« AnteriorContinuar »
his labour. While some are toiling upon the earth, others are doomed to work underneath it.
Some are exercised and wasted with works of heat: some for a livelihood are exposed to the storms and perils of the sea; and they who are called to the dangers of war, support their lives at the hazard of losing them.
The woman, who was first in the transgression, is distinguished by sorrows peculiar to her sex; and if some are exempt, they are exceptions which confirm the 'general law; and shew, that the penalty doth not follow by any necessity of Nature, but is inflicted.
Many are the unavoidable sorrows of life; but if we consider how many more are brought upon man by himself, it is plain his mind is not right: for if he had his sight and his senses, he would see better and avoid them.
Suppose human nature to be perfect; what is the consequence? We not only contradict our own daily experience:, but we supersede the use of Christianity, by denying the existence of those evils, for which only it is provided. The whole system of it is offered to us as a cure for the consequences of the fall. From the accommodation of its graces, gifts, and sacraments to the wants of our nature, we have a demonstration that our minds are in a distempered and sinful state : as the drugs and instruments in the shop of the surgeon are so many arguments that our bodies are frail and mortal.
II. The Scriptures declare farther, that man, thus born in sin and sorrow, would grow up in darkness and ignorance, as to all heavenly things, unless he were taught of God: whose word is therefore said to be a light. The case is the same in nature. For how doth man receive the knowledge of all distant objects ? not by a light within himself, but by a light which comes to him from heaven, and brings to bis sight a sense of the objects from which it is reflected. What an uninformed empty being would man become in his bodily state: how destitute of the knowledge of all remote objects, but for the rays of light which come to him from without? Such would he be in his religious capacity without the light of revelation, which was therefore sent out into all lands, as the light of the sun is diffused throughout the world: The people that walked in darkness (which is the state we are born to) have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined*. The Scriptures declare that we are in a state of stupidity and death, till we are illuminated by the Gospel : Awake thou that sleepest, and rise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light t. But they cannot make our souls worse than our bodies would be without the visible lights of heaven; and therefore in this respect, the physical state of nian answers precisely to his religious state; and if we duly observe and reflect upon the one, we must admit the other also, or oppose the testimony of our senses.
III. The Gospel informs us, that there is a light of life to the soul of man, and a divine spirit of God which quickens and inspires; and that the whole economy of grace is administered to us by the persons of the Son and the Holy Ghost. And are not the principles of man's natural life maintained by a parallel agency in nature ? Do we not there also find a light to animate, and a spirit to inspire and give us breath? The divine Spirit, from his nature and office, takes its name from the air or natural spirit of the world, which supplies us with the breath of life. On the day of Pente: cost he descended from heaven under the outward sign Isa, ix. 2.
† Epb. v. 14.
of a rushing mighty wind; that from his philosophical emblem we might understand his nature and operations; who, like the wind, is invisible, irresistible, the medium of life and the inspirer of the prophets and apostles, who all spake as the Spirit gave them utter
The air is the instrument of speech, and the vehicle of sound. Such was the divine Spirit to the apostles; by whose aid and operation, their sound went out into all lands. The ways of the Spirit of God in the birth of man unto grace, are hidden from us: we distinguish him only by his effects : so it is in nature: we hear the sound of the wind, but we cannot tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth. Thus did our Saviour himself illustrate the operations of the Holy Ghost from those of the air : and, what is very remarkable, he communicated the Holy Ghost to his disciples under the outward sign of breathing upon them.
In the invisible kingdom of God, there is a sun of righteousness which rises upon a world that lieth in darkness; raising up the dead to a new life, and restoring all that sin and death had destroyed. So doth the visible world present to us the great luminary of the day, whose operations are in all respects like to those of the sun of righteousness. In the morning it prevails over darkness, and in the spring it restores the face of Nature.
When the Scriptures say that the powers of the Word and Spirit of God are necessary to the souls of men; they say no more than what the most scrupulous philosophy must admit in regard to their bodies : for certainly mankind cannot subsist without the sun and the air. They must have light, to live by as well as to see by; and they must have breath, without which they can neither live, nor speak, nor hear,
We are to argue farther ; that as we must suppose a sup to shine before we can suppose man to exist upon earth : so by parity of reason, the divine light was preexistent to all those who are saved by it; and to presume that Jesus Christ, who is that light, is only a man like ourselves, is as false in divinity, as it would be false in philosophy to report the sun in the heavens as a thing of yesterday, and formed like ourselves out of the dust of the ground. Doth not philosophy teach us, that the elementary powers of light and air are in nature supreme and sovereign for is there any thing above them? Is there a sun above the sun that rules the day; and is there a spirit above the wind that gives us breath? therefore, so are the persons of Christ and the Holy Ghost supreme and divine in the invisible kingdom of God. If not, it must lead us into idolatry and blasphemy, when we see them represented to us in the Scripture by these sovereign powers in nature. God is Light, and God is a Spirit : therefore, that person who is called the Spirit must be divine ; and Jesus Christ who is the truc Light must be the true God.
Wheresoever we go in divinity, thither will philosophy still follow us as a faithful witness. For if we are assured by revelation, that there is a power of divine justice to execute vengeance on the enemies of God, and which shall destroy with a fearful destruction the ungodly and impenitent whenever it shall reach them; we find in nature the irresistible power of fire, which dissipates and destroys what it acts upon, and which in
many instances hath been applied as the instrument of vengeance upon wicked men, Sacrifices were consumed by fire, to signify that wrath from heaven is due to sin, and would fall upon the sinful offerer himself, if the victim did not receive it for him by substitution. When the law was given on Mount Sinai, the heavens
flamed with fire, and the mountaiu burned below, to give the people a sense of the terrors of divine judge
With allusion to which exhibition, and other examples of the actual effects of his wrath, God is said to be a consuming fire : and happy are they who regard the power of it, and flee from it, as Lot and his family fled from the flames of Sodom.
IV. Another doctrine, peculiar to the Scripture, is, the danger to which we are exposed in our religious capacity from the malignity and power of the Devil; whose works are manifest, though he himsclf is invisible. But the natural creation bears witness to his existence, and to all his evil properties; where the wisdom of God hath set before us that creature the Serpent, a singular phænomenon of the same kind; whose bite diffuses death so suddenly and miraculously through the body, that he may be said, in comparison of all other creatures, to have the power of death. He is doubled tongued and insidious; often undiscovered till he has given the fatal wound. In a word, he is such a pattern of the invisible adversary of mankind, who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning, that the hieroglyphical language of the Bible speaks of him in the history of the first temptation, under the name of the Serpent. The wicked who are related to him as bis seed or children, are called a generation of vipers ; by which figurative phrase it is literally meant, that they were of their father the Devil.
In the modern systems and schemes of those who affect the philosophical character, we are not always sure of finding a God: but we are sure never to find a Devil: for as the Heathens of old offered sacrifices to bim without understanding that they did so; in like inanner do some people of these days work under him without knowing him. Yit certainly the Scripture,