Images de page

paradise ; and by which ease, happiness and immortality were exchanged for labour, suffering and death, inwrought into the very constitution now given to the earth ; was a fact which involved of course the punishment of all men, because all men suffer distress by means of this fact, and because no rational beings, beside sinners, are in the providence of God subjected to any suffering. Every descendant of Adam must of course be an inhabitant of the world which was thus cursed, and must of necessity be a partaker of the very evils denounced in this curse.

When the sentence was declared, therefore, it was certainly foreseen that all those who would afterwards share in the sufferings which it disclosed, that is all the children of Adam, would be sinners. As all the progeny of Adam must inhabit the world thus cursed, all must necessarily partake of these evils, because they were inseparably united to the world, in which they dwelt. If then it was not foreseen that they would be sinners, the curse must have been denounced against them, either when obedient and virtuous, or while their future moral character was uncertain. The former will not be admitted by any man; the latter will no more be admitted by any man, if he reflect at all on the subject; for God can no more be supposed to condemn and punish those who are not known by him to be sinful, than those who are known to be virtuous. It follows therefore that, as the world was thus changed in consequence of the transgression of Adam, and of a paradise became a wilderness of thorns and briars, so, in consequence of the same transgression, the character of man was also changed; and instead of being immortal, virtuous and happy, he became the subject of sin, suffering and death. With respect to one of these considerations, viz. the mortality of mankind, the apostle Paul expressly asserts the doctrine in a passage already quoted for another purpose.

In,' or by means of, · Adam, all die.' As neither death nor any other suffering befals virtuous beings, this passage may be fairly considered as a full confirmation of the doctrine at large.

III. The doctrine is directly declared by Moses, when he informs us that Adam begat a son in his own likeness.

The meaning of the word • likeness,' that is, the meaning intentionally attached to it by Moses, cannot, I think, be mis

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]




[ocr errors]

taken. In the first chapter of the same history he introduces God as saying, 'Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness ;' and subjoins, ‘so God created man in his own image ; in the image of God created he him.' In a former Discourse I have shown that the likeness, or image, here mentioned, is the moral image of God; consisting, especially, in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness,' as we are informed by St. Paul. After dwelling so particularly on the image of God in which man was created, and on the fact, that man was created in this image, it cannot, I think, be questioned that Moses intended to inform us, that Seth was begotten in the moral likeness of Adam after his apostasy; and sustained from his birth a moral character similar to that which his two brothers, Cain and Abel, also sustained. This view of the subject appears plainly to have been adopted by Job, when he asks,· Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one,' (Job xiv. 4:) by Bildad, when he asks, • How then can man be justified with God; or how can he be clean that is born of a woman,' (xxv. 4:) by David, when he says (Psalm li. 5). Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;' and by St. Paul, when he says, ' As we have borne the image of the earthly (Adam,) so we shall bear the image of the heavenly' (Adam) (1 Cor. xv. 49.) But if Seth, Cain and Abel derived their corruption from the apostasy of their parents, then it is true, not only that their corruption, but that of all mankind, exists in consequence of that apostasy.

Accordingly, our Saviour declares universally, that 'that which is born of the flesh, is flesh;' and that 'that' only

which is born of the Spirit,' or 'born again, is spirit. In this declaration he certainly teaches us, that the fleshly character is inseparably connected with the birth of man, it being an invariable attendant of that birth. In other words, every parent, as truly as Adam, begets children in his own moral likeness. It hardly needs to be observed, that the moral character, denoted in this observation of our Saviour by the term flesh,' is a corrupt character. The carnal,' or fleshly, '

· mind,' says St. Paul, “is enmity against God; not subject to his law, neither indeed can be :' and again, “ To be carnally, or fleshly, minded is death. In the original, the words in both passages are ppornpa tus cepxos; the minding of the flesh:

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

the exercise of our thoughts and affections in that manner which accords with the fleshly or native character.

IV. In exact accordance with this scriptural representation, the doctrine ts strongly evinced by the conduct of children as soon as they become capable of moral action.

