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*N A SERIES OF SERMONS: IN WHICH AN ATTEMPT 13 MADE TO SHOW THAT GOD HAS GIVEN NO LAW TO MAN SINCE THE APOSTASY, REQUIRING SINLESS OBEDIENCE IN ORDER TO HAPPINESS.
ON THE TRUE SENSE OF THE TEXT.
GENESIs ii, 17. —In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt - surely Die.
“The Lord God” having “formed man, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying. Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat;” or as it is in the Original, Eating thou shalt eat; which, I think, conveys this idea; thou mayest not only begin to eat, but continue to eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;” or, according to the Original, Dying thou shalt die. That is, as soon as thou eatest, thou shalt die; and not only die, but continue to be dead. God placed Adam in the garden, and put him under a law, commanding him not to eat of a certain tree, on pain of death. This law required sinless
obedience in order to happiness. For Adam was threates:ed with death for one, and the first offence. This law was peculiar to our first parents. For, they having transgressed it, by eating once of the forbidden tree, it came to an end: God had no further use for it; Adam and Eve were no longer bound by it; and we their posterity were never bound by it. For its to eat of that tree would be a transgression of no law. And for them to refrain from eating, after they had once eaten, would be no virtue; it would entitle them to no favour. As soon as our first parents had eaten of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden, they were no longer under the command, “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” But they were driven out of the garden of Eden, and placed under a new constitution. After the apostasy of our first parents, they were not held by a law, which threatened death for the first offence, any more than we. They, and we their posterity, are placed together on the same ground, namely, the Gospel of the Son of God. This Gospel law was revealed to Adam and Eve by a declaration that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. As the woman was caused to fall by the subtlety of the serpent; so, their being informed that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, conveyed a ray of Gospel light; and it was designed as an intimation to them, that they might be delivered from the dominion of sin and the captivity of Satan. Some think that the law given to Adam in the garden is continued, and will be continued forever; and that we, therefore, are bound by the same law. But this is a description of the law of nature, which i equires not only men, but the angels of heaven to love God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind, perpetually, uninterruptedly, and forever. No rational creature can be exempted from obligation to love God. God, however, doth not require sinless obedience in order to pardon. God created Adam perfectly holy, and required him to continue in perfect holiness. But after he had sinned he did not require him to be sinless in order to future happiness. Some suppose that divine laws in general given to men since the apostasy, are of the same tenor with the law given to Adam in Paradise; and that the law given to Moses on the mount was an edition of the law given to Adam in the garden. But the truth is, the law by which Adam was bound in Paradise, is terminated; and fallen Adam is placed on Gospel ground. The revelation of God to men, therefore, before there was any written law, was an expression of Gospel grace. And the law given to Moses, commonly called the moral law, was an edition of the Gospel law, not of the Adamic law.
Some are very sanguine in the opinion, that, not only the law given to Adam in Paradise, but also the law given to Moses on the mount, requires persect obedience in order to happiness. They think that the one equally with the other, requires sinless obedience in order to happiness. They suppose that we can no more obtain happiness by keeping the moral law, short of perfection or sinless obedience, than Adam could continue happy without sinless obedience to the law under which he was placed in Paradise.
We shall all be agreed, I conclude, that God never gave any law to man requiring an imperfect obedience. It would be inconsistent with the perfect holiness and moral purity of the Divine Being to indulge his rational offspring in sin. The law of God is perfect, and it requires nothing short of perfection in holiness. A divine law cannot admit of transgression. it cannot approve of fin, or the least moral imperfection. God has a right to govern the heart; and his law requires, that, in it, there be no evil imagination. The law not only requires clean hands, but a pure heart, and that the heart be entirely clean from all moral pollution. It would be inconsistent with the perfection of the Divine Character to approve of sin. “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and he cannot look on iniquity.”
