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(1.) It is most contrary to the nature of God, who is the greatest good; and that which is most contrary to the greatest good, must needs be the greatest evil. It may be looked on as the nadir to zenith. The devil is not so contrary to God : for God gave the devil a being, but not sin. It is sin that makes the devil opposite to God; it is the mas: ter, he the scholar. The fire is hotter than the water which it heats. Sin fights against God; it is a deicide ; and, as one says, the sinner so far as in him lies, destroys the nature of God. Sin is a dethroniug of God, yea it strikes at his being. It musters up its forces in the open field against God; and when it is beaten from thence, it has its strony holds to go to; yea, like the thief on the cross, when it is crucified, it spits its venom against him. It is a walking contrary to him; and it rises against him even to the last gasp.
(2.) Sin is the mother of all evils that ever were or shall be. It is the big-bellied monster that is delivered daily of all other evils as its births. It is that which has brought forth all the fire-brands that ever were. What cast the angels out, of heaven, or Adam out of paradise ? Sin draws the sword against nations, makes women husbandless, mothers childless, and brings on wars, famine and pestilence. Personal evils, whether on soul or body, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, are all from sin. It must needs then be the greatest evil.
(3.) Sin is the concluding stroke of wrath on the soul. It is that to which people are entirely given up. And what is it that inakes hell in the world, that God gives as the last stroke after all the rest ? Why, it is to give up the soul to sin; Ezek. xxiv. 13. 'Because I have purged thee, and wou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee.' That is the doom, “Let bim that is filthy be filthy still.' He that was delivered up to Satan, was restored again : but we never hear of any being restored who were given up to them. selves. Better be given up to the devil than to sin.
OF THE FIRST SIN IN PARTICULAR.
Gen. iii. 6, 7,
-And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and it 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. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked: and they sewed fig. leaves together, and made themselves aprors.
N these words we are distinctly informed how the coves
nant of works was broken, and our first parents stript of their primitive innocence and integrity. Eve seduced by the devil, first ate of the forbidden fruit, and Adam followed her example. The act being completed by both, they immediately discovered, to their shame and dishonour, the mic serable state they were reduced to.
The words sufficiently found the following doctrine.
Doct. Our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, by eating the forbidden fruit.'
I have already shewn why the forbidden tree was called the tree of knowledge of good and evil, as also of what use it was in the covenant of works.' It remains that we shew,
1. How the eating of the forbidden fruit was the first sin of our first parents,
by which they fell.
1. I am to shew how the eating of the forbidden fruit WAS. the first sín of our first parents, by which they fell. It is not to be thought, that they were wholly innocent till they had the forbidden fruit in their mouths; for their covering of it in their hearts behoved of necessity to go before that; but the eating of it was that whereby their sin and apostacy from their Creator was completed. The first step of their sin keeins then to be doubting and unbelief of the threatening, Gen. iii. 4, 6. Their faith as to the truth of the threatening being first foundered, their heart plied to the temptation; and then succeeded a lust after the forbidden fruit; and then the sin was completed by their actual eating of it, as in the words of the text.
Satan, the old serpent, very artfully laid his train for enticing our first parents to eat this forbidden fruit. For he attacked the woman when alone, at a distance from her husband; he endeavoured to make her doubt of the truth of the divine threatening; he presented the fatal object, as fruit pleasant to the eye, and to be desired to make one wise: he pretended a higher regard for them than their sovereign Creator, who, he tacitly insinuated, grudged their happiness : and he used means to persuade them, that they should be like God, in the vast extent of their knowledge, upon their eating the delectable morsel. Thus the eyes of their mind were first blemished by a mist from hell ; which being admitted, gradually darkened their understanding, so that first doubting, and then disbelief of the threatening, ensued. Their will was easily conquered to a compliance with the temptation; then a corrupt affection to the tree seized them, discovering itself in a lustful looking at it: then the hand took it, and the mouth ate it, and the fatal morsel was swallowed.
