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saw him, and had compassion on him, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him, declaring, “It is meet that we should make merry and be glad, for this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.'"*
Such is the encouraging assurance which the word of God supplies, of our obligation to “work out our own salvation," from the certainty “that God will work in us to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Awful is the responsibility attending this obligation, and this power of obtaining such aid! May it inspire us with active zeal and cautious vigilance; may it lead us to heartfelt repentance, fervent prayer, and humble dependence on our God! “ And do thou, almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and are wont to give more than either we desire or deserve, pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy, forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things, which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord. Amen."
* Luke xv. 32.
# Phil. ii. 12.
Collect of 12th Sunday after Trinity.
THE SCRIPTURAL ACCOUNT OF THE FALL OF MAN IS
REPUGNANT TO THE DOCTRINE OF ABSOLUTE PREDESTINATION.
GENESIS, II. 16, 17.
“And the Lord commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat;
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it ; for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”
In the preceding discourse we have examined the most important traits in the series of the divine dispensations towards man under the Patriarchal, the Jewish, and the Christian religions, as recorded in the sacred history; and it has, I trust, appeared, that the view's thus exhibited of the moral attributes and government of God, as well as of the nature, the duties, and the expectations of man, are evidently inconsistent with the doctrine of absolute irrespective predestination.
Many of the advocates for that doctrine have, however, maintained, that the first and most signal event in the history of man, even his fall from that state of innocence and happiness in which he was placed by his Creator, is an instance and a proof of absolute predestination. It is, indeed, the avowed doctrine of the supra-lapsarian Calvinists, that God had decreed the fall of Adam from eternity, so that he could not possibly have avoided that fall, or the consequences attendant upon it; that in these consequences all his posterity are involved, except those whom God rescues out of the corrupt mass by the power of irresistible grace, bestowed according to the decree of irrespective election ; while the rest are, by a decree of absolute reprobation, left to perish in their sins. Against this most rigid and terrific opinion, might be pleaded the authority of a great, indeed I am persuaded of the far greater part of the Calvinistic body, who, I believe, almost universally embrace what is termed the sub-lapsarian scheme; that Adam was free, and competent to bear his trial, and stand in Paradise. But as they unhappily seem to apply the system of absolute predestination to all the posterity of Adam as strongly as the supra-lapsarians, we cannot avail ourselves of their authority; and have only to lament their departure from analogy and consistency, in ascribing to Adam a free will, and a possibility of escaping eternal punishment, which they appear to deny to the great mass of his posterity.
If the conclusions drawn from sacred history in the preceding discourses are well-founded, the posterity of Adam are not judged, nor their eternal fate determined according to the decrees of absolute predestination. And as these conclusions are derived from a more extensive train of facts, and a greater variety of arguments, than the brief account the Scripture gives of the fall of man could supply, it seemed to be more consonant to the rules of clear method and sound reasoning, to close, rather than to commence with the consideration of that event; and thus ascend from the examination of the effects, which are more immediate, full and clear, to that of the cause, which is more remote and obscure. But brief and obscure as the scriptural account of the fall undoubtedly is, it will, I trust, be found to confirm strongly the conclusions deduced from the subsequent parts of the Scripture as to the probation, the freedom, and the moral agency of man, the justice and mercy of the divine government, and the conditionality of the divine decrees.
But in whatever order we conduct our inquiries as to the divine dispensations, this signal event must engage our most serious attention. The fall of our first parents, its nature and its effects, combined with an humble inquiry into the gracious scheme of redemption, which, counteracting these fatal effects by the interposition of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of man—these undoubtedly form the most important, the most interesting objects of religious inquiry to every sincere believer in the truth of revelation. For they embrace the full extent of the divine dispensations, from the creation of the world to its close; and lead to the solution of that most interesting and difficult of all questions connected with religion, the origin of evil both moral and physical, in the works of that God whose goodness and mercy we acknowledge to be unimpeached, notwithstanding the existence of such evil, and whose
wisdom and power are evidently unbounded and supreme. The result of this inquiry vindicates the ways of God to man, and displays the counsels of the divine mercy, as far as it is permitted us to trace the unfathomable mystery. This inquiry, therefore, were it a mere speculation, in which we had no other personal interest than the discovery of truth, and the gratification of a curiosity not only natural but praiseworthy, would deserve the most patient attention. But it is far from being merely curious and speculative. It involves the dearest concerns, and determines the personal expectations of every human being, because it leads to the answer of that great inquiry which every individual who has ever thought of a future state must look for with a trembling anxiety, “ What shall I do to be saved ?" Let us, then, examine the origin of human misery, that we may discover and employ the only means by which it can be relieved.
That toil and pain, disease and death, are the lot of mankind, that passions from within and temptations from without, perpetually betray him into vice and misery, are facts which experience, alas, too clearly proves. That such a state of things should have been the original production of a Creator, infinitely. beneficent, wise, and powerful, and should for ever continue unchanged and unimproved, exceeds belief. The revealed word of God confirms these dictates of reason and those feelings of nature. It declares to us that man was originally created “after the image of God,”* and therefore pre-eminently merited that description, by which divine wisdom designated the works of creative power, when God saw every thing which he had made, “and behold it was very good.”+ We cannot understand the creation of man after the image of God to imply less than his being created pure and upright; his reason possessing sufficient control over his affections; his knowledge of the divine nature and the divine will sufficiently clear to direct his way; and the sanction of the divine law sufficiently weighty, if duly considered, to influence his conduct. Thus circumstanced, he was placed in a paradise, surrounded with every thing that
could give rational and permanent happiness, vested with dominion over all the animals and products of this inferior world, and endowed with the means of securing immortality by obeying the commands of his Creator. But this state, though thus fitted for virtue and for happiness, was not secure from sin nor its consequent punishment. It was still a state of trial, and the event fatally proved, that the trial, however, apparently easy, yet was such that our first parents sunk beneath it.
And here the first emotion, perhaps, which rises in the mind on considering the fall of man, is that of surprise that the virtue and happiness of beings so highly favoured, should be exposed to a trial, which in its effects proved so destructive. But when we examine the whole series of the divine dispensations towards mankind, and even towards other moral beings of a still higher order, as far as they are in any degree disclosed in revelation, we find it the uniform plan of the Moral Governor of the world to subject his intelligent and accountable creatures to trials, and lead them through a state of probation, often under circumstances apparently more unfavourable than those in which our first parents were placed.
The faith of Abraham, the virtue of Joseph, the patience of Job, the unconquerable patriotism and steady obedience of the Jewish law-giver, the pious fortitude of Daniel and his three illustrious friends, the perseverance of the various messengers of Jehovah in the discharge of their sacred mission, so signally exemplified by Isaiah and Jeremiah, Elijah and Elisha, the trials sustained, not only by the venerable succession of patriarchs, and the goodly fellowship of the prophets, but the still more severe sufferings, by which were proved the unparalleled and almost inconceivable fortitude of the glorious company of the apostles, and the noble army of martyrs, through which they triumphantly maintained the truth and divinity of the Gospel, and effectually promoted the glory of God and the salvation of man-all these facts illustrate the necessary connexion in the divine economy, between the endurance of trial and the attainment of such established virtue and piety as are crowned with the divine approbation.
Even Jesus Christ himself, however intimately he was united