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To this excuse, so frivolous and ungrateful, God does not pause to reply, but immediately said unto the woman, 'What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.'
The chief thing remarkable in this excuse is, great ignorance of God. To the trees of the garden our first parents had foolishly fled as a hiding-place from the eyes of omniscience; and now to any but the true account they have recourse, hoping to evade his searching yet merciful examination. They do not confess to God that, in the midst of his bountiful profusion, they had coveted the only gift he had withheld; they do not tell him that a little food had tempted them to disregard his authority; they do not tell him they had felt discontented with their state of blissful innocence and happy communion with God; they do not tell him that, moved by ambition, they had sought to escape from the rank of subjects, and claim an equality with their Creator-but, concealing these things in their own bosom, they answer as under the impression that God can discover no more than they are pleased to reveal.
But ignorance of God's omniscience is not the only thing remarkable; there appears an equal ignorance of his mercy and his grace. To fly, to hide, to evade, to deceive, are the objects of every act and answer; but not a word of sorrow, not a prayer for pardon, is heard from the lips of the sinners.
How wonderful that one simple act of sin, and within a period so obviously brief, could have produced a transformation of character so sad and so degrading!
But at this we need not wonder; the natural world around us can sufficiently illustrate the process. One single cloud can obscure the sun; one single injury to the bodily eye can render his glories invisible so one single sin interposing between God and the soul becomes as a cloud impenetrable to the light of his countenance, and totally deprives us of that purity of heart without which no man can see the Lord.
Let us learn then the utter vanity of every excuse for sin. The ingenuity of our first parents was unsuccessful. Most probably they were unsuccessful in satisfying themselves; it is certain they were unsuccessful in satisfying God.
Let us learn also the danger of abiding in the way of temptation-of standing in the way of sinners, of walking in the counsel of the ungodly, or sitting in the seat of the scorner.
Let us beware of the shallow selfishness that would lay down our guilt at the door of our
neighbour. That we may be tempted by others is most certain. And theirs is the guilt of the temptation, and for that they must account to God; ours, the guilt of compliance; and for this we must account likewise.
Instead, then, of excusing our sins, let us confess our sins, and flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us. For though we have sinned, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus the righteous: and if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us in his blood from all unrighte ousness.
pray, that ye enter not into temptation,' Matt. xxvi. 41.
AFTER our Lord and his disciples had ended the observance of his last supper, they sung an hymn, and went forth unto the mount of Olives. There he warned them of his own approaching trials, and of their defections from him. So little, however, did the disciples know their own hearts, that instead of being cast down with the prospect of their weakness, or unfaithfulness, or led to pray that the dark hour or the bitter cup might pass from them, they boldly conclude against the possibility of their defection, and promise and aver, with one consent, that though they should die with him, yet would they never deny him.
Thus solemnly conversing they arrive at Gethsemane, a small garden situated at the foot of the mount; and here leaving the rest of his disciples, as when formerly taking witnesses of his glory, he now takes with him Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee, to be witnesses of his agony; and going with them to a short distance from the others, he began to be sorrowful, and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face and prayed, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What! could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.'
Four chief uses of watching seem to be recorded in scripture.
man, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night.' By this use of watching, we are constantly reminded of the necessity of counting our days, so that they may not pass unobserved, or unimproved. Secondly, Watching is applied to the looking out for coming events of any kind. This is likewise exemplified by Isaiah in these words; 'Thus saith the Lord, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth—and he hearkened diligently with much heed.' This watching includes the great duty of observing the ways of providence, and the signs of the times in which God has cast our lot. Thirdly, Watching is applied to the guardianship of property, as when our Lord declares, if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.' Fourthly, Watching is applied to guarding a place against enemies. Thus Nehemiah, when endangered, 'prayed to God, and set a watch against them,' and thus the Lord says, by Isaiah, to his lately desolate and forsaken, but now restored and protected church, 'I have set a watch on thy walls, O Jerusalem.'
'seeing our adversary goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.'
But, while watchfulness suggests a wakeful sense of accountability-the call to prayer reminds us of our constant dependence. Prayer without watchfulness, is to ask of God what we judge not worth the keeping; watchfulness without prayer is to attempt to keep the treasure we have never actually received. For ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,' are the precious promises upon which alone we can rely for preserving what we possess, or obtaining what yet we require. Whatever is the object of watchfulness should, therefore, immediately become the subject of prayer.