II. I am next to shew why this fruit was forbidden.
1. It was not because God grudged the happiness of our first parents, as the devil blasphemously alleged, whom the event proved a liar, John viii. 44. Nor yet,
2. Because there was any evil in the fruit itself; for that could not be; for we are told, Gen. i. ult. that, at the close of the creation every thing was very good. This fruit was not forbidden because it was evil, but it was evil because it was forbidden. It was forbidden for the trial of man's obedience. Not that God knew not what was in man, and what he would be, but to discover the creatures weakness to himself without God, and that he might thence take occasion of advancing his own glory impaired by the sin of man, in a more illustrious manner than if innocent Adam had continued in his primitive state. But it may be asked, Why did God make choice of this for the trial of man? I answer, God did so most reasonably. For,
(1.) This being a thing in itself indifferent, was most meet for the trial of his obedience. For hereby his obedience was to turn upon the precise point of the will of God, which would have been the plainest evidence of obedience. Had it been to love God or his neighbour, nature itself taught him to do so, and by the natural make of his soul he was inclined to this. What trial would that have been to a man newly
created, and loaded with benefits from God, not to take another God, worship images, or take his name in vain, when he saw all to be God's creatures or servants ; to keep the sabbath, which was to return once a week only? He had no father or mother to honour, none to kill but her that was his own flesh, none to commit adultery with, none to steal from, none to bear false witness against, none to covet their goods. Thus the prohibition of a thing in itself indifferent was a proper test, and the only proper test for the trial of man.
(2.) Thus man's obedience or disobedience would be most clear and conspicuous, being in an external thing whereof his
very senses might be judge, which could not be in the internal acts of obedience.
(3.) This was most proper for asserting the sovereign dominion of God, who had set him down in a beautiful paradise, and made him lord of the world. Was it not very reasonable that God should keep one single tree from him, as a testimony of his holding of God as his great Landlord ?
(4.) This was most useful and necessary to man, as a memorandum of the state wherein he was created. For man was created with a free-will to good, whereof the tree of life was an evidence; but also to evil, whereof the tree of knowledge of good and evil was an evidence. So that in effect it was a continual watchword to him, and a beacon set up be- . fore him to beware of dashing on the rock of sin.
(3.) It was a great mercy to man, in that, beside the natural make of his soul, which was turned towards God as his chief happiness and end, he had this prohibition set to keep it in that posture. For as Aaron and Hur held up Moses ' hand, Exod. xvii. 12. so man had the fabric of his body looking upward, and this fair tree forbidden him, to teach him that his happiness lay not in the creatures, but in God. So that this tree being forbidden was a sign of emptiness hung before the creatures door, with that inscription, Here is not your rest; the creatures hand pointing man away from themselves to God, as the alone fountain of happiness.
(6.) Lastly, This was a compend of the whole law of God, wherein all was summarily comprehended, viz. love to God, and his neighbour, as will afterwards be made appear. III. I come now to consider the evil of this first sin. Some may be ready to say, Was not the eating of the forbidden fruit a little sin? So it appears indeed in the sight of blind man, whose eye being put out with it, sees not the great majesty of God, and the horrid evil of the action. But indeed it was most horrible, if ye consider, : 1. The aggravations of it.
2. The nature of it, 8. The effects of it,
First, Let us view the aggravations of this first sin. Consider,
1. The person who did it. I may say it was not a sinner that sinned, but an innocent person, free from all inclination to evil; one whom God made able to stand if he would, and endued with the image of God, without any mixture of sin. ful ignoranee, perverseness of will, or irregularity of affections. No wonder to see a man with a poor stock soon broken; but that a man who had such a large stock should play the bankrupt, was horrid indeed.
. What was the thing for which he broke the command, Achan had a wedge of gold to tempt him, and Judas thirty pieces of silver to entice his covetous disposition. But what was the enticing object in Adam's case ? " The fruit of a tree: A small thing indeed: but the smaller the thing was, the more inexcusable the sinner, whom Satan could draw after him by so slender a thread. What need had he of that, when God had given him abundance of other fruit ? But, with David, Adam spares his own flock, and takes his neighbour's one lamb.
3. The persons wronged by this sin. He sinned against God himself, to whom he owed the strietest obedience ; 2. gainst his soul and body, upon which he brought wrath and a curse; against all his posterity, who were then in his loins, upon whom his sin has entailed a scene of evils, under which the human race will groan to the end of time. Never did one sin strike against so many at once,
4. The time of this transgression. Man was scarcely well come out of the hand of his Creator, till he lifted up his heel against him. He stood very short while, till he turn. ed giddy with ambition, and fell into disgrace. It is probably thought he fell the same day he was created; and such an early revolt from his allegiance was a very high aggravation of his sin.