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THE SOURCE OF AFFLICTION.
From the bless'd source of good
The same rash hand
Unbarr'd the gates of hell, and let loose sin,
“ BY ONE MAN SIN ENTERED INTO THE WORLD, AND DEATH BY SIN ; AND SO DEATH PASSED UPON ALL MEN, FOR THAT ALL HAVE SINNED.
ROMANS V., XII.
It is of primary importance that we should entertain correct views of the source of human misery. A mistake on this subject cannot exist without producing consequences highly injurious in their character. It will lead us either to impugn the character of God, as a benevolent being; or, to cherish dispositions inimical to confidence, submission, and patience. The true source of all misery is-sin. This is the fruitful occasion of all the sorrows by which the world is agonised. To man, therefore, and not to his Maker, must its existence be ascribed. “ God is love; "this is the sum
of his moral character, the glory of his nature, and that which is the chief object of his own complacency. It is the essence of benevolence to love and produce happiness. Full of blessedness in himself, the earth was called into being by its great Author, that it might be a vehicle, or medium, for the circulation and diffusion of his own happiness; and had the original design of man's creation been realised, the world would have exhibited the glorious spectacle of a whole race, innocent, united, and happy, having one heart and one way ;-a heart beating in unison with heaven, and diffusing with every pulse, life, and health, and joy, to the remotest members of the body. In conformity with this benevolent design, man was emphatically created after the image of God, “ in righteousness and true holiness ;" having in his nature no one stain of impurity, and no one trace of imperfection, to mar the dignity and grandeur with which he had been invested. All was light in his understanding it admitted truth without prejudice, and without any necessary error, except such as proceeded from mere ignorance. All was rectitude in his will:—it was an exact copy of the will of God, as the impression on the wax is of the seal by which it has been produced ; and it invariably followed, as the needle doth the pole, the manifestations of duty which God revealed. All was harmony in his affections :-God's law was written on his heart, and his affections were so many ready servants, to execute what reason dictated and the will approved. Then the entire soul was the habitation of the Deity, and, as a faithful mirror, reflected the glory of the communicable perfections of its divine Creator ; whilst the body, where yet unbridled appetite and lawless lust had found no place, yielded all its members “ as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Such once was man. God could not but be pleased with the work of his own hands, for it
very good ; " and, as the present mark of his regard,
he “crowned him with glory and honour,” bliss and inmortality, and surrounded him with blessings of every kind. Nature within him, and nature without him, conspired to promote his enjoyment. Within, all was peaceful, serene, and happy. The soul, like the glassy surface of the ocean, unruffled by the gentlest breeze, had yet felt no tumult of contending corruptions; but, satisfied in itself, conscious of innocence, blessed with the unclouded manifestations of divine favor, and the most intimate and endeared communion with its Creator, it experienced ineffable delight, and constant overflowing joy. Without, all nature was formed to contribute to his happiness. But though the whole world was happy and beautiful, and had received the divine approbation and blessing, it was not throughout deemed a fit residence for its newly-formed master, but he was placed in Eden, in a garden planted by the Lord,-a fair, embalmed, and lovely spot, which had been enriched by the mercy
of Jehovah with every thing that could minister to delight and joy, and full of the shadows and similitudes of “
a better country, that is, an heavenly.” There he was surrounded by every thing that was “good for food and pleasant to the eye;"' -encircled by ever-living beauty and magnificence: while in every object he contemplated, he saw reflected, in an endiess diversity of forms, the beauty, greatness, and excellency of Jehovah. In this situation, removed far from fear and sorrow, disease and death, he was formed for endless improvement. His mind, like that of angels, was capable of continual expansion, refinement, and elevation; and his life, of perpetual exaltation in worth, usefulness, and honor; and had he continued in that state, he would have known no change, but from glory to glory,- from higher to still higher bliss.
For such high favors to be continued to his posterity, God might have demanded from him whatever marks of allegiance and fidelity lie chose to impose ; but herein how wonderful
was the divine goodness! he exacted no burdensome service; him only one, easy, negative command,
" not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” From that he was to abstain, as a pledge of his subjection, and as an exercise of his obedience. Bliss and immortality were to be the reward of duty; misery and death the punishment of disobedience. “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” was the sanction of the divine law. How equitable, how gracious the terms! However men may be disposed to cavil, who would not have been content to rest the issue of life and death on such a test? Yet, astonishing to tell! the scriptures inform us, that man, through the suggestion of Satan, that fallen spirit, was seduced from his allegiance. His heart, beguiled by false reasoning, entertained unhallowed desires after forbidden knowledge. Yielding to the influence of discontent, and presumptuously aspiring to be like the Most High, he hearkened to the suggestions of the tempter : in a word, he violated the precept, and he incurred the penalty. God was just, and man was undone. He lost his uprightness, became subject to mortality, and, as the nervous original expresses it, “died the death.” When Adam fell, all fell with him ; then, as far as human help could go, our destiny was decided. Eden was lost, and heaven was lost ;not to him alone, but to the human race, who were involved in his success or ruin. Short is the dire description, but long and dreadfully felt the consequence. A thousand questions which a proud curiosity may ask, as to why, and how this was permitted, the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to leave unanswered. The fact is clearly revealed, and confirmed by incontrovertible evidence. Where revelation is express, implicit faith becomes our highest wisdom :-to object, and to reason, is to display the spirit of infidelity. There are some who have treated the subject with levity, and who have presumed to ask, how could one instance of disobedience, and so small an act of disobedience too, produce such calamitous effects? In answer to the ignorant scepticism on which such an enquiry is founded, let it be observed, that the command of the Deity with regard to the forbidden fruit, must be viewed as connected with an important general design, and that the obedience rendered by man to that command was a kind of pledge with respect to all the relations existing between the creature and the Creator: so that as long as the commandment was obeyed, all those relations would be observed and maintained ; and when it was broken, all those relations would be violated. Disobedience could not but produce, and disobedience did produce, those emotions and feelings which in their nature were thoroughly corrupt. These were, for instance, unbelief, ambition, sensuality, and ingratitude. Unbelief,-because by it man denied God's right to command, and questioned the wisdom and goodness of the test he had appointed. Ambition,--because he aspired to be as God, “knowing good and evil.” Sensuality,--because he wished to gratify mere animal appetite; he saw that “the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes.” Ingratitude,-because it was in opposition to the being to whom he was indebted for life, and happiness, and all things; and who had spread around him every enjoyment for his free and full participation. It is easy, therefore, to perceive, that the levity which has been alluded to ought to be condemned and repudiated with horror. Ought that transgression to be deemed light and insignificant which overthrew and betrayed every existing relationship between man and his Maker, and which hurled a foul insult against every attribute of the everlasting Godhead?