« PreviousContinue »
The Law and Gospel distinguished.
The Law commands, and makes us know
The Law discovers guilt and sin,
What curses doth the Law denounce
My soul, no more attempt to draw
ECCLESIASTES VII. 29.
God made man upright; but they have sought out
THESE are the words of Solomon, the king of
Israel, and appear to be the result of much observation and experience. Possessed of superior talents, and placed in the highest station, he resolved to attain the utmost degree of wisdom : but his success was not equal to his wishes. He perceived, however, the extreme folly of having so many wives and concubines; and says (verse 28), “One man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all these have I not found;" that is, among his courtiers and flatterers, one man, perhaps, among a thousand he found on whom he could depend; but not one among his thousand wives and concubines !
“But this only,” saith he, “have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” This he was sure of. He had no doubt respecting this; and to this apostacy of man he traces up the evils he saw and felt.
These words represent two things ; namely,
First, let us consider the original state of man: “ God made inan upright.”
Man signifies the first man, Adam; the father and head of all men, in whom the whole human race was included. God made him, formed him out of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life, Gen. ii. 7.—God made him upright :--this does not mean in his bodily stature, but in the frame and disposition of his mind. “God created man in his own image,-in his own likeness.” He was naturally and habitually righteous ;-his heart was properly disposed towards God, with a love of good and a hatred of evil. The law was not written for him in tables of stone, but it was written upon his heart.
His mind was endued with true knowledge ; (Col. iii. 2)—he knew his Maker: he knew his glorious perfections, his power, his wisdom, his holiness, and his goodness ;-he knew his relation to God, his duty to him, and his dependence on him ; -- he saw the glory and goodness of God in his works ;-he studied them that he might glorify God in them ;-hence we find him giving names to the creatures, which, in the original, show that he had observed them, and understood their nature.
His will was conforined to the will of God. It had no such bias to evil as we now have; but it was disposed to comply with the divine will in all respects.
The affections of his soul were holy and heavenly; he loved God above all; he considered him as the Supreme Good, and the grand source of his happiness ;
he loved the creatures for God's sake; and all the beauty or sweetness he found in them led him to adore his God the more.
In this state, man was truly blessed and honourable; his mind was calm ; his conscience was easy; he knew no guilt; he felt no shame; he was a stranger to fear; no angry passion disturbed his soul; his body was free from disease and pain ; he conversed with God; and was as happy as Paradise could make him.
Had he continued in this state of uprightness for a certain time, he would, probably, have been
translated, without pain or death, to an heavenly state, still happier; and all his posterity would have been confirmed in the same condition of holiness and happiness, without the danger of falling, as he did; for as it is certain that all mankind, descended from Adam, are involved in the consequences of his fall, we may justly conclude that, had he maintained his integrity, they would all have shared in the happy fruit of it:-but, alas ! though “God made man upright, he hath sought out many inventions ;"_"the crown is fallen from his head, the glory is departed from him!” This is a point which it greatly concerns us to know; this is one of the first principles of our religion, on which all the rest depend ;-for, if man be not at variance with his Creator, what need of a Mediator? If he be not depraved and undone, what necessity of a Restorer and Saviour? If he be not enslaved to sin, why is he redeemed by Jesus Christ? If he be not polluted, why must he be washed in the blood of the Lamb? If his soul be not disordered, what occasion is there for a divine Physician? In a word, if he be not born in sin, why is a new birth so necessary, that Christ solemnly declares, without it no man can see the kingdom of God ?" Let us then attend, in the second place, to
The present apostate condition of man.
Satan, full of hatred to God, and envying the happiness of man, devised the method of his destruction with infernal cunning. He assaulted “the weaker vessel !"—first questioned, and then denied the word of God: represented the command not to eat of the tree as very severe, and the eating of it as quite harmless, yea, as highly advantageous ! “Ye shall not surely die,” said the devil,—though God hath said, “ Ye shall surely die!” Thus Eve was deceived, and became the unhappy means of seducing her husband ! Thus both our first parents fell from their original state of purity and bliss ! and, as a token of God's dreadful displeasure, were banished from the garden of Eden.
But you must observe, that in and by this fall o. our first parents, all their posterity likewise fell. So St. Paul assures us (Rom. v. 12): “ By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin ; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” And again (verse 15): “ Through the offence of one many are dead;" and again (verse 18): “ By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation." In
consequence of our fall in Adam, our nature is wholly corrupt. Our hearts are naturally carnal and worldly. We forsake God, the fountain of happiness ; and vainly strive to make ourselves happy in sin and folly: or, as our text has it, “We have sought out many inventions,"— many vain reasonings—many foolish questions and speculations ! We may read our depravity in our misery. In
our present fallen state, we can relish only earthly things; and they all conspire to disappoint our expectations. What are the numberless inventions of men, but weak and wicked attempts to procure happiness without God, and contrary to his will? What inventions to please the imagination! Hence the loads of novels which burden the world; many of which, though full of folly and obscenity, are eagerly read, and relished far better than the word of truth! What inventions to delight the eyes! Hence plays and shows, and all the vanity of dress.
What inventions to please the ear! Hence all the charms of music, vocal aud instrumental. What inventions to gratify the taste! Hence all the art of cookery, collecting niceties from every quarter of the world.
Of how many may it be said, That their kitchen is their