Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

are given five talents, to others two, and to others one; to every man according to his several ability. As many as have finned without law Mall also perish without law; and as many as have finned in the law Shall be judged by the law; in the day when God Mall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ. Thus the rule of moral government is greatly influenced by the different degrees of revelation afforded to the subject.

5. In addition to that law which arises from the visible and stated relation of things, God has reserved for himself a right to enact, from time to time, positive laws, which have no apparent reason of injunction beside the mere will or sovereign authority of the Lawgiver. But the divine au. thority never enjoins impoflibilities, and as the manifestation of his will is a sufficient reason why we should comply with his requisitions, hence arises our obligation, from moral considerations, to obey all positive commands. *

SECT.

* Sce the subicct of positive laws and institutions, with the method of ascertaining what is positive and what is moral in the fame command, in Antipa dob. Exam. Vol. I. Chap. i. paflim. See also, further observations on the Will of God as the rule of moral government in a Discourse on the Infuence of religious Practice

cur Inquiries after Truth, p. 13-20, 31. See, moreover, SECT. VII. of this chapter.

[ocr errors]

on

SECT. III.

Of the different DISPENSATIONS of revealed religion.

$1. The defeЕtion of our first parents. § 2, 3. What

would have been the consequence of Adam's continued obedience? $ 4, 5. What the fate of his fallen posterily without a Saviour ? $ 6. General preparatory remarks on all the divine dispensations. $ 7. The Adamic dispensation of grace. $ 8. The Noahic. $ 9. The Abrahamic covenant, or promise. § 10. St. Paul's comment on it. $ 11-19. Observations on this covenant, and the apostle's reasoning on it. § 20. The Mofaic covenant, or law. $ 21. Explained by Jeremiah and Paul. $ 22-28. Observations thereon. $ 29—33. The distinguishing charaEter of the gospel covenant compared with the foregoing.

WHE

$ 1, THEN Adam and Eve transgressed the

positive command, which was not to eat of a particular fruit in the garden of Eden, the death threatened, or the execution of the penal sanction, followed. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou Malt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou Malt surely die. A fpiritual death immediately seized the soul; or that which may be most emphatically called the life of a perfect creature, forsook it as the necesary and not merely the threatened effect of the transgression. And unto Adam he said,—In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of

E 4

it wast thou taken: for duft thou art, and unto duft thon shalt return.* “ Thou art no longer to expect my

sovereign interposition to prevent that mortality, “ to which, by the common laws of the universe, " thy frame tends.” By one man sin entered into the world, and death by fin; and to death palled upon all.+

§ 2. Observing that among men there awaits every conditional engagement a permanent consequence on either side, many have been led to ask, “ What would have been the consequence of " Adam's continued obedience ?" But such a question evidently overlooks the nature of the subject. For it might as well be asked, What would have been another plan of creation and providence, if the present had not been adopted ? And this would further lead us to the fruitless enquiry, In how many different ways was it possible for God to make a universe ? Every thing in the plan aflually followed proceeds on the supposition of Adam's apostacy; therefore, to suppose his constant obedience, is not merely to suppose an alteration in a single part of the divine scheme, but to substitute another system.

$ 3. To give, however, a more direct reply to questions of this nature, I remark :

1. That Adam's continuarce in perfection must have been owing to such continued acts of God, as Adam had no true ground of claim to in equity. For though he was not impelled to fin, he was not fufficient of himself, without God's immediate and gratuitous assistance, to preserve his happy state one moment; which position will, in the course of this Essay, be more professedly discussed and confirmed. Therefore,

gratuitous

* Gon. iii. 17, 19.

f Rom. v, 12.

2. If God ever meant to shew to a moral system that there was in him towards it perfect equity and sovereign mercy, the supposition of Adam and his pofterity continuing perfect, must have been an impossibility. So that, in fact, the question returns to this, Are the attributes of equity and mercy towards the human race to be manifested, or are they not? If they are, a continuance in a state of perfection was not possible.

$ 4. Nearly akin to the preceding question is the following: “ What must have been the confe

quence, respecting fallen Adam's posterity in this “s world, on supposition that no Saviour had been

provided ? Must we not admit the multiplica« tion of the species, and the enjoyment of the “ necessaries of subfifience, for a time, before they « should be fixed in a state of punifhment ? In that “ case, what they enjoyed could not be the effect of “ mediatorial grace, but their due in equity, other< wife the demerit of the first offence must have “ been annihilation ; and thus the human fyf“ tem must have been destroyed as soon as it ex“ ifted, and utterly removed out of the universe." - But this question, as well as the other, seems to overlook the nature of the subject; and takes for granted an impoflibility, that the supposed consequence may take place, without supposing another world. Whereas the truth is, that since the

world

prefent plan of things, in all its parts, proceeds on the supposition of a Saviour provided, to suppose this removed is to suppose another universe. And what kind of contrivance must that be, which admits of moral evil to invade the system, but excludes all falvation? Such a world does not appear to be worthy of the goodness of God, or consistent with his wisdom. With reverence I would observe:

§ 5. 1. To suffer men to live in a state of sin and rebellion, from age to age, for the sake of propagating their species, and without any provision of redeeming grace, is not consistent with divine goodness. How can it be consistent with infinite goodness to give being to so many millions of intelligent creatures without securing the happiness of one of them? Not one of all the stupendous system, on the supposition, is happy; and only justice in all its awful severities is displayed. Such a conduct, indeed, could not be called unjust, but could it be faid to be marked with goodness ? If it be good to manifest goodness, and eminently so to manifest mercy, such a system as the objection supposes, which excludes goodness and mercy, could not take place. Nor,

2. Could it be consistent with divine wisdom to place our representative in circumstances that made liis fall certain, without any provision of recovering gmce. Suppose our progenitor to represent his innumerable offspring, to be placed in perfect equi. librium with respect to the event of his probation,

and

« IndietroContinua »