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: BIBLE INSTRUCTION. ,
THE SCRIPTURE ACCOUNT OF MAX.
46 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they
i have sought out many inventions."..Eccles. vii. 29.
A POET hath said, “the noblest study of mankind is man;" and he might have added, the most difficult study of mankind is man. This difficulty arises out of the pride and deceitfulness of the human mind; a pride that would fain be flattered with exalted ideas of the dignity of hu. man nature, and a deceitfulness that mistakes the lowest degradation for the highest honour. Hence, when we propose to treat of man, we require to be on our guard, more perhaps than on any other theme. We should be careful to follow the light of the Scriptures, and to examine by it all our apprehensions and discoveries. The subject is extensive, and we shall arrange our views of it under four particulars--the original state and character of man, his probation with its issue, the present condition of man, and his necessities as a singer. We would treat these topics in the full persuasion of the justness and necessity of the proverb, • know thyself.”
I. The original condition of man. The notices of man's creation, in the Scriptures, are very brief, but they are plain and expressive. “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness—so God created man in bis own image; in the image of God created he him.”_ Gen. i. 26, 27. “In the day that God created mān, in the likeness of God made he him.”-Gen. v. 1. The circumstances in which man was created show the importance of the event. The creation of the material world was completed; five days had been occupied with it; Jehovah proclaimed a season of deliberation and consultation in heaven; a solemn pause ensued; and the event for which all this preparation was made, and to which all this atten. tion was directed, was the creation of man. How important in the view of God and of all the intelligent universe! Again the phrase employed to express man's original condition, is the most significant of excellence and purity-the image of God. In the two passages, quoted above,
this phrase is used no less than five times. And if we can accurately determine its meaning, in the Scriptures, we distinctly learn in what state man was created. Does it mean, then, merely that he was endowed with a reason. able soul? We cannot suppose so, for it includes also the idea of moral character. Even yet, degraded as he is by sin, man resembles God in the possession of intel. lectual capacities. So also do the devils themselves. This therefore cannot be the exclusive meaning of the phrase. The Scriptures are here, as in all other cases, the best in. terpreters of Scripture; and if we compare spiritual things with spiritual, we shall distinctly discover the meaning. In Eph. iv. 24 we read, “put on the new man, which after God (the image of God) is created in righteousness and true holiness.” And in Col. iii. 10 there is a similar passage,“ put on the new man, which is renewed in know. ledge after the image of him (God) that created him.” These passages determine the meaning of the phrase to be, likeness to God in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. And thus was man at first made. He bore the image of his Maker in intellectual capacity and moral en. dowments. His understanding was a lamp lighted up with the right knowledge of his Creator and bimself, clearly apprehending whatever it concerned him to know. His heart was pure, manifesting a disposition holy, harm. less, and undefiled. And his conduct was a transcript of his mind, in perfect unison with the law of universal obe. dience, under which he was created. Happiness neces. sarlly attached itself to a character thus virtuous. And the seeds of immortality, sown in it at its birth, were destined to bear the fruit of eternal life. “That image (in the language of an excellent commentator) consisted in an understanding prepared to imbibe true knowledge, a judgment free from corrupt bias, a will disposed to obedience, and affections regulated according to reason and truth.-From such a state of mind godliness, in all its internal exercises and external expressions, righteousness, truth, benevolence, and an exact regulation and government of every appetite and passion, must necessarily result; and every duty to God and man be constantly and delightfully performed.” ? II. The probation of man with its issue. God created man upright and perfect, but not infallible or immutable. He placed him in a state strictly probationary. “The Lord God 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." Gen. ii. 16, 17. He was placed under a law sanctioned by a reward, if he obeyed it, and the threatening of a penalty, if he violated it. The reward was life, meaning the continuance and increase of present blessings; the penalty was death, meaning their forfeiture and the in. fliction of the divine wrath. The issue of his probation is well known. It is thus related by Moses: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was' pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”Gen. iii. 6. Thus the law was broken, the reward was forfeited, the penalty incurred, and from that hour man was looked upon in a new character, as the enemy of God and the transgressor of his law.
