« PreviousContinue »
blood of the other ; and since the progency of Adam is increased into vast societies, all the disasters of the world, as famine, pestilence, deluges, the fury of beasts, have not been so destructive of mankind, as the sole malignity of man against those that partake of the human nature.
To conclude; who can make a list of the evils to which the body is liable by the disagreeing elements that compose it? The fatal seeds of corruption are bred in itself. It is a prey to all diseases, from the torturing stone to the dying consumption. It feels the strokes of death a thousand times before it can die once. At last life is swallowed up of death. And if death were a deliverance from miseries, it would lessen its terror, but it is the consummation of all. The first death transmits to the second. As the body dies by the soul's forsaking it, so the soul, by separation from God, its true life, dies to its well-being and happiness for ever.
THE CORRUPTION OF HUMAN NATURE.
1. The rebellion of the first man against the great Creator was a sin of universal efficacy, that derives a guilt and stain to mankind in all ages of the world. The account the scripture gives of it, is grounded on the relation which all men have to Adam, as their natural and moral principle. Their natural. God created one man in the beginning from whom all others derive their being : and that the unity might be the more entire, he formed of him that aid which was necessary for the communicating kind to the world. “He made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell'on all the face of the earth.” Acts xvii. 26. And as the whole race of mankind was virtually in Adam's loins, so it was presumed to give virtual consent to what he did. When he broke, all suffered shipwreck, that were contained in him as their natural original. The angels were created immediately and distinctly, without dependance upon one another as to their original; therefore when a great number revolted from God, the rest were not complicated in their sin and ruin. But when the universal progenitor of men sinned, there was a conspiracy of all the sons of Adam in that rebellion, and not one subject deft in his obedience.—He was the moral principle of mankind. In the first treaty between God and man, Adam was considered as a single person, but as “caput gentus,” and he contracted for all his descendants by ordinary generation. His person was the fountain of theirs, and his will the representative of theirs. From hence his vast progeny became a party in the covenant, and had a title to the benefits contained in it upon his obedience, and was liable to the curse upon his violation of it. Upon this ground the apostle institutes a parallel between Adam and Christ, that “as by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous," Rom. v. 19. As Christ, in his death on the cross, did not suffer as a private person, but as a surety and sponsor representing the whole church, according to the testimony of scripture, “If one died for all, then were all dead;" so the first Adam, who was “the figure of him that was to come,” in his disobedience was esteemed a public person representing the whole race of mankind; and by a just law it was not restrained to himself, but is the sin of the common nature. Adam broke the first link in the chain whereby mankind was united to God, and all the other parts which depended upon it are nece
ecessarily separated from him. From hence the scripture saith, that by nature we are the children of wrath,” Eph. ii. 3; that is, liable to punishment, and that hath relation to guilt.
And of this we have convincing experience in the common evils which afflict mankind before the commission of any actual sin.
The cries of infants who are only eloquent to grief, but dumb to all things else, discover that miseries attend them. The tears which are born with their eyes, signify that they are come into a state of sorrow. troops of deadly diseases are ready to seize on them immediately after their entrance into the world, which are the apparent effects of God's displeasure, and therefore argue man to be guilty of some great crime from his birth! The ignorance of this made the heathens accuse nature, and blaspheme God under that mask, as less kind and indulgent to man than to the creatures below him. They are not under so hard a law of coming into the world. They are presently instructed to swim, to fly, to run for their preservation. They are clothed by nature, and their habits grow in proportion with their bodies, some with feathers, some with wool, others with scales, which are both habit and armour: but
man, who alone is sensible of shame, is born naked, and though of a more delicate temper, is more exposed to injuries by distempered seasons, and utterly, unable to repel or avoid the evils that encompass him. Now the account the scripture gives of original sin silences all these complaints. Man is a transgressor from the womb;' and how can he expect a favourable reception into the empire of an offended God? Briefly; sometimes death enters into the retirements of nature, and changes the womb into a grave; which proves, that as soon as we partake of the human nature, we are guilty of the sin that is common to it; “for the wages of sin is death,” Rom. vi. 23. Adam, in his innocent state had the privilege of immortality, but by him “sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men” as a just sentence upon the guilty, "for that all have sinned," v. 12.
An hereditary corruption is transmitted to all that naturally descend from him. If Adam had continued in his obedience, the spiritual as well as the natural life had been conveyed to his children; but for his rebellion he lost his primitive rectitude, and contracted a universal corruption; which he derives to all his posterity. And as in a disease there is a defect of health, and a distemper of the humours that affect the body; so in the depravation of nature, there is not the mere want of holiness, but a strong proclivity to sin. This privation of original righteousness, considered as a sin, is naturally from Adam, the principle of lapsed and corrupt nature: but, as a punishment, it is meritoriously from him, and falls under the ordination of divine justice. Man cast it away, and God righteously refuses to restore it.
