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know, that the sins of which they were guilty deserved death ; by which is meant neither temporal nor spiritual death ; but eternal destruction, the second death, the death threatened, as the proper and full punishment of sin, when moral government was first instituted, and man was put under law.
His words are,
" Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."* He proceeds in the next chapter to speak of that punishment of the sinner, which he here says is death, according to the revealed, known judgment of God. We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth, against them which commit such things. “And thinkest thou, Oman, who doest these things, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up wrath, against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds. To them who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, honour and immortality : Eternal life : But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man, that doth evil.” In these words he clearly, and in the most decisive manner, declares what that death is of which sinners are worthy, according to the judgment of God, and which will be inflicted on the finally impeni. tent. It consists in suffering the wrath of God, which shall be poured on the heads of the wicked after the day of judgment : And this indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, is set in opposition to eternal life, which the redeemed shall enjoy : therefore must be without end. This death therefore is not temporal, nor spiritual death, nor annihilation ; but endless existence in misery, suffering that evil which is the wages of sin, and is infinitely worse than non-existence,
If all natural evil, that is, unhappiness, pain and suffering, could be separated from sin, and the sinner could have all the enjoyment and happiness he desires and seeks in the way of sin, it would be no sensible punish
Romans i. 32.
ment, and really no punishment at all to him ; but in his view, it would be a real good, perfectly agreeable to his desire and choice, to be allowed to go on in sin ; and the contrary would be the object of his greatest aversion, and the greatest evil to him. Therefore there can be no propriety or reason in threatening him, to give him
up to walk in his own ways, and do nothing but sin. This indeed could not be a threatening to him, but would be considered by him as a precious promise of good.
It will perhaps be said, that though living in sin be not an evil in the view of the sinner, but a desirable good ; yet to innocent man, and in the perfect exercise of holiness, to whom this threatening was pronounced if he transgressed, sin appeared to be the greatest evil ; and therefore nothing worse to him could be threatened, than spiritual death, which consists wholly in sin.
Upon this it may be observed, that we cannot reasonably infer from this, that spiritual death or sinning was threatened as the punishment of sin ; because, for the reasons that have been given, there is an impropriety in such a threatening, as it is only threatening that if he did sin, he should continue to sin if he chose it, and be left wholly at liberty to do as he pleased. And this is really no threatening, for it is no punishment to do and to have what we choose. But this is all that would be threatened in this case, that if he once chose to sin, he should be suffered to sin hereafter, without being counteracted or interrupted. Besides, the first sin was as great an evil to innocent, holy man, as any after sin, and the most dreadful, as it was connected with all after sin, and introduced it. There is the same reason, therefore, why the first transgression should be considered, and threatened as a punishment, which is given, that any after sin should be so considered, and threatened. It will be said, this could not be, as it was improper and impossible. But it may be said with as much reason, that it was improper and really impossible to threaten any after sin, or any degree of it, as a punishment of the first sin, which appears from what has been said.
When the apostle Paul says, “ sin revived, and I I died,” he does not mean what is called a spiritual death,
for this consists in sin, or is sin itself : But Paul distinguishes the death he died from sin, and speaks of it as the effect of sin. Sin by the law slew him ; and sin wrought and produced death, i. e. brought him under the curse of the law. He died, that is, found himself dead, being under the threatening and curse of that law which was given to Adam, and denounced death upon the transgressor, even eternal destruction.
Is not the death originally threatened, clearly stated by this apostle ?
It is granted that in a few passages of scripture, those who are wholly inclined to sin, and so under the dominion of sin, are said to be dead ; and the word death is
1 perhaps sometimes used to denote such a state. But when these words are used in this sense, they are evidently used not to express the punishment of sin ; and have no reference to the original threatening, or any thing of that kind. To be dead, in this sense, is always mentioned as a crime, and not as a punishment of any crime.
