthly, that Adam and Eve fell from their original righteousness and became sinners—that in consequence of this mournful change, the whole race of their