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1 Cor. xv. 22. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Our Holy Church, to make us sensible of the natural wants of man, and of the benefits which he receives through Christ ; and by these considerations to predispose our hearts to that sorrow for sin, which should distinguish Lent, and that thankfulness for mercy and salvation, with which Easter ought to be celebrated, — for these reasons as I apprehend, — begins at this time of year her course of lessons taken from the Scriptures. You heard very lately read to you the creation of the human race and their miserable fall ; and are prepared by the obscure prophecy of the seed of a woman, who should bruise the serpent's head, to expect, that you are speedily to celebrate the hard battle and glorious triumph of Jesus the Son of Mary, who is also in the Scripture distinguished by the name of the second
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Adam. 1 In these words of the Apostle we have, in a very short compass, the general principles of the Christian religion ; which may be said to depend, almost entirely, on original sin and imputed righteousness ; — for as Adam was to all mankind, the author of a mortal life on earth, so was Jesus Christ the author of resurrection from the dead and of life eternal, in the world to come.
As, in order to feel and know the value of our cure, it is necessary to comprehend the extent of our former disease, I shall treat to-day of Adam's history, and endeavour to shew you, how justly and how mercifully God has dealt with him and his descendants ; and what cause we have for thankfulness and holy fear, lest we should be found ungrateful despisers of the great salvation which has been offered to us.
It was, in the first place, very necessary and very worthy of the wisdom of God, that all mankind should proceed from one common parent ; that, springing from one blood and having in common the same hope and interest, they might consider each other in the light, and with the affection, of brethren. It is no objection to say, that the wickedness of mankind has in part, rendered this object vain; — it is still greatly answered by that voice of nature which can
1 Verse 45.
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never be entirely extinguished ; and, without which, society would itself be a den of lions. We know, by very instinct, the force of a common descent ; and we know, that the cruelties practised against the unfortunate negroes, were increased, and attempted to be justified, under the false and impious notion that they w T ere of
another and inferior race of men. Against such doctrines as these, in the very first act of creation, God expressly guarded.
With equal wisdom was Adam first formed as a witness to the creation of Eve ; and a part of his own body was chosen for this purpose, both to prove to her the power of that God who could make all things from nothing ; and that he might know and feel her kindred nature ; and that she was of the same materials with himself. And to increase this feeling of affection, he was made, we find, to experience the want of a companion ; and kept for some time in loneliness ; that he might know how necessary they were to each other ; and might cherish and love more tenderly the help-mate, which he had so much desired.
And though the simplicity of this early history of the world, the rude and helpless state in which its first inhabitants appear, has been made by some an objection to its probability ; yet, if fairly examined, we shall find it most worthy of
the wisdom of God, and of His love for the hu-
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man race. It would have been as easy for Him to have filled the world, at once, with a civilized and learned population ; and to have given them, from their very creation, all the arts and sciences ; which bring comfort to the present state of society. But the whole regular course of His dispensations would have thus been overturned, which ordained that man should acquire power and experience together ; and that, under the guidance of Providence, every improvement should be effected by the development of his own energies. Supposing that a child possessed, at first, the strength, and growth, and inclinations of a man ; what else could be expected, than, that without experience to direct those powers, he should turn them to the destruction of others and of himself? Such would have been the situation of mankind, if thrown at once, without the experience
arising from gradual improvement, into the powers and temptations of civilized society. But now they were as infants in God's hand : their language was gradually taught by Him ; by Him their hands were instructed ; and, till they should be able to use their knowledge, or to struggle with difficulty, they were laid, in ignorance and plenty, on the warm lap of Paradise.
It is for this reason God takes them from the common chances and dangers incident to their state ; and places them in one favoured garden, adorned, we are told, with all delightful
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plants, and all that were desirable for food : where, with little labour, and no care or sorrow, they pass their happy days, conversing with God continually, and walking evermore in the light
of His countenance. And that no fear or sickness might approach this happy spot, the tree of Life was planted in the midst ; a tree to which God had given the power of healing all diseases, and of preserving life ; or which, to speak more properly, was the Sacrament and outward sign of the spiritual grace, which preserved the man from sickness and from death.
