Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

the first man and woman were placed in circumstances which led to toil, sorrow, and a natural death, which last completed their sentence.

This is not the general idea, which includes what in Scripture long afterwards is called the second death, or being cast into everlasting torments in the lake of fire after the resurrection. I cannot find authority for the latter as having been made applicable at first, but if it shall be thought to have been so, it must surely appear strange that no allusion is made to it, when the other particulars of the sentence are so explicitly detailed.

If, in addition to natural death, the torments of hell were also intended, then this likewise involved the two culprits in a future resurrection of their bodies from the grave,

in a second trial and condemnation, all before they could in the revealed course be thrust into hell, which none have as yet entered that we read of, but are only, in the first place, reserved unto the general judgment, as in the words of a paraphrase, by the Presbyterian Church, from 2 Pet. iii.

“ Reserv'd are sinners for the hour,

When to the gulf below,
Arm'd with the hand of sov'reign power,

The judge consigns his foe."

The hour alluded to, is most distinctly and properly stated by the same Church,* not to arrive till

" When from the clouds
Christ shall with shouts descend;
And the last trumpet's awful voice
The heavens and earth shall rend."

LIII, Paraphrase.

Now, the first pair were either condemned to hell fire, or they were not. If they were neither threatened to be so before they sinned, nor were sentenced to it afterwards,

then they most certainly were never intended to go there, but would have for ever remained as natural death changed their

Founding on 1 Thess. iv.

с

state, one part of their nature in the earth, and the other elsewhere. From an eternal separation of soul and body, however, the atonement of Christ has, or rather, shall save them and all their posterity.* The souls of our first parents must now hope through this atonement that their spirits shall yet be at liberty to leave their present prison-house-become again united to material bodies, and then to be received into heaven, by pleading at the last day the great means of reconciliation between God and man through Jesus Christ.

We understand the sentence on Adam to have been a general one on all his race, and all since then have been struck by death, or shall be so until that resistless power ceases. All men also inherit sorrow and toil. It has not been so with regard to the second death, and how can it be said that this last mentioned, was also at first included, when none were ever threatened with it but those who continued impenitent and unbelieving sinners? Adam transgressed in a hapless hour, but we do not hear that he was either a hardened or continued rebel ; and have no reason to suppose so, but the contrary, and it is only such as leave this world in their sins, for whom hell was ever intended, as far as we can learn.

In the denouncement against the Tempter, we may perhaps now discern a dark intimation, that at a then future time, the sentence of death and its lasting consequences would be recalled and done away. The expiation has been made ; but he who brought death upon us will have the power to inflict it until the last trumpet sounds, when man shall die no more by a separation between his soul and body. When then were men first threatened with hell ? (Ge-hinnom). I cannot answer the question.

The sin of Adam has descended and tainted all human kind, and the consequence is that all die ; but those who shall ultimately be condemned to hell, shall go there for

The separate souls of the greatest sinners shall be again joined to bodies at the general resurrection, and preliminary to the good and bad being ordered to stand before the judgment-seat to receive their respective sentences.

their own sins; and with this last punishment, I apprehend, original sin has not so much to do, as is generally believed by those who wish to throw off the blame as much as possible from their own individual doings.

in

It has been generally believed that man was created immortal,* but the only reason for the belief is, that sentence of death was pronounced against him for having done what he was warned not to do; and the inference is drawn, that if he had not been so doomed to die, he would have lived on to all eternity, because he must have been originally of an immortal nature.

But this last is not a fair or necessary ference. There was no retraction of a gift given to man, but the intended immortality was withheld from him. That the latter was really so intended, appears evident from the tree of life having been placed in his view, and seemingly also in his power, but we have no reason to think he had ever partaken of it previous to his fall; for God himself, by Moses' account, says, that if man had done so, he would irrevocably have become like unto the heavenly beings, and lived for ever. If man had been at first formed immortal, then the tree of life would have been of no use, and entirely an unnecessary gift to him, and his partaking of its fruit would have done him no good, in as far, at least, as communicating immortality, if he was immortal without it.

In a funeral discourse, t Dr. Watts tells us, “that when death seized on man at first, and planted the seeds of mortality in his nature, he then began to be deprived of that peace and health, that vigour and immortality which he possessed before his fall, till it at last brought him down to dust." This is a very different account from what Moses gives us, who mentions no such change as taking place in the bodies of the first man and woman on their fall, and merely that they were allowed no longer to remain where they had the power to put forth their hands and make themselves immortal. Their place of residence only was changed, and the death of their bodies in process of time, was the natural consequence of their original formation from the dust. A slight change may be alluded to with regard to the woman, (and, in so far, to all her daughters,) in Gen. iii. 16, but what is there threatened, is perhaps no more than the difference which even now exists between the females of some migratory savage nations, and those in civilized countries : it is evident from the relation that there was not, at least, so great a change as that of an immortal body being altered into a mortal one.

*“I know that at the first,” says Bishop Beveridge, “the body did equally participate of immortality with the soul."

Private Thoughts on Religion. + In memory of Lady Hartopp.

As the sentence was pronounced on man as a punishment after his disobedience, it would seem, therefore, not to have been originally meant that Adam and Eve should die, although, as their bodies were created, it might naturally have followed, that such a structure must wear out and decay by age; for it appears that it would have required their doing a certain act (whatever was in reality meant to be understood by eating of the tree of life) in order to live for ever : Which act, would probably have produced merely a mysterious change in their bodies, without dying, such as those bodies shall experience which are found alive on the earth at the last day.

It thus does not appear, that our first parents were ever in actual possession of immortality, it having been merely a promise to be fulfilled, on certain conditions, at a future time. It could not therefore be taken from them, but was only withheld in consequence of the