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hended in the Words of my Text? And from whence I shall take occasion to Dis, course upon these two Heads.
I. The Justice of the Divine Decree of Death to all Men. It is appointed unto Men once to die.
II. The Justice and Wisdom of the Die vine Decree of Judgment to be executed, after Death, and not in this Life: But after this the Judgment.
First then, if we consider only the light of Reason, nothing can appear more just, than the Divine Decree which imposeth a necessity of Dying upon all Men. God being the Author of our Existence, and the Lord of Life and Death, might justly dispose of, or dispense either, according to his Good Pleasure.' It Was a sufficient Obligation to Man to have received the benefit of Ex, istence, without expecting a perpetual and invariable conservation of that Existence. The very Nature and Constitution of Man declares him to be Mortal; and then surely it could neither be unjust or unreasonable in God to permit the natural course of Nature to be observed. Thus far the Divine Decree is unquestionable, and secure from all Objections.
But then the revealed History of the Creation of Man, and the Divine Dispenfations in relation to him, includę fome ap
parent shew of Injustice; which may induce inconsidering Persons to accuse God of overmuch Rigour, and even Tyranny, in condemning the whole Race of Mankind to the Sentence of Death, for the single tault of the First Man; and extending the Punishment of that to all his posterity, which was yet unborn, and therefore wholly innocent of it. A proceeding and manner of Judicature, which would appear harsh and even cruel arnong Men; elpecially as it hath been erroneously represented by many Writers and Divines, who endeavouring to amplifie the unlimited Power of God, and manness of Man, would perswade us, that herein God had no respect to the Merits or Demerits of Men; that he created the far greater part of Mankind for no other end, than to make them miserable, and to shew forth, in their Punishments, the Effects of his Almighty Power; and that in punishing the fall of Adam, he subjected his whole Posterity, not only to Temporal but Eternal Death. This would indeed effcctually declare the Power of God, but such a Power as would be (dious and Intolerable, Unjust and Tyrannical, far unbecoming the Purity of a most Perfect Being It becomes us to entertain more noble Conceptions of God, and not fancy him to be tlje Author of such arbitrary Punishments, as are inconsistent with his Holiness and Justice. To vindicate therefore these Divine Attributes in taking occasion from the
Fall of Adam to form an Universal Decree of Death to all his Posterity, it will not be unseasonable to reflect a little upon it before I pass any further.
To clear this Matter therefore, we may observe, that the Nature of Man, as como pounded of Soul and Body, is mortal, and subject to Dissolution, as all compounded Bodies are. It is our Soul alone, which being immaterial, and void of all Composition, can promise to it self an immortal State, and that no longer than while it pleaseth God that the ordinary course of Nature shall be observed. Death then was the natural Effect and Consequence of our Constitution, even in the State of Innocence, from which Man could not be rescued, but by a miraculous and extraordinary Assistance of God, constantly preserving the Union of Soul and Body, removing Diseases, repairing the Defects of Nature, and renewing the Vigour of it. This extraordinary Allistance therefore, and means of Preservation, was a superadded Favour of God, which he might conferr upon Man, upon whatsoever Condition himself pleased. Subjection, Adoration, and Gratitude was owing to God, the Author and Preserver of our Being, even without the Obligation of this lupernatural Benefit, The Dictates of Reason and Natural Religion, were wholly independent of it; and although performed exactly, and without any intervenient Sin, could not justly claim
any other Reward from God, than the continuation of Existence, as long as the ordinary course of Nature should permit it
The Gift of Immortality was extraordinary, and as such might be annexed to whatsoever Conditions or Persons God should please to do it. God therefore made a Covenant with Adam, and promiled to him, That if besides the observation of the Law of Nature, to which he was obliged from the Con. sideration of his ordinary State and Condition, he would more particularly manifest his Obedience and Subjection to him, by abstaining from the seemingly pleasant Fruit of a Tree in the Garden, called the Tree of knowledge of good and evil; he would in récompence entail upon himself and his Pofte. rity, performing the same Condition, a perpetual fruition of the same State of Life, which he then enjoyed, and continuc his Existence beyond the ordinary course of Nature, even for ever: Which because it could not be effected without some extraordinary Remedies and Assistance, God created for that purpose th: Tree of Lif', by the powerful vertue of whose Fruit the decaying Nature of Man might from time to time be restored and prelerved without Corruption. Whereas if he should neglect to perform this small Condition, and be tempted to violate the Divine Prohibition of Tasting the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he should forfeit this fuperadded
Promise of Immortality, not only to himfelt
, but to all his Posterity descending froin him; not to be immediately destroyed ur put to Death, but to be deprived of that extraordinary Alfistance, and so left to the ordinary course of Nature.
When Adam therefore really broke the Condition, and violated the Command of God; God might justly withdraw, as he in effect did, the supernatural Benefit of Immortality, and thenceforward deny it to Mankind.
The Mystery of the Fall of Adam being thus explained; nothing can be more unexceptionable, or more agreeable to the stricteit Rules of Justice and Reason. Hereby no Man is punished for the fault of another: For the loss or rather not obtaining a Favour, to which we have naturally no Right or Claim, can in no wise be called a Puniihment. Hereby the Justice of God is cleared beyond all Contradiction, seeing that no Wrong or Injury is done unto any. His Goodness is made evident in entailing to wonderful a Reward as Immortality, upon the observation of so easie a Condition; and enforcing the observation of it, by an Argument drawn from the happiness or unhappiness of all Mankind ensuing to it; which in all reason might be supposed to make Adam infinitely more careful and concerned in it.