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It is manifest they could have had no being; seeing all these have evil for their object. If, therefore, evil had never entered into the world, neither could these have had any place in it. For who could have returned good for evil, had there been no evil doer in the universe ? How had it been possible, on that supposition, to “overcome evil with good ?” Will you say, “But all these graces might have been divinely infused into the hearts of men !" Undoubtedly they might: but if they had, there would have been no use or exercise for them. Whereas in the present state of things we can never long want occasion to exercise them: and the more they are exercised, the more all our graces are strengthened and increased. And in the same proportion as our resignation, our confidence in God, our patience and fortitude, our meekness, gentleness, and long suffering, together with our faith and love of God and man increase, must our happiness increase, even in the present world.
9. Yet again : As God's permission of Adam's fall gave all his pos. terity a thousand opportunities of suffering, and thereby of exercising all those passive graces which increase both their holiness and happiness; so it gives them opportunities of doing good in numberless instances; of exercising themselves in various good works, which otherwise could have had no being. And what exertions of benevolence, of compassion, of godlike mercy, had then been totally prevented ? Who could then have said to the lover of men,
Thy mind throughout my life be shown ;
While listening to the wretch's cry,
On mercy's wings I swiftly fly,
Myself, my all for them to give ?"
“ All worldly joys are less,
Than that one joy of doing kindnesses." Surely in keeping this commandment, if no other, there is great reward. “ As we have time, let us do good unto all men;" good of every kind, and in every degree. Accordingly the more good we do, (other circumstances being equal,) the happier we shall be. The more we deal our bread to the hungry, and cover the naked with garments, the more we relieve the stranger, and visit them that are sick or in prison, the more kind offices we do to those that groan under the various evils of human life; the more comfort we receive even in the present world, the greater the recompense we have in our own bosom.
10. To sum up what has been said under this head : as the more holy we are upon earth, the more happy we must be ; (seeing there is an inseparable connection between holiness and happiness ;) as the more good we do to others, the more of present reward redounds into our own bosom ; even as our sufferings for God lead us to rejoice in him " with joy unspeakable and full of glory;" therefore, the fall of Adam,-first, by giving us an opportunity of being far more holy, secondly, by giving us the occasions of doing innumerable good works, which otherwise could not have been done, and, thirdly, by putting it into our power to suffer for God, whereby “the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon us,”—may be of such advantage to the children of
men, even in the present life, as they will not thoroughly comprehend till they attain life everlasting.
11. It is then we shall be enabled fully to comprehend, not only the advantages which accrue at the present time to the sons of men by the fall of their first parent, but the infinitely greater advantages which they may reap from it in eternity. In order to form some conception of this, we may remember the observation of the apostle : as one star differeth from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead." The most glorious stars will undoubtedly be those who are the most holy, who bear most of that image of God wherein they were created; the next in glory to these will be those who have been most abundant in good works; and next to them, those that have suffered most, according to the will of God. But what advantages, in every one of these respects, will the children of God receive in heaven, by God's permitting the introduction of pain upon earth in consequence of sin? By occasion of this they attained many holy tempers, which otherwise could have had no being ;-resignation to God; confidence in him, in times of trouble and danger; patience, meekness, gentleness, long suffering, and the whole train of passive virtues: and on account of this superior holiness, they will then enjoy superior happiness. Again: every one will then " receive his own reward, according to his own labour :" every individual will be "rewarded according to his work." But the fall gave rise to innumerable good works, which could otherwise never have existed ;' such as ministering to the necessities of saints ; yea, relieving the distressed in every kind : and hereby innumerable stars will be added to their eternal crown. Yet again : there will be an abundant reward in heaven for suffering, as well as for doing the will of God: “These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Therefore that event, which occasioned the entrance of suffering into the world, has thereby occasioned to all the children of God an increase of glory to all eternity. For although the sufferings themselves will be at an end; although
“ The pain of life shall then be o'er,
The anguish and distracting care ;
And sin shall never enter there ;"yet the joys occasioned thereby shall never end, but flow at God's right hand for evermore.