For this preservation from death, I must here observe, was merely the effect of the free grace of the Almighty ; which preserved, by a never ceasing miracle, the bodily powers of man from decaying, and from weakness, and hoary hair, and trembling ; and which hindered death from attacking his frame, and weighing it down to the dust. For man was not naturally immortal ; nor was his body stronger than oak, or iron, or marble ; all of which decay, and crumble into dust, by time. And though our souls do not necessarily perish with the body ; yet is that soul supported in life and existence, by the free and uncontrolled mercy of God alone.
Immortality, then, — above all, a happy immortality — was to Adam the free and undeserved gift of God : and God might justly lay what commands on him He judged necessary j since all
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which he could do was far inferior, — was a mere nothing, — in comparison with the benefits which he had received from his Maker. What then were the commands, what the covenant and conditions, on which God promised to man eternal life and eternal happiness? The condition was simplyone ; so easy, too, that nothing could be devised more lenient or merciful. In the garden and close by the tree of Life, was one goodly tree ; and, as God himself told them, of rare and wonderful virtues ; which, however, was never to be tasted, touched, or handled ; on pain of losing all that the Almighty had given, and all that He
promised, of being shut out for ever from that happy garden, and of toiling on the earth a painful and laborious life, till, like the ox or the ass, they went down, without hope, or comfort, to the grave. All this was entirely consistent with Almighty wisdom and goodness : for no means so fit could be found, for keeping in check the evil desires of the heart, as one single trial always before their eyes ; which might practise them every day in obedience to their Maker, and in denying themselves, and their unruly wishes. All other temptations were removed ; but this one easy trial was purposely left in the way. It served always to remind them, that the garden was not theirs, but God's ; that it was His mercy, which allowed them to be there at all ; and that He might exclude them from all the trees, as well
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as from the one. And by practising them in daily self-denial and obedience, it served to weaken all
fleshly lusts ; to wean them from those wants, and wishes, which cling to the body ; and to make them more fit, in God's good time, to be removed by Him to Heaven ; and to pass there an eternity of praise and glory, with their elder brethren, the angels.
For most learned men are of opinion that this may be, without rashness, conjectured to be the end for which God had mercifully destined man ; — to fill up, in Heaven, the room of those miserable angels, who, with Satan at their head, had been driven from the seats of happiness. And, for this reason, they observe, was the Devil so envious of man ; and sought, under the disguise of a serpent, to mar the work of the Creator ; and to provoke Him to destroy the creature whom He was about to raise from dust to glory.
Man, according to this opinion, was placed on earth, to be educated for Heaven ; to be fitted here, by light and easy trials of his faith and obedience, for that blessed company of faithful
and obedient spirits, who see the face of God, and rejoice to yield Him honour and worship. Human folly, however, or, to speak more truly, human disobedience and want of faith, deprived him of this glorious hope. For we may observe, it was his faith in God, which the Devil sought
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first— to undermine. " Ye shall not surely die," were his words to the woman. He wished to persuade her, that God had told a falsehood ; and had, from selfish motives, desired to keep knowledge to Himself alone. Thus did our first parents, by hearkening to him, express their willingness to believe any one sooner than God I What madness was this, and what wickedness ! Not to remain content with what God had given j but to grasp at the whole ; to desire to be Gods ; to be equal with their Maker ; and to snatch
from Him that power which He had used towards them so kindly.
It was gluttony ; for the tree was good to look upon ; and they thought, on the testimony of the Devil, that it was good for food. It was pride ; — for they would no longer be subjects ; but longed to be equal with their Maker. It was robbery and sacrilege ; for the tree was not theirs, but God's ; the only portion of the world which He had reserved, and sanctified for Himself. All else, besides this one thing, He had given to them : and this one tree they envied Him. What a number of commandments here are broken ; how many vicious principles set at work in the soul by the slight temptation of an apple ! Well might they tremble, and hide themselves, when their eyes were opened ; when they awoke to the knowledge of God's wrath ; when they found themselves naked mortal creatures, —
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stripped of that righteousness with which God had clothed them as with a garment, that Holy Spirit which was now departed for ever !
