« AnteriorContinuar »
were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 2. A disposition to cast the blame of our evil actions, as much as possible, on others. And the man said, The woman that thou gavest me, to bc with me, she gave ine of the tree, and I did cat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this thou hast done? and the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 3. The distressing and dangerous circumstances attending the birth of infants. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. 4. Perhaps the inequality of the sexes. And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 5. The increase of labour, necessary for the cultivation of the earth. And unto Adamı he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: Thorns, also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field : In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground. 6. Temporal death. For dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return. 7. Moral evil. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. For, until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Finally, as every act of transgression justly exposes us to the wrath of God; we may add the everlasting punishment of those, who have deviated from the divine law, in consequence of the evil example of our first parents, and the depraved nature which we have received from them.
To mitigate and ultimately to remove this long train of evils, the Son of God became incarnate. His teaching, his miracles, his example, the common and extraordinary sufferings of his life, his agonizing death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his exaltation to the right hand of his Father ; here, all contributed to the fulfilment of these merciful designs. He has brought life, and immortality to light ; and informed us, that though we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God; we may obtain, through him, not only pardon and peace ; but an everlasting residence, in those delightful regions, where the wicked cease from troubling, and the wearyj are at rest. Our bodies, which are here the subjects of disease and death ; shall, on a distant but certainly appointed day, be raised in glory and power ; this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality; so that death shall be swallowed tp in victory. Nor ought we to repine at the various troubles we may here endure, since all things shall work together for our good, for them that love God, and are called according to his purpose. These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
To any who may esteem it wonderful, that since the manifestation of our Lord in the flesh, was thus intended as a remedy for the evil consequences of the fall, these two events should be separated by an interval of four thousand years : we reply, since Christ is denominated, in the book of Revelations, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ; and he is expressly spoken of by Peter, as delivered up to crucifixion, by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God: the same way of salvation, which has produced so many benefits to Christians of succeeding ages, was open to thc flithful who lived in the most early tiines. Neither did the long period, which has now been mentioned, pass away in vain ; since the light of divine revelation was gradually breaking in upon the world, and many important changes took place in the affairs of men ; which contributed to display, with greater lustre, the wisdom and mercy of God, in the gift of his Son. To prove the truth of this observation, by the consideration of facts, is the end. to which the remainder of this chapter will be devoted.
The sentence pronounced upon the serpent, before the expulsion of our first parents from Eden, is very remarkable. And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above wery beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and betwcen thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. These words have been generally considered, as not merely predicting any alteration that was to be made in the food and locomotion of the serpent, and the enmity which has ever since subsisted between that race of animals and the human species; but also to include some dark, prophetic hint concerning Jesus Christ, who was to be born of a virgin, the persecution which he and his followers were to experience from wicked men, and the rictory which he should obtain over the powers of darkness, at the very moment wlien they were bruising kis heel, by the bitter agonies he suffered on the cross.
Though the books ascribed to Adam, Seth, and Enoch, are undoubtedly apocry: phal; it is probable, that the antediluvians were favoured with,' at least, a traditional revelation or species of instruction; which, considering the long lives of the patriarchs, may be thought fully adequate to their wants. Cain is said, by our Saviour, to have slain his brother Abel ; because the works of Abel were righteous, and his own were wicked. And the Lord God said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth ? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted ? and if thou daest not trell, sin lieth at the door ; and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule orer hin, And Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Concerning the depravity of the old world it is said; And God saw that the wickedness of man was greut in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil .contie nually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations ;' and Noah walked with God. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark, for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. All these passages seem clearly to indicate, that the antediluvians had further information concerning the distinction between good and evil, than was contained in the prohibition which was given to our first parents in Eden. They worshipped God, not only by calling upon his name, but also by sacrifices And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof; and the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering. But unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect ; and Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. The shedding the blood of imocent animals, by way of satisfaction to God, would scarcely have been ever thought of by Abel, or been accepted by the Almighty ; unless it had been performed in consequence of a divine appointment; and this appointment seems intended to impress mankind with this truth, that without the sheduling of blood there is no remission. The observation is confirmed by Hebrews xi. 4, 5, 6. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous ; God testifying of his gifts, and by it, he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found because God had translated him ; for before his translation, he hid this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him , for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Add to all this, the observation of Noah's parents upon the observation of his birth ; and it will appear, that they had some expectation of a deliverer from the curse. And Lamech lived an hundred, eighty and two years, and begat i son . And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work.