12. There is one advantage more that we reap from Adam's fall, which is not unworthy our attention. Unless in Adam all had died, being in the loins of their first parent, every descendant of Adam, every child of man, must have personally answered for himself to God. It seems to be a necessary consequence of this, that if he had once fallen, once violated any command of God, there would have been no possibility of his rising again ; there was no help, but he must have perished without remedy. For that covenant knew not to show mercy: the word was, “ The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Now who would not rather be on the footing he is now ; under a covenant of mercy? Who would wish to hazard a whole eternity upon one stake? Is it not infinitely more desirable, to be in a state wherein, though encompassed with infirmities, yet we do not run such a desperate risk, but if we fall, we may rise again? Wherein we may say,
"My trespass is grown up to heaven :
But far above the skies,
I see thy mercies rise !" 13. In Christ! Let me entreat every serious person, once more to fix his attention here. All that has been said, all that can be said, on these subjects, centres in this point: the fall of Adam produced the death of Christ. Hear, oh heavens, and give ear, oh earth! Yea,
" Let earth and heaven agree,
Angels and men be join'd,
The Saviour of mankind ;
And bless the sound of Jesus' name !" If God had prevented the fall of man, “the Word” had never been “made flesh;” nor had we ever “ seen his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” Those mysteries never had been displayed," which the" very“ angels desire to look into.” Methinks this consideration swallows up all the rest, and should never be out of our thoughts. Unless“ by one man judgment had come upon all men to condemnation,” neither angels nor men could ever have known “ the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
14. See then, upon the whole, how little reason we have to repine at the fall of our first parent; since herefrom we may derive such unspeakable advantages, both in time and eternity. See how small pretence there is for questioning the mercy of God, in permitting that event to take place; since therein mercy, by infinite degrees, rejoices over judgment. Where then is the man that presumes to blame God, for not preventing Adam's sin ? Should we not rather bless him from the ground of the heart, for therein laying the grand scheme of man's redemption, and making way for that glorious manifestation of his wisdom, holiness, justice, and mercy? If indeed God had decreed, before the foundation of the world, that millions of men should dwell in everlasting burnings, because Adam sinned hundreds or thousands of years before they had a being; I know not who could thank him for this, unless the devil and his angels: seeing, on this supposition, all those millions of unhappy spirits would be plunged into hell by Adam's sin, without any possible advantage from it. But, blessed be God, this is not the case. Such a decree never existed. On the contrary, every one born of a woman may be an unspeakable gainer thereby: and none ever was or can be a loser, but by his own choice.
15. We see here a full answer to that plausible account of the origin of evil, published to the world some years since, and supposed to be unanswerable: that “it necessarily resulted from the nature of matter, which God was not able to alter.” It is very kind in this sweet tongued orator to make an excuse for God! But there is really no occasion for it: God hath answered for himself. He made man in his own image; a spirit endued with understanding and liberty. Man, abusing that liberty, produced evil; brought sin and pain into the world. This God permitted, in order to a fuller manifestation of his wisdom, justice, and mercy; by bestowing on all who would receive it an infinitely greater happiness, than they could possibly have attained if Adam had not fallen.
16. "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" Although a thousand particulars of " his judgments, and of his ways, are unsearchable” to us, and past our finding out ; yet may we discern the general scheme, running through time into eternity. “According to the counsel of his own will,” the plan he had laid before the foundation of the world, he created the parent of all mankind in his own image; and he permitted all men to be made sinners, by the disobedience of this one man, that by the obedience of one, all who receive the free gift, may be infinitely holier and happier to all eternity!
SERMON LXV.-The General Deliverance.
“ The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
“For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that subjected it:
" Yet in hope that the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
"For we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together until now," Rom. viii, 19–22.