5. On the whole, it appears from what has been said on this question, respecting the death threatened to the disobedience of man, that it means a being separated from all natural good and happiness, unto all natural evil or misery ; continuing in endless, miserable exist. ence, suffering the just punishment of sin against God. This is to die in the highest and most proper sense ; and is the only death with which a rational moral agent can be threatened or punished, so as fully and properly to express the true desert of sin, and answer the ends of moral government.
This is the original and proper meaning of the word death, and of dying, and no other idea was affixed to it, when the threatening was denounced to man ; and he was doubtless made to understand it, when the law was made known to him, if he needed any particular instruction, in order to know the meaning of the threatening. And when the separation of soul and body, which took place after man had sinned, and was restored to a new state of probation, was called death, to distinguish the death here threatened from that, it is called the second death, which is suspended, and will not take place till
Concerning Divine Providence
, Part )
1 redemption is finished, and soul and body are restored to their original union, by the general resurrection.
Having inquired and found what was the penalty threatened to the transgressor of the law, under which man was made ; it is now to be considered, whether any promise of reward was given to him, if he continu. ed perfectly obedient.
What has been said to prove that the angels had a time of trial of their obedience, and a promise of eternal life, if they continued obedient through the time of trial,* is equally applicable to man, and as full a proof that the latter was not only secure in happiness and the favour of God, so long as he continued obedient ; but had a time of trial appointed him, with a promise that upon his persevering in obedience to the end of that time, he should be confirmed in holiness and the favour of God. But there is a particular and decisive evidence of this, with respect to man, which we have not in the instance of the angels. This is, the tree of life, which was planied in the midst of the garden, and what is said of it. The name of this tree is significant, and points out the design and use of it. It was called the tree of life, because by partaking of the fruit of it, man was to have eternal life confirmed to him, of which this was the appointed pledge or seal. This is made certain by what is said respecting it, after man had transgressed, viz. that man was not suffered to continue in the garden, but was driven out of it, “lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” This cannot be understood, without supposing that the fruit of this tree, and man's partaking of it, was the appointed sign and pledge of eternal life, or the seal of a promise that he should live forever. Man having sinned, and forfeited the promise, it was not proper that he should partake of this constituted pledge of eternal life, or continue in a situation, in which there was a possibility of his eating of this fruit. Agreeable to this, and with allusion to it, Christ says, “ To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God,” which is a promise
• Page 211, 212, 213.
of eternal life. * This is still farther confirmed by what St. Paul says of the law given to man, in his primitive state, viz. that it was ordained unto life.t And that he that doeth the things required in it, shall live by them. I This must refer to the original law given to man when innocent, or before he sinned ; for no such law could be ordained to life, or propose and promise life on this condition, since sin took place, it being impossible that man, since the first apostasy, should obtain life in this way. This the apostle observes in the passages just quoted. “ The commandment, which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death. For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse : For it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all the things written in the book of the law to do them.” Therefore the law given to man in his primitive state, which threatened death to the transgressor, and cursed him, promised eternal life to him upon perfect obedience. And as he sinned, and so failed of obtaining this life by obedience, the death and curse threatened to disobedi. ence is come upon
him. We are not expressly told how long man was to continue in obedience, before he might eat of the tree of life, and have eternal life made sure to him: Nor why he might not, and did not, eat of the fruit of the tree directly, and put an end to his probation state, and have eternal life sealed to him. But we may be certain there was some wise appointment and regulation concerning this. And perhaps we are not left to mere conjecture about it. Is it not very probable, if not beyond a doubt, that this tree of life had no fruit on it, when this transaction took place, and the promise was made ; or the fruit had not come to maturity, so as to be eaten : And that man was told, that if he continued obedient till ripe fruit was on that tree he should then eat of it, as a token and pledge of eternal life, being made sure to him? This fixed the time of his probation, in the wisest and best
Man could not tell the hour nor day in which he might eat of this tree, and be confirmed; but he ·
• Rev. ü. 7.
† Rom. vii. 10.
* Chap. x. 5.Gal, üi. 12