In this fall of Adam into' sin, the whole of his future progeny were involved. He is uniformly viewed in the Scriptures, as a representative of his race, in whom they should stand or fall. “In Adam all die.”.-1 Cor. xv. 22. Had he stood, it may be presumed the race would have preserved its integrity; but he fell, and they fell in him. The testimony of the Scripture on this humbling theme is the most abundant and explicit. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death pas. sed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” “Through the offence of one many be dead.” “The judgment was by one to condemnation.” “By one man's offence death reigned by one." "By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” “By one man's disobedience many were made sinners." —Rom. v. 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19: The entire passage, from which these strong tes. timonies are taken, proceeds on the principle, that as all who are connected with Christ were interested in the blessings of his death, so all connected with Adam were in. volved in the consequences of his fall. Not Adam only, but all his posterity have forfeited the reward of life, and subjected themselves to the penalty of death.
It is only by receiving the plain testimony of Scripture, on this subject, that we are able to account for the present appearance of things in both the natural and moral world. The vain speculations of man upon them, overlooking the
testimony of revelation, are the most unsatisfying and unedifying. They have reasoned and reasoned till they have lost themselves in their own foolish devices, because they would not receive the simple account of the Scriptures, " that God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.” It is this that accounts for all the obliquites which we observe in the moral world. God made man in his own image; man, by sin, lost that image; sons are now born to him in his own likeness; that like. ness is sinful; and thus we have a key to all the follies and extravagancies, and sins. which he manifests. It is this that accounts also for the derangements of the natural world. The ground was cursed, by reason of man's sin. Gen. 3. 17, 18. The whole creation groaneth and tra. vaileth in pain for the same cause.-Rom. viii. 22. Sin brought death into the world, and all our woe—all the unhappiness of man, and all the wretchedness endured by the inferior creation. , Such was the issue of man's probation. We proceed, therefore, to consider— '. · III.-The present condition of man. This is a very extensive branch of the subject, but we must treat it briefly. We shall arrange the testimony of the Scriptures respect. ing it under three particulars—the penalty-annexed to the law of God and incurred by the sinner-the moral change that has taken place in his character-and the outward expression of that change in the sinfulness of the life.
1. The penalty annexed to the law was death. This is to be understood of temporal, spiritual, and eternal death. Temporal death is the dissolution of the connexion between soul and body. And that this originated in sin, it requires little evidence to prove. This was part of the judgment pronounced on man when he became a sinner, “dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return." Gen. iii. 19. And the Apostle Paul teaches us " the wages of sin is death."--Rom. vi. 23. In this part of the sen. tence there are supposed to be guilt, condemnation, and punishment. The sinner, is guilty, for he has broken the law of God; he is condemned, for the law is holy, and cannot but pass sentence on the guilty; and he is the sub ject of punishment, for the law giver is just and righteous and cannot but visit the offender with his deserved displeasure. . Again, spiritual death is the dissolution of the soul's connexion with the principles of truth and righteousness. In the Scriptures, ihesinner is uniformly described
as dead in the sight of God.—Eph. ii. 1. Nor can any thing be more just than this representation. For what is the characteristic feature of a body in the state of death? Is it not that while it appears to possess the powers of a living man, these are incapable of performing the functions of life. . It has eyes, but they see not; ears, but they hear not; a tongue, but it speaks not; feet, but they walk not; and hands, but they handle not. Just so then is it with the sinner dead in trespasses, He has eyes but they see not God in the works of his hands around him; ears, but they hear not his voice in the loud dispensations of his providence; a tongue, but it speaks not his maker's praise ; feet, but they walk not in God's commandments; and hands, but they are not active to do his will. Thus the sinner is dead in the sight and service of God. And as the body, from which the spirit has fled, becomes corrupt and putrid ; so, in the spiritual death of the soul, there is not merely inaction, but moral corruption and pollution. What is man that he should be clean ? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous ? “ How abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh ini. quity like water ?”—Job, xv. 14. 16. The end of spiritual death and its consummation is eternal death. This implies all the misery naturally arising out of the sinful. ness of man, visited by the judgment of God. We have sometimes seen what wretchedness may hence arise even upon earth. And we may thus form some idea of the misery which they are calculated to produce in another world, where they will be allowed to operate without mean sure or restraint. How fearful the emphasis of our Lord's words, where three times he speaks in almost the same breath, “ where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched- where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched-where their worm dieth not apd the fire is not quenched.” -Mark, ix. 44. 46. 48. This is the bitterness of the second death. And this is the penalty to which man has been subjected by the violation of the law of God-death temporal, spiritual, and eternal.
2. The moral change that has taken place in the character of man, is fully in accordance with his state of guiltiness and condemnation. It has affected the whole man, both his intellectual powers and moral principles. The understanding, the judgment, the will, the affections, have all been injured and corrupted. How emphatic the