The question, therefore, is not, whether the moral law, or any other divine law, requires sinless obedience: but the question is, whether any divine law since the fall of man requires sinless obedience in order to happiness? + The law given to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, called by some the “Paradise law,”* did indeed require sinless obedience in order to live, and therefore in order to happiness. But, as soon as Adam transressed this divine law, he died; he lost communion with God: the image and moral likeness of God, in which he was created, immediately forsook him; and he was left poor, wretched, miserable, blind and naked. Of the tree in the midst of the garden of Eden, in which Adam was placed, he was commanded by his Maker not to eat, nor to touch it, saying, In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. He did eat, and he died. His conduct immediately plunged him into a state of wretchedness and ruin. He wished to hide himself; yea, he did what he could to hide himself from the presence of the Lord God, among the trees of the garden. Had he not been a dead man, a man dead in sin, he never would have discovered such folly, as to think that he could hide from God. After Adam had lost the moral image of God, that uprightness in which he was created, he justified himself in eating of the forbidden tree; for he cast the blame of his criminal conduct upon his Maker. He began immediately to contend with his Creator and Sovereign, saying, “The woman which thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Here we have the picture of moral death, or of a man dead in sin. It has been the character of men dead in trespasses and sins, ever since Adam, their first father, to contend with their Maker, or, in the language of the apostle Paul, to reply against God. As soon as Adam had violated the prohibitory law in the garden, by eating of the tree of the knowledge. of good and evil, he died." And if redemption had not been an object of eternal contemplation with God, if thoughts of mercy had not employed his benevolent mind, Adam, and all his posterity, must have remained forever in a state of spiritual death. They never could have been subjects of spiritual and divine life. Restoration could not have taken place. The serpent beguiled our mother Eve, and she did eat of the tree of which God said, In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. But she was soon comforted with the prospect that her seed would triumph over the serpent; for the joyful sound, that the “Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head’ speedily reached, her listening ear. Although the Lord God spake to the serpent, yet the woman heard the blessed voice, which conveyed sorrow to the serpent, but consolation to the woman. “And the Lord God said unto the serpent—I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt
* By Dr. A. Fuller, “the law of innocence.”
* A friend has stated his argument respecting the subject thus: “I suppose Adam, died in the spiritual sense by the first act of transgression, and not after. Therefore spiritual death could not be the threatened evil. The first transgression was the complete cessation of the pulse of spiritual life. To suppose that spiritual death was threatened as a subsequent evil is an absurdity.” You suppose that Adam died a spiritual death by §: first act of transgression, and not after, and therefore to suppose the contrary is an absurdity. But by what logic does it follow, that it is an absurdity? because it is contrary to a supposition? The proof of a supposition should precede the consequent. . It is readily granted that Adam sinned in eating, but is there no difference between sinning and being dead in sin? Had God said to Adam, if thou eatest thou wilt sin, without adding any threatening, would it certainly follow, that Adam, on eating, would have been dead in sin? Is every act of sin spiritual death?—If there had been no threatening of death, would the first transgression have been the corpplete eessation of spiritual life? God might have threatened Adam with a . cessation of spiritual life: and if so, would the first transgression have been a complete cessation of spiritual life? If not, a complete cessation would depend upon the threatening. Consequently the death threatened Adam was subsequent to the first transgression; and, therefore, to suppose the evil threatened was spiritual death, is no absurdity.
Besides, are not all mankind spiritually dead, in consequence of the first transgression? If so, spiritual death, surely, is subsequent to the first “offence.” To suppose, then, that spiritual death was the evil threatened, is no absurdity. It is evident that the spiritual death of Adam's posterity is subsequent to his first olfence. Therefore spiritual death is a subsequent evil to the first transgression of our first parents.
Would Adam and h's posterity have ever been spiritually dead, had not Adam eaten of the forbidden tree? Certainly not. Spiritual death therefore comes upon the hock of the first transgression. Spiritual death, therefore, is subsequent to the first offence of our first parents. Adam would not have died, if he had not eaten; to ath, then, was subsequent to eating; and to suppose that his dying was not subso quent to his sinning is an absurdity.