It is a solicitous impertinency to inquire nicely about the manner of conveying this universal corruption; for the bare knowledge of it is ineffectual to the cure. And what greater folly than to make our own evils the object of simple speculation? I shall consider only that general account of it, which is set down in the scripture. It is the universal and unchangeable law of nature,
that every thing should produce its like, not only in regard of the same nature that is propagated from one individual to another without a change of the species, but in respect of the qualities with which that nature is evidently affected. This is visible in the several kinds of creatures in the world; they all preserve the nature of the principle from whence they
are derived, and retain the vein of their original, the quality of their extraction. Thus our Saviour tells us, Mat. vii. 18, that the fruit partakes of the rottenness of the tree; and whatever " is born of the flesh, is flesh,” John iii. 6. The title of flesh doth not signify the material part of our humanity, but the corruption of sin with which the whole nature is infected. This is evident by the description the apostle gives of it, that the flesh “is not subject to the law of God;" and that which aggravates the evil is, that it cannot be, Rom. viii. 7. Sinful corruption is expressed by this title, partly in regard it is transmitted by the way of carnal propagation; “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” Psalm. li. 5; and partly in regard it is exercised by the carnal members. This corruption is a poison so subtle, that it pierces into all the powers of the soul; so contagious, that it infects all the actions; so obstinate, that only omnipotent grace can heal it. More particularly;
1. It is an innate habit, not merely acquired by imitation. The root of bitterness is planted in the human nature, and produces its fruits in the various seasons of life. No age is free from its working; every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil, and continually evil, Gen. vi. 5. We see this verified in children, when the most early acts of their reason and the first instances of their apprehension are in sin. If we ascend higher and consider man in his infant state, the vicious inclinations which appear in the cradle, the violent motions of anger which disturb sucklings, their endeavours to exercise a weak revenge on those that displease them, convince us that the corruption is natural, and proceeds from an infected original.
2. As it is natural, so universal. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean ?” Job xiv. 4; that is, how can a righteous person be born of a sinner ? The answer is peremptory, “Not one.” The fountain was poisoned in Adam, and all the streams partake of the infection. All that are derived from him in a natural way, and have a relation to him as their common father, are sharers in this depravation. What difference soever there is in their climates, colours, and external conditions of life, yet the blood from whence they spring, taints them all.
3. Corrupt nature is pregnant with the seeds of all sin, though they do not shoot forth together: and for this several accounts may be given. Though all sins agree in their cause and end, yet some are contrary in their exercise. The human spirit is not capable of many passions in their height at the same time; and it is the art of our spiritual enemies to suit their temptations to the capacity of man. As the same produces different effects in different bodies, according to those various humours which are predominant in them ; so the same corruption of nature works variously according to the different mpers of men. For though the conception of sin depends immediately upon the soul, yet to the bringing of it forth, the concurrence of the external faculties is requisite. Thus a voluptuary who is restrained from the gross acts of sensuality by a disease or age, may be as vicious in his desires, as another who follows the pernicious swing of his his appetite, having a vigorous constitution. Briefly; the variety of circumstances by which the inward corruption is excited and drawn forth, makes a great difference as to the open and visible acts of it. Thus an ambitious person who uses clemency to accomplish his design, would exercise cruelty if it were necessary to his end. It is true, some are really more temperate, and exempted from the tyranny of the flesh than others; Cicero was more virtuous than Catiline, and Socrates than Aristophanes : but these are privileged persons, in whom the efficacy of divine providence either by forming them in the womb, or in their education, or by conducting them in their maturer age, hath corrected the malignity of nature. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God's image,” Rom. iii. 23. And that sin breaks forth so outrageously in some as in others, the restraint iş from a higher principle than common and corrupt nature.
4. This corruption though natural, is yet voluntary and culpable.
(1.) In some respects it is voluntary ;-in its principle and cause, the will of Adam that originally was ours. All habits receive their character from those acts by which they are produced ; and as the disobedience of Adam was voluntary, so is the depravation that sprung from it.--It is inherent in the will. If Adam had derived a leprosy to all men, it were an involuntary evil, because the diseases of the body are foreign to the soul; but when the corruption invades the internal faculties, it is denominated from the subject wherein it is seated. It is voluntary in its effects, the numberless actual sins proceeding from it: and if the acts that freely flow from this corruption are voluntary, the principle must be of the same nature.