Children in the morning of life are, as was remarked in the preceding Discourse, unquestionably amiable ; more so in many respects than at any future period; that is, whenever they do not at some future period become the subjects of sanctification. Some children also, as we are taught in the Scriptures, are sanctified from the womb. Still even these in some degree, and all others in a greater degree, exhibit, from the dawn of moral action, evil affections and evil conduct. They are rebellicus, disobedient, unkind, wrathful and revengeful. All of them are prond, ambitious, vain, and universally selfish. All of them, particularly, are destitute of piety to God, the first, and far the most important exercise of virtue. They neither love, fear, nor obey him ; neither admire his divine excellence, nor are thankful for his unceasing lovingkindness. Immense multitudes of them are taught these duties from the commencement of their childhood, yet they can be persuaded to perform them by no species of instruction hitherto devised. A virtuous mind would, of course, from the mere knowledge of God, without any known law, without any other motive except what is found in his greatness, excellency and goodness to us, admire and love, reverence and glorify him with all the heart. But no instance of this

. nature can be produced. I have been employed in the education of children and youth more than thirty years, and have watched their conduct with no small attention and anxiety. Yet, among the thousands of children committed to my care, I cannot say with truth, that I have seen one whose native character I had any reason to believe to be virtuous, or whom I could conscientiously pronounce to be free from the evil attributes mentioned above. In addition to this it ought to be observed, that no child unspotted with sin is mentioned in the records of history. This, I think, could not be, had the fact ever existed. Mankind therefore, according to the language of the Psalmist, ‘are estranged from the womb, and go astray as soon as they be born.'


The opposers of the doctrine undertake to avoid the force of this argument, by attributing the corruption of children to example, and the propensity of human nature to imitation.

The power of example I readily acknowledge to be great, and the propensity to imitation strong. I acknowledge also, that from these sources we may derive a satisfactory explanation of many things, both good and evil, which are done in the world. Still, I apprehend, the objection is a very insufficient answer to the argument in question. For,

1. On beings who were virtuously inclined, a good erample ought certainly to have more power than an evil



On beings neither virtuously nor viciously inclined, virtuous and vicious examples must, of course, be equally influential ; as on beings sinfully inclined, it is acknowledged, sinful examples have an influence entirely preponderating. All this is evident, because virtuous beings must love virtuous conduct, and follow it, as much as vicious beings love and follow vicious conduct, and because neutral beings, if such are supposed to exist, can have no bias to either. If then mankind were virtuously inclined, they would follow, with a clear and universal proponderation, virtuous examples. "If neither virtuously nor sinfully inclined, they would follow virtuous and sinful examples alike, and with an equal propensity to imitation. But neither of these facts is found in human experience. Virtuous examples it is acknowledged have some degree of influence, but all men know this influence to be exceedinglyand distressingly small. This truth is seen every day, in every place, and in every person. Whence arises the superior influence of vicious example, but from the fact that it is more pleasing to the human heart? In heaven such example could have no influence.

2. If the first men were virtuous, as the objection supposes ail men to be by nature, and as, according to the objection, these must have been, there could have been no evil examples, and upon this plan, no sin in the world.

Virtuous men, that is, men wholly virtuous, cannot exhibit an evil example. If then the first men were virtuous, their immediate successors had no vicious example to follow, and must therefore have been themselves virtuous. Of course, the



example which they set also was only virtuous. Hence those who followed them must have been virtuous, and in like manner all their successors. Upon this plan, sin could never have entered the world. But sin is in the world, and is, and ever has been, the universally prevailing character of the human

The objectors, therefore, are reduced by their scheme to this dilemma: Either virtuous men set sinful examples, which is a plain contradiction; or men became sinful without sinful examples.

Should it be said that after Adam and Eve apostatized, they corrupted their children by their own sinful example, who again corrupted theirs, and thus every generation became the means of corrupting those who followed them; and that in this manner the existence of a sinful character in mankind may be explained; I answer, that I readily admit the premises to a certain extent, but wholly deny the conclusion. Adam and Eve, speedily after their apostasy, that is, before they had children, became penitents. The example therefore which they exhibited to their children was such as penitents exhibit, expressive of their abhorrence of sin, and of their humble obedience to God. Such an example penitents now exhibit, and such a one, without a question, they have always exhibited. But this example, preponderating greatly in favour of virtue, must have had substantially the same influence with one perfectly virtuous. Of course, the perfectly virtuous minds of Adam's children must by this example have been strongly biassed to virtue, and according to this scheme, could not have failed of retaining their virtuous character. But this is plainly contrary to the fact. The descendants of Adam, of the first and of every succeeding generation, were evidently sinful beings, and in the course of ten generations became so universally and absolutely sinful, that, except Noah and his family, God destroyed them all by the deluge. God himself declares con

. cerning them, that' every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually; that it repented the Lord that he had made man upon the earth, and grieved him at his heart.' In vain therefore do we look for the proper influence of virtuous example, on children born virtuous among the early descendants of Adam.

If mankind are born with neutral characters, not inclined either to good or to evil, the difficulty will not be seriously

« PrécédentContinuer »