For what help was there, if their death were a little while deferred ? — yet were they to leave this Paradise, to lose all grace and comfort of the Almighty, and to feed on the fruits of hard and bitter labour ; till hoary hairs, or disease, or those calamities, which sin was about to bring on the world, should weigh them down to the dust from which they sprung. What was now that high prerogative of rule over the animals, that force and wisdom which were able to tame the strongest ; what that rational soul, the last remains of God's image, and that knowledge, that fatal knowledge, which they bought so dearly, — without the blessing and protection of God ? What* but so many means of sinning more grievously, and of making themselves and their neighbours more splendidly unhappy, than the brutes which perish ? It has been well said by the ancients, that man without the fear of God, as he is the
most crafty and powerful, so is he the most dangerous and cruel of all wild beasts.
And, to all this sin and wickedness, add all the miseries to which our nature is liable ; and take away the hope of a better life, and a directing Providence ; and you will conceive the wretched state to which Adam had reduced mankind. Terrible triumph of death and Satan :
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— bitter ravage among the noblest works of God ! How has one moment defeated all the merciful intentions of Heaven, and ^humbled millions of glorious immortal creatures, to a situation worse and more miserable than that of their servants, the beasts of the field ! Who shall stand in the gap, or stay the anger of an offended God ? What sacrifice for sin shall satisfy the debt, which
human nature has incurred 5 and deliver those from death whom the aweful word of God had sentenced ? To men this had been impossible ; but all things are possible with God and with His Son. Though the word had gone forth 5 and by that word we needs must die 5 yet was the Son of God enabled to preserve our souls from destruction 5 and raise in time our bodies again from the grave ; when all, who follow His steps on earth, and trust in His name for entrance into Heaven, shall live and reign with Him to all eternity.
This second covenant is called the covenant of grace ; in which word, however some may use it, there is no mysterious meaning ; it only signifies a free gift, or what we express by the name of favour, which we indeed receive most largely by the merits and mediation of our Blessed Saviour. For, besides, that it was an act of free grace to a fallen world, the privileges, enjoyed by us, are far greater than even those of Paradise. By the first, a single transgression incurred the
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pain of death ; "do this," was its language, " be obedient and live for ever ; but be wary, — for a single breach of duty, a single offence, has death for its punishment ; death without hope, or remission."
But Jesus Christ, on the other hand, assures the penitent of forgiveness ; and to enable us to keep His righteous and easy laws, He gives us His Holy Spirit, His example, and His prayers, interceding for our pardon at the throne of the Father. When such are the privileges of the Gospel, how, as St. Paul observes, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ? God forbid, that I should conceal, that there are terrors, as well as comforts, in the resurrection thus purchased by the blood of Christ. If the single act of disobedience were punished by certain death ; what must be their punishment, for whom Christ's blood is shed in vain ; who
despise His example, and His doctrines ; and flatter themselves, that, by an outward reverence, or no reverence at all, so they do but sometimes think highly of His merits and sacrifice, they shall accompany Him into the most Holy place of God ? For such, there is appointed a place of darkness, of weeping, and of gnashing of teeth. Though all are raised, good and bad, and the victory of our Lord is complete ; though He receives the kingdom over death and hell, yet are those His enemies — who would not, that He
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should reign over them, who would not obey Him, or follow His laws, yet are they — condemned to a second and more grievous death.
Think what we will, believe what we may, nothing unclean or impenitent can enter into
the kingdom of God. " Without," saith the Spirit, "without, are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whatsoever loveth, or maketh, a lie."i
Judge, then, yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord. Repent you truly of your sins past ; and call on Christ for pardon and for grace to amend your lives. For remember, without a sincere amendment, His pardon cannot be pleaded. The gifts of God must not be used in idleness. The garden itself of Eden was to be tilled ; and though our salvation, through Christ, is a free and unbought favour, those only, who sow in righteousness, can expect to reap in mercy. 1 Rev. xxii. 15.
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