1. NOTHING is more sure, than that as “the Lord is loving to every man," so “his mercy is over all his works;" all that have sense, all that are capable of pleasure or pain, of happiness or misery. In consequence of this, “ He openeth his hand, and filleth all things living with plenteousness. He prepareth food for cattle," as well as "herbs for the children of men.” He provideth for the fowls of the air, “ feeding the young ravens when they cry unto him.” “ He sendeth the springs into the rivers, that run among the hills,” to “give drink to every beast of the field,” and that even the wild asses may quench their thirst.” And, suitably to this, he directs us to be tender of even the meaner creatures; to show mercy to these also. “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn:"- '-a custom which is observed in the eastern countries even to this day. And this is by no means contradicted by St. Paul's question: "Doth God take care for oxen ?” Without doubt he does. We cannot deny it, without flatly contradicting his word. The plain meaning of the apostle is, Is this all that is implied in the text ? Hath it not a farther meaning ? Does it not teach us, We are to feed the bodies of those whom we desire to feed our souls ? Meantime it is certain, God "giveth grass for the cattle,” as well as " herbs for the use of men.”
2. But how are these scriptures reconcilable to the present state of things ? How are they consistent with what we daily see round about us, in every part of the creation ? If the Creator and Father of every living thing is rich in mercy towards all ; if he does not overlook or despise any of the works of his own hands; if he wills even the meanest of them to be happy, according to their degree; how comes it to pass, that such a complication of evils oppresses, yea, overwhelms them? How is it that misery of all kinds overspreads the face of the earth? This is a question which has puzzled the wisest philosophers in all ages : and it cannot be answered without having recourse to the oracles of God. But taking these for our guide, we may inquire,
I. What was the original state of the brute creation ?
III. In what state will it be at the manifestation of the children of God ?
I. 1. We may inquire, in the first place, what was the original state of the brute creation ? And may not we learn this, even from the place which was assigned them; namely, the garden of God ? All the beasts of the field, and all the fowls of the air, were with Adam in paradise. And there is no question but their state was suited to their place: it was paradisiacal; perfectly happy. Undoubtedly it bore a near resemblance to the state of man himself. By taking, therefore, a short view of the one, we may conceive the other. Now “ man was made in the image of God.” But “God is a Spirit :" so therefore was man: (only that spirit being designed to dwell on earth was lodged in an earthly tabernacle.) As such, he had an innate principle of self motion. And so, it seems,
has every spirit in the universe; this being the proper distinguishing difference between spirit and matter, which is totally, essentially passive and inactive, as appears from a thousand experiments. He was, after the likeness of his Creator, endued with understanding; a capacity of apprehending whatever objects were brought before it, and of judging concerning them. He was endued with a will, exerting itself in various affections and passions; and, lastly, with liberty, or freedom of choice; without which all the rest would have been in vain, and he would have been no more capable of serving his Creator than a piece of earth or marble ; he would been as incapable of vice or virtue, as any part of the inanimate creation. In these, in the power of self motion, understanding, will, and liberty, the natural image of God consisted.
2. How far his power of self motion then extended, it is impossible for us to determine. It is probable, that he had a far higher degree both of swiftness and strength, than any of his posterity ever had, and much less any of the lower creatures. It is certain, he had such strength of understanding as no man ever since had. His understanding was perfect in its kind: capable of apprehending all things clearly, and judging concerning them according to truth, without any mixture of error. His will had no wrong bias of any sort; but all his passions and affections were regular, being steadily and uniformly guided by the dictates of his unerring understanding ; embracing nothing but good, and every good in proportion to its degree of intrinsic goodness. His liberty likewise was wholly guided by his understanding : he chose, or refused, according to its direction. Above all, (which was his highest excellence, far more valuable than all the rest put together,) he was a creature capable of God; capable of knowing, loving, and obeying his Creator. And, in fact, he did know God, did unfeignedly love, and uniformly obey him. This was the supreme perfection of man; (as it is of all intelligent beings;) the continually seeing, and loving, and obeying the Father of the spirits of all flesh. From this right state, and right use, of all his faculties, his happiness naturally flowed. In this the essence of his happiness consisted; but it was increased by all the things that were round about him. He saw, with unspeakable pleasure, the order, the beauty, the harmony, of all the creatures ; of all animated, all inanimate nature; the serenity of the skies; the sun walking in brightness; the sweetly variegated clothing of the earth; the trees, the fruits, the flowers,