and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed. From what has been here adduced, we may safely conclude, not only that the antediluvians were favoured with a divine revelation, but that in this, the doctrine of a Messiah formed a prominent feature,
Two remarkable passages, in the first epistle of Peter, which have occasioned much controversy between the Catholic and Protestant churches ; connect the history of Christ, with that of the contemporaries of Noah. In the third chapter, 18, 19, and 20 verses it is said, For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the spirit : By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison ; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days.of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein fczw, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. To the same subject, probably, refers the sixth verse of the succeeding chapter, which we give with its connection. Who shall give account to him that:is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit, But the end of all things is at hand: be ye, therefore, sober, and watch unto prayer. With these, we will compare the third verse of the sixth chapter of Genesis. And the Lord suid, nty spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is fresh, yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. The spirit of God maintained the contest with the evil inclinations of men, by means of the preaching of Noah and other faithful men ; and since the word was with God and was God, and enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world; we may consider this preaching also, as being the preaching of Christ by his holy influence. The ancient sinners who perished in the flood, were dead in the days of Peter, and their spirits were confined in that dismal prison, which is appointed for the wicked : but had they received the instruction with which they were favoured, they would have been able to give a good account at the day of resurrection ; and during the long interval between death and judgment, their souls would have enjoyed complete felicity, in the presence of God.
In the prophetical description which Noah gaye of the future condition of bis posterity, he speaks thus concerning Shem. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant. Here is supposed to be a reference to the piety that should distinguish the Jewish nation, as well as to the Messiah, who should come of the family of Shem.
Scarcely had the earth resumed its wonted fertility, after having been delivered from the waters of the deluge ; than mankind, beginning to multiply with great rapidity, thought of imitating the ill examples of the antediluvians, and indulgivg themselves in the perpetration of a variety of crimes. This depravation of manners was followed by the introduction of heathenish superstition. As this evil still continues to operate, and has been productive of innumerable fatal consequences ; it may be useful to trace it from its sources, and briefly to describe the different stages of its progress. The principal sources were tluree: an excessive veneration for the works of nature, a dark traditional history, and a fallacious mystical philosophy,
The most distinguished place, among natural objects, is unquestionably, to be given to the sun ; whether we contemplate the splendor of bis appearance, or the benefits which are scattered round wherever his rays are directed. It was therefore easy for this illustrious orb, first, to be honoured as the symbol, afterwards as 'the dwelling place of the deity; and lastly, to receive adoration as a deity itself. The next step was to the worship of the moon, the planets, and the fixed stars ::;or, as they are de
nominated in scripture, the host of heaven. This kind of impiety, which has received the name of Sabæanism, was practised in the days of Job. "If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness ; And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand : This also were an iniquity, to be punished by the julge ; for I should have denied the God that is above. To a similar cause, may pró-' bably, be ascribed, some of that idolatrous respect with winch certain animals have been treated, though brute worship was' cliefly derived from a mistaker philosophy:
Traditional history - lias formed a large proportion of the materials of pagan my-: thology. The fabulous descriptions of niglit and of chaos, and of the egg which contained heaven and earth';" appear, wheir divestrd of poctical'embellishment, to have been derived from accounts of the creation similar to that given by Moses. The fall of our first parents was commemorated by the worship of serpents. The deluge of Noah is the probable ground, work of the histories of Deucalioit' and Bacchus, with several others. The patriarch Ham was adored in Egypt, Greece, and Italy; by the name of Jupiter Hammon: We have not time to enumerate the many hunters, conquerors, legislators, leaders of colonies, founders of cities, and inventors of arts, who have, in this way, been preserved from total'oblivion.
