Page images
PDF
EPUB

limited, and that His word was intended to communicate as from Him no other knowledge but that which will serve to make us wise unto salvation. RUGBY CHAPEL, February 15th, 1835.

(Septuagesima Sunday.)

SERMON II.

THE FALL.

Genesis, iii. 15.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between

thy seed and her seed : it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

THESE words are a part of the sentence passed after the Fall upon the three parties most concerned in it, the woman, the man, and the serpent. I have said before, that there is much in these early chapters of Genesis which we do not understand, and which it is any thing but wise to dwell on and argue from minutely, just as if we did understand them. But amidst passages of this sort there are others not only clear, but to be numbered with the most instructive of the whole Scripture, for the large and most profitable view which they afford of the condition of mankind. Of this kind are those verses of which the text is one; the judg

ment passed upon mankind and on their tempter. These verses offer much to call for our attention, and suggest two ways in particular of considering them; one which I may call the moral view of them, taking them as they show the most important points in our actual condition; the other relating especially to the verse which I have chosen for my text, and showing forth by this earliest example that general character of Scripture prophecy which runs through the whole Bible.

First, then, let us consider the whole passage from the fourteenth verse to the nineteenth, as leading us to observe some most important points in the actual condition of mankind. Now it will be clear, I think, on a moment's consideration, that the points here dwelt on are precisely those which render it impossible for the human race, taken as a body, to enjoy upon earth either physical happiness or intellectual; in other words, to be either perfectly easy and comfortable in their outward condition, or perfectly able to gratify that desire of knowledge which the strong and cultivated understanding feels so earnestly. That is, in other words yet again, God has so ordered the course of nature in this world now become sinful, that mankind shall be unable to find happiness in those things in which alone their corrupted nature would seek it, the pleasures of the body or of the understanding. It cannot be doubted that the corruption of our

nature consists in this very thing, that we are careless of God and seek our happiness from His creatures, either from ourselves or others. But He has ordered things so, that this search can never generally succeed; if mankind will not seek their happiness from God, there is a law of their condition which declares that they shall not find it elsewhere.

Now the enjoyment of this happiness in worldly things is mainly hindered, as we can all see, by the necessity of labour and of death. The difficulty of providing for our bodily wants obliges us to labour; we can neither be fed nor clothed without exertion; without such a degree of exertion as exceeds the limits of natural and agreeable exercise. This necessity bearing alike upon both sexes, although in a different way; imposing upon the one labour and anxiety abroad, on the other labour and anxiety at home in the care of a family; manifestly has a tendency not only to abridge what are commonly called the comforts and enjoyments of life, but also, by denying us leisure, interferes no less certainly with the gratification of our understandings by the pursuit of knowledge. We see that the great bulk of mankind have no leisure to improve themselves to any high degree intellectually. But again, when man was sentenced to death, it implied that his body and all his faculties should have a natural tendency to decay and wear out

after a certain time. . Adam may have lived many years after the Fall, yet it is no less true, that the work of death began in him from the very moment when the sentence was uttered that he should die. And so in us all, though we may live out our full term of fourscore years, yet death is working in us, in some measure, from the very hour that we are born. It is true, that when we compare one part of our life with another, it may be said, as I observed not long since, that life is working in the young in comparison with the old; there is in youth undoubtedly so much of growth and vigour. Yet even in youth there are signs of death's working; the disorders which befall infancy and childhood, even the occasional pains, sicknesses, weaknesses, to which the healthiest body is liable, all show that this wonderful machine of our earthly frames is not designed to last for ever; that it has tendencies to decay and disorder which cannot even be delayed for fourscore years without much self-restraint and care. Now this construction of our bodies necessarily limits our powers of enjoyment, no less in mind than in body. Even had we leisure to follow after knowledge to our heart's desire, yet the very imperfections of our bodily frames oblige us to moderate our pursuit of it, or else often cut us off in the midst of it. Thus the span of human wisdom is necessarily limited; for if we so redouble our efforts as to anticipate in

« PreviousContinue »