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THE IMPOSSIBILITIES of MAN's SALVATIow. Bło THE FIRST CowSTITUTION, ret A STRANGE disposition. To SEEK ETERNAL LIFR Br rr.
So he drove out the man ; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, Cherubims and a faming sword, which turned every way to keep the tree of life.
MAN's creation was the result of divine counsel, and particular design. He was to be the combined perfection of material and immaterial creation; heaven and earth were to form an union in him—and his station was to be the visible ruler of this world, which had been created and replenished with every inert, vegetive and animal production, in an inconceivable variety. All appearances proclaimed the divinity and existence of a Being of infinite power and wisdom. Man was formed of heaven and earth—the dust of the ground, and the breath of God, with reason and unJerstanding that he might survey, and admire the beauty, grandeur aud magnificence, and that he might render to the Great First Cause, in active praises, the glory due to the wonders of perfections displayed. Natural and moral excellencies were wrought up in man by an Almighty hand to such a degree, that angels were amazed, and earth cried out, fearfully and wonder
fully is he made. Reason, understanding, will, affection*, and appetites were all placed in order, proportion, and harmony in the body and seul of this wonderful piece of creation.
Ought not this extraordinary creature, so exactly fitted for moral government, be placed in a happy situation, a law given bim, and recommended by such penalties as would be honorable to his Maker, respectable to himself, and dangerous to transgress I
Especially when this law or constitution, originating from the necessary relation between the Creator and a creature, is ameliorated into a covenant, so that man, with all his posterity, was entitled to a whole heaven of eternal felicity, in case of his obedience, beyond any thing that could have been demanded by the principles of pure law. Law, strictly such, secures to its subjects protection of interest, life, property, and all safety, but no further reward for obedience; yet, by the bountiful covenant of works, man was ensured of endless felicity, and all the blessings Comprehended in eternal life.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil, was assigned as the test of man's felicity, and of this tree he was not to eat; but, ia compensation; for this restriction, he was indulged with the tree ef life, in case of his obedience.
Man, unhappy man fails, the contract is violated, the covenant broken, and the penalty incurred in its whole extent. . la Consequence «f this awful catastrophe, man is driven out of the garden, and effectual measures are taken by his Maker, to administer full conviction to him that a return to Eden, Paradise. and happiness, by the covenant violated, was absolutely impossible. "So he drove out the man^" God hurled him headlong into the wide world of folly, temptation and sin; and lest he should attempt a return, and try to taste of the fruit of the tree of life, Cherubic centinels were placed with swords of brandishing feme, to prevent a re-cntrance ih every way. "God placed at * the east of the garden of Eden, Cherubims and a flaming sword
* which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
The full intention of these words, without any curious investigation, may, according to my apprehension, be justly comprised in these two sentences.
First, That salvation for man, by the tenor of the originas
covenant, is absolutely impossible. And
Secondly, There still remains in man a strong propensity to return to the garden of felicity, and seek salvation by his own doings. The former of these I shall endeavor to evince—and the latter, to illustrate.
First, I shall evince, that salvation for man, by the tenor of
the original covenant, is absolutely impossible.
Every thing in the divine government and procedure with fallen man, appears to him in his corrupt, blind, and wretched state. strange and unaccountable. And this will forever remain the case until his mind shall be rectified and illuminated by divine grace. What need of all this ponpous parade of a cherubic host, with flaming swords brandishing in all directions to guard the gate against the re-entrance of man to Eden 2 Could he burst through an angelic phalanx 2 Could he avoid and escape a seraphic eye? All this is impossible. Adam knew it was impossible. Attempts at natural impossibilities, man will not make ; but, extravagant as it may seem, spiritual impossibilities is the aim of his depraved heart, in full contempt of all the ways, wisdom, and mercy of God for his recovery. How are the methods of salvation by a Mediator, looked at askance, and with the disdain of contemptunus abhorrence, and with the implicated sneer on God, “Salva. “tion shall be found without the eternal debit of your mercy.” But poor, blind infatuatad man, a thousand and ten thousand times ten thousand, stand before you to convince you of your inPotent folly, and to arrest you o your mad career. Madness en
leYtd the heart of man at his fall; madness possesses him .white be lives, and unless a wonderful interposition of grace takes place, he must perish in madness. No man can enter again into the pleasurable garden, and eat of the tree of life, until he shall have conquered and subdued all the armies of heaven. The almighty arm must be broken, the thunders of divine wrath averted, Jehovah's vengeance extinguished, and ali above prostrated to all belew, before such an event can take place. Conquer angels, conquer cherubim and seraphim, conquer the omnipotent eternal, and then proud and feeble man may triumph. Are these things impossible? It is equally or mare impossible for any to obtain Jife everlasting by the first covenant.
But, this may be more plamly considered from the nature oF the covenant of works, and from man's relation to the same. The covenant of works required perfect and perpetual obedience. Obedience in heart and life, disposition and practice. Eternal felicity was attainable by it, and it was easily attained by the constitution of our first parents. Their tempers were right, and all was perfect, and their salvation was suspended upon their fidelity.
This obediance or fidelity involved three qualifications. It must be perfect, personal, and perpetual. It must be perfect both in parts and degree. The law must be obeyed without th4 least dtviation or failure. Any flaw or deficiency absolutely ruins the whole, and defeats every expectation of salvation by it.— The least misstep or moral miscarriage, however small, is utter destruction. The most inconsiderable irregularity in heart, speech or behaviour, incurs the forfeiture of eternal life. An idle word, or a vain thought, renders salvation absolutely impossible by the tenor of this covenant. It admits of no repentance, and its nature utterly secludes pirdon. Its language and spirit «i "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all and every "thing contained therein.'' Whosoever will enter into life by this covenant, must be conformed in heart to the law, must keep the commandments and do them perEsctly. This evinces the impossibility of salvation by the original constitution.
This obedience must not only be complcat and perfect, but it roust be personal. The covenant admitted of no Mediator, intervening or substituted righteousness, but required, under the awful penalty of death and eternal perdition, an exact fulfilment of the law in our own persons. This demonstrates the impossibility of salvation in this way.
This obedience must not only be personal and perfect, but perpetuity is an essential qualification of it. Who then has presumption and confidence to dare to entertain a thought of salvation by the covenant of works? Is it possible for any to yield such obedience as it requires? Where is the man, that will avouch he has performed this obedience? Has any mere man, for the shortest duration, done it? Can any say, my hands are clean? I am free from sin? Let a dumb silence, and self-condemnation, envelope every individual of the human race. Each one must lay his hand on his mouth, and acknowledge transgression and guilt. These considerations, and multitudes of others arising from the depravity of nature, the propensity to wrong, aversion to right, and unceasing acts of offence, form an irresistable force of demonstration, that salvation is absolutely inattainable by the law or covenant of works. Yet, notwithstanding these insurmountable mounds in this way of salvation, man feels an astonishing propensity to seek it in this method, which is unreasonable, unjust, wicked and impossible.
This leads me, in the
Second place, To contemplate this] strange and wonderful disposition in man, lo return through all this infinite opposition to the garden of felicity, to the Edeu of pleasure, and seek salvation by his own doings.
Let the conduct and practice of mankind be duly considered