Among these systems of philosophy, which were serviceable to the cause of Polytheism-; the Pytliagorean, which has subsisted under various names in the ancient world, and is still preyalent in the south-east of Asia, occasioned brute' animals to be considered as objects of religious vefieration, by pointing them out as actuated by the souls of our ancestors. The doctrine of the two principles, opposite to each other, and nearly independant, filled the world with demons and genii, who were supposed to preside over the most important events of life; while astrologers, by consigning the world to the government of the celestial bodies, caused them to be considered as possessed of a variety of good and evil qualities, and to be propitiated by such sacrifices as were most suitable to their respective characters. The mystical language, in which the ancient philosophers delivered their instructions, though the last mentioned, was not the least productive source of idolatrous worship; to which it' contributed, by its' conparative descriptions of the divine perfections, and by the personification of virtues and of vices, and of what were formerly stiled, the elements of nature.
But in whatever ways the human" mind has strayed to the practices of heathen im piety, the great primary cause was the love of sin, and the consequent dislike to retain God in the memory. To this purpose Paul speaks in the first chapter of the Romans, 18..25, and 28..32 verses, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungolliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness: Bea cause that which may be known of God is manifest in thein; for God hath shewed it' unto thein. For the invisible things of hin, froin the creation of the world, are clearly seen, bring understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godherd; 50 that
they are without ercuse : Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful : but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolisk heart was darkened... Professing themselves to be wise they became fools ; And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image mude like to corruptible man, and to bırds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleness, through the lusts of their own hearts, tu dishonour their own bodies beiween themselves. Who changed the truth of God inty are, and worshipped and scrved the creature more than the Creator, who is "Blessed for ezen',' Aniin.' And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gure thein over to a reprobate niind, to do those things which are not convenient. Being fitted witll" all'unrighteousness, fore
nication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness ; full of envy, murder, debate, deccit, , malignity ; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents; Wiihout understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, uninerciful : Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in then that do them.
Iustead of punishing the growing depravity of mankind by some second universal catastrophe, more dreadful than the preceding deluge ; Providence was pleased to make , choice of a particular family, among whom was to be preserved that spirit of piety, which was declining and dying in the rest of the world. Terah, the father of Abrani, had resided in Ur of the Chaldees ; but left that place with his family, and removed tu Haran, the same city which was afterwards denominated Charræ; and under that name execrated by the Romans, on account of the destruction of the army of Crassus. After the death of Terah, the Lord said to Abram, Get thee out of thy country and froin thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee shall all fumilies of the earth be blessed. The wandering life of the patriarchs had a tendency w preserve them from the infection of idolatry, to carry the light of religion into severil countries, and to shew to succeeding generations, an edifying example of the power of faith.
A very extraordinary personage next demands our attention, whom some commentators have supposed to be an angel, and others no less than our Saviour himself. As he has been the occasion of so much controversy, we shall first collect the several passages in which he is mentioned, and then subjoin a few plain observations. In Genesis xiv.; after describing the defeat of Chedorlaomer, the great Persian conqueror, by the small force of Abram and his allies, he says, verses 18, 19, 20, And Melchisedec, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine ; and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abrani of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth ; And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand, and he gave him tithes of all. The 110th Psalm is evidently descriptive of the kingdom and priesthood of the Messiah. It is here said in the 4th verse, The Lord hath sworn and will not repent ; Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. This is quoted in the fifth chapter of Hebrews, 6 and 10 verses, which are unnecessary to be transcribed, as they do little more than repeat what before had been said by the Psalmist ; but connecting the end of the sixth chapter of that epistle with the beginning of the seventh, we have the following comment. Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus made an high-priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abrahain returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him ; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being, by interpretation, king of righteousness, and after that also, king of Salem, which is, king of peace ; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life : but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham · But he, whose descent is not counted from them, reeeived tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. Further mention of Melchisedec is made in the 10, 11, 15, & 21 verses of the same chapter, but they