Prayer is the heart making report of its watchfulness to God, and offering therein all its desires for things agreeable to his will. But the main object, both of watchfulness and prayer, is to escape entering into temptation. To this preservation watchfulness and prayer contribute in two ways. First, as the means of obtaining, through grace, the counsel, protection, guidance, or deliverance of God; and, secondly, as the instruFrom these, which are the chief views of mental means of keeping us from evil. The man watching, we are forcibly reminded of the follow-who is watching against sin, is, by the very temper ing circumstances. of watchfulness, rendered unacceptable to sinners, so that they entice him not; while the man who prays without ceasing, is, by that very prayerfulness, so occupied with higher things as to be habitually rendered insensible to the lower things of the earth.
1. Of our constant liability either actually to forget, or live as if we did forget, the progress of time, the decay of youth, the advance of age, the nearness of death, and the certainty of judgment. How few feel that they are growing old, even when gray hairs appear! How frequently does even sickness fail to arouse to a sense of mortality! How needful, therefore, to watch our days, as we watch a time-keeper, to recollect how many are gone, and think of how few are to
2. By our Lord's call to watching, we are reminded of our constant danger of becoming absorbed in the affairs of time, to the sad neglect of eternity.
3. By the call to watching, we are reminded of the invaluable treasure of which God has appointed us stewards, and of the awful terms of responsibility upon which our trust is held. This treasure is not merely our own souls, but frequently the souls of others, for whom we watch, as they who must give account.
4. We are, finally, reminded that we watch in a state of warfare, surrounded by enemies.-The world with its pomps, vanities, and allurements; the flesh with all its weaknesses; the devil with all his wiles-so that not even one moinent's relaxation can be permitted from our vigilance;
If we then be risen with Christ, let us seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Let us set our affection on things above, not on things upon the earth; for what is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what would a man give in exchange for his soul?
How strange that Christ should be in an agony in the garden, while his disciples have ceased to watch; how much stranger, if he be interceding in heaven, and his disciples have ceased to pray. Let us watch without sleeping; let us pray without ceasing.
'So he drove out the man,' Gen. iii. 24. WHEN the earth arose from the hand of God in all the freshness and beauty of creation, he chose out a special residence for man, and 'planted a
garden eastward in Eden, and out of the ground | themselves again beneath the trees of the garden. made the Lord God to grow every tree that is And had God permitted this, they would soon pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree have concluded him to be such an one as themof life also in the midst of the garden, and the selves—indeed, had he permitted this, he would tree of knowledge of good and evil. And the have been such as themselves. They had beLord God took the man, and put him into the lieved a lie-God would have told an untruth. garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it. And They had practised sin-God had not punished itthe Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of and between the culprit who sins, and the judge every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; who neglects to punish, the sole difference lies in but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, rank; there is none in disposition or character. thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day thou eat- The one is a culprit, because he breaks a law— est thereof thou shalt surely die.' the other, because he does not enforce it. The act of God in 'driving' out our first parents, is, therefore, a practical revelation of that 'indignation and wrath' with which he regards every sina revelation, not merely necessary for the exhibition of his own character, but equally necessary for man, who must see, before he can fly from, the terrors of the wrath to come.'
Thus amply endowed with all that was good for use, and fair to look upon-thus strictly cominanded, and thus solemnly warned,- -man stood without any excuse, when he coveted the sole royalty that God had reserved, and violated the sole command to which obedience was enjoined. Hitherto God had appeared to man merely as a gracious Benefactor, now he appears as an offended Judge. Hitherto he had spoken in the sweetness of blessing, now he speaks in the bitterness of the curse. The innocent creature he had put into the garden,' the guilty creature he now drives
'Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God. On them who fell, severity.' But in a God of mercy, why this severity? Because the God of mercy is also a God of truth. God had given a reasonable command, enforced by a reasonable penalty, and the truth of God must be kept. Yea, let God be true, and every man a liar. Were one jot or tittle of God's word to fail, God would cease to be a competent or righteous Judge. He would cease to be competent for if he gave a law that required not to be enforced, the enactment of such a law proved his unfitness to legislate. He would also cease to be righteous for if he enforced not his law, he violated his word—and thus ceasing to be a righteous law to himself, must thereby cease to be a righteous Judge for others. The word of the Lord, therefore, cannot be broken; but sin must be followed by a correspondent punishment.
