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THE ORIGINAL, AND THE FALLEN, STATE OF MAN.
GENESIS i. 27.
God created man in his own image; in the image of God created He him.
SUCH was the original condition of man's nature. It came from the hands of the Almighty pure and perfect. Man himself has made it what it is.
Now, since a sound understanding of this matter lies very near the root of all true religion, and is indispensable toward our entire acceptance of the Gospel covenant, I shall endeavour to convey that just and practical apprehension of it which is so highly necessary. Our plan shall be, first, to consider shortly the original condition of man; and secondly, his fallen state-in other words, his present state by nature.
The result of the examination will surely be a firm conviction, that man is indeed "very far gone "from original righteousness, and is of his own
"nature inclined to evil"." When this has been established, I shall point out the use which we ought not to make of this most sure doctrine. The use we ought to make of it must form the subject of a separate discourse.
But here, at the beginning, let it be declared, that I shall treat the subject only practically; striving in either case, whether we look at man's nobility or at his degradation, on no account to go beyond the language which Scripture and experience fairly warrant; and which may well be understood and felt by willing hearts, to their great spiritual profit. Many are given to indulge a mischievous and needless curiosity concerning this doctrine, until they lose themselves in endless questionings which never can be answered. It is one of the subjects upon which religious people run quite wild. Whereas the questions proper to be asked upon it are― not, "what was the exact constitution of the "first man in every precise particular ?"-nor, "what is the extreme fulness of iniquity in any "man's or each man's person now?"-but rather such as these: "How may we know our"selves, in sober truth, with a view to growing "better?" and "how may we resist the wicked
* Art. IX.
ness that is within us, so as to regain what has been lost?" It is worse than unprofitable to be for ever ransacking the very depths and sinks of sinfulness, to overwhelm ourselves with more than real notions of individual depravity. Such is not (as I apprehend) the way of Scripture; nor is it fitted to do good. We cannot follow all the steps of wickedness. The Wise-man could not track them all"; neither can we nor would it do us any service, if we could. On the contrary, very many would be led to make corruption only an excuse for being satisfied with evil.
Nevertheless, we must surely know ourselves and learn the truth about our nature so far as to be made aware, thoroughly aware, of our exceeding great corruption; or we shall never learn true humbleness before our Maker, nor understand and value as we ought our Saviour's love for us. Without such knowledge, we shall never reverence his sacred person worthily; nor trust to his atonement made for us, with that entireness of dependence and that complete sense of our unworthiness, which alone becomes a race of sinners ransomed at so dear a cost. Yes, Christians, we must learn to feel our nature to be very evil, before it can be made good; we must first
b Cf. Eccles. vii. 29.
stoop very low, before we can ascend to heaven. I would not draw a veil to flatter man's pride, by hiding the depravity of sin. God forbid! I only wish to represent it with such truth and soberness as that all may allow the reality of the description, and see at once the necessity and the possibility of being made better.
Having premised thus much to guard the whole subject, let us proceed in the proposed order of it.
I. Our first concern will be, to look at man's original condition, as it proceeded from the hands of his Creator. "God made man upright." He "created man in his own image; in the image of "God created He him."-What may we suppose that image of our Maker to have been, in which the first man was thus formed?
Now here I shall not perplex the question by entering into merely probable reasonings upon a very wide and difficult subject. A thousand thoughts rush in upon our minds when we speak of the divine image, suggesting what may have been parts of it in various branches. Whatever there is left in man by which he is distinguished from inferior creatures-thought, reason, memory, reflection, every sort and shape of cleverness ;— free-will, dominion, with innumerable other things,
some higher and some lower than these ;-all put in claims, if we would search curiously, of having probably formed features in the whole beautiful resemblance. But we "do not enquire wisely,"
it may be, " concerning this:" let us confine
ourselves to that alone for which we have sure scriptural authority.
So far then as our present thoughts can rise to contemplation of God's high and perfect nature, what are the things which we can best believe, and most distinctly understand, concerning Him? We surely shall not err in fixing upon these; that he is a Being perfectly pure and holy; perfect in knowledge, and in all righteousness; full of mercy, truth, and love. Whatever we may think besides, these points must be considered clear.
Now, that all these were, severally, leading features of that resemblance to the image of God which man has lost, is to be gathered without doubt from Scripture. St. Paul, exhorting his Ephesian disciples to walk as persons who had learned Christ's power truly-so as to regain, through him, that better nature which had else been lost to them, speaks thus: "Put on the "new man, which after God is created in righteous
ness and true holiness." Agreeably to which he