The punishment inflicted upon our first parents implies deep displeasure against sin. The Lord God did not simply 'send' them away. He 'drove' them out from the garden. Had he merely commanded them to go, there had been no reasonable expectation of obedience-for they who had disobeyed when innocent, would much more disobey when guilty. Had he merely commanded them to go-they who had so readily invented excuses for one sin, would no less readily have defended another. They would still have lingered around their earliest home, and hid
Our first parents did not attempt to deny their sin-they merely attempted to excuse it; the woman charged her guilt upon the serpent, the man referred his to the woman-both pleading temptation, not merely as the cause, but also as the defence of their rebellion.
And so do sinners still continue to plead, not with, but against God. Some sinners allege, in their excuse or defence, the peculiarity of their natural temper. On this ground, for example, some either palliate or deny the guilt of sudden anger with all its unseemly accompaniments and lamentable consequences. Others allege the power of natural appetite, or of acquired habit; while habit is again traced to the society and circumstances by which they were surrounded, inveigled, or betrayed. In a word, any plea, but that of guilty,' will the sinner put in before God; or, if forced to this at last, even still some allegation of the littleness of the sin, and of the greatness of the temptation, will be found on the lip or in the heart, in order to diminish the guilt, or to mitigate the sentence. Now, because, in reality, all this is but to transfer the sin back to God—and, in some way or other, to lay it at his door, it became absolutely necessary that God should not only exhibit the full detail of the curse, but that he should deprive the sinner of the scene of blessedness with which he had been originally endowed; that sin and misery thus meeting together, in the memory of past joys, and the pressure of present sorrows, might become as medicines in the hand of the great Physician, for working out, in mercy, the sinner's final cure; that the miserable exile might desire a better country; the unhappy outcast a father's home.
Eden, the sad and terrible emblem of the final | merciful Saviour!
Come unto me, all ye that sentence against impenitent souls, to whom the labour and are heavy laden.' Toil-worn with your Judge, on the throne of his glory, shall say, 'De-work, down-borne by your burden, ‘Come unto part from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire?' me'-but not that I may task you more heavily, Here sin and misery are in temporal, there in as Pharaoh did Israel when he sought for libertyeternal union! But miserable sinners though but come unto me, and I will give you rest.' we be, while here our state is never hopeless. And learn of me,' it is added, for I am meek Here the cherub guard is not only withdrawn and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your Look souls.' from the tree of life, but Jesus says, And because we unto me, and be ye saved.' were under the curse, he himself became a curse for us;' and because we were in sin, he himself bare our sins in his own body on the tree;' and because we were in misery, he bare our griefs, and carried our sorrows;' and because we were exiles and outcasts without rest from our profitless toils, Jesus therefore said, and says, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'
Let us then contemplate, first, the characters invited-all that labour and are heavy laden.' Since sin entered into the world, labour has been 'And unto Adam he said, Bethe lot of man. cause 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 itcursed 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 unto thee-and in the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread.' The earth, cursed in one place with ob
Let us then flee to the refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us! Once were we, in Adam, expelled from Eden; now are we, in Jesus, in-stinate barrenness, in another with perverse provited, entreated to return. Let us linger no more-let us doubt no more. He who was and is just to punish-was and is also mighty and merciful to save. He who righteously drove out the man,' is the same who, in grace, restores him to glory.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,' Mat. xi. 28. SOME parts of scripture seem specially intended either for particular characters, or special circumstances. Thus the 'twenty-third' has been called 'the child's psalm'—and certainly from the lips, as it were, of babes and sucklings,' it has been Thus the other. any more frequently heard than 'hundred and third' has also been denominated, 'the sick man's psalm,'-and how often, in the valley of the shadow of death,' it has been a lamp to his feet, and a light to his paths,' every one can tell, whom office, duty, or sympathy, has called to visit the bed of affliction, or the house of mourning. But, perhaps, even beyond all these and similar blessed portions, the words upon which our meditation turns, have been employed to give light in darkness, comfort in sorrow, strength in weakness, and even hope in despair. What surpassing beauty, what attractive emphasis in every word! 'Come!' O! why is it not 'Go?' Why not 'depart' from me? 'Come unto me!' To Jesus! The incarnate God, the mighty, the
ductiveness, yields only to labour; nor does win-
The contemplative investigator of truth alone can tell how true are the words of Solomon when he said- Much study is a weariness to the flesh.'
But how often is this mental and bodily labour most grievously increased by disastrous disappointments in all our studies, purposes, and plans! How much heavier grows our burden still when we consider those sad bereavements of dear and beloved ones whom we expected to aid in our toils, to share in our successes, to divide our sorrows, or to double our joys! And how grievous becomes our labour, how intolerable our burden, when debilitated by sickness, or tormented with pain !—when 'wearisome nights are appointed to us, and tossings to and fro to the dawn of the day'-when in the morning we say, Would God it were even! and at even, Would God it were morning!'
But the most grievous labour and burden of
our state ever arise from the power of temptation, sake his way, and the unrighteous man his and the consciousness of sin. The spirit of a thoughts, and return unto the Lord, and he will man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he spirit who can bear?' This wound of the spirit will abundantly pardon.' sin alone can inflict, the conscience alone can feel. This burden alone is intolerable, for every other may be shaken off, or borne up-but sin unremoved must sink the soul into eternal misery.
Now through the din of all this toil, the vexation of all these disappointments, the tears of all those bereavements, the sufferings of all this sickness, and the darkness and guiltiness of all this sin-there comes a sweet voice of invitation and promise-Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' This blessed rest has its commencement in the heart. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.' The peace of God, that passeth all understanding, keeps our hearts and mind.' In that peace, on earth—the peace of a 'conscience sprinkled from dead works'—the soul reposes as Lazarus, in glory, upon the bosom of Abraham. This peace, this rest in the conscience—the real seat of all human joy or woe-immediately pervades and subdues the affections, while it sets them upon things above'-removes them from things upon the earth,' and diffuses over them the sunshine and the calm of the upper world, of which the renewing Spirit of God is the specimen and the earnest. Then flee away all the terrors of the fiery law, and the rest of victory succeeds to the toils of the conflict. For the wages of sin is death, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Then is subdued and laid prostrate all the power of sin. For when the lawsin's strength-is deprived of its terrors-when we pass from under the ban of the law, and come under the protection of grace-then cannot sin any more reign in our mortal bodies that we should obey it in the lusts thereof;' but grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.' And then enter we into our temporal rest-temporal as to its duration, spiritual as to its nature-and then receive we 'the earnest of the inheritance, even of the rest that remaineth for the people of God.'
Come, then, all ye that labour and are heavy laden. You feel your burden-you deplore the galling yoke of the world and of sin―you purpose, one day, to come to Jesus, because you can elsewhere find no rest. O! come!-come!-come now. 'Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him, while he is near; let the wicked for
'Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,' Rom. v. 12. THAT sin is in the world no one can deny, unless those self-blinded souls who altogether deny its existence. That some men, however, should thus deny the existence of sin, by denying any real and essential distinction between good and evil is nothing more than a proof of what is often found-even that mental aberration upon one point may, in many cases, be accompanied with great powers of discernment and reasoning upon every other. That those who deny the existence of sin are in reality subject to mental alienation, can be easily proved; for let their feelings be outraged, and their influence undermined; let their name be calumniated, or their property abstracted
and then see whether they do not discover the difference between right and wrong, when it ceases to be a point of mere verbal disquisition, and is felt as a matter coming home to their lives and bosoms.' In a word, it is vain to deny that there is sin in the world. Idolatry, impiety, contempt of ordinances, disobedience to parents, oppression, cruelty, murder, licentiousness, fraud, cunning, deceit, robbery, lying, and covetousness, are every day assuming a thousand forms both in public and in private life; and though some of these forms some men may excuse, yet others of them every man is daily found to condemn.
Thus into a world created by a God holy, beneficent, just, and omnipotent-we find, beyond all controversy, that sin has obtained an entrance. But how? The scriptures cut short all farther inquiry as utterly unnecessary to the purposes of man, and plainly declare, that by one man sin entered into the world,' and that by one man's disobedience many were made sinners.'
We say, that to inquire deeper into the origin of sin is unnecessary for the purposes of man, that is, for his renewing and salvation. To the eye of curious research, a deeper investigation may appear desirable-but to him whose chief object is to learn what he must do to be saved,' there is neither need, nor time, nor desire, for farther inquiry. The physician who finds a disease the seat and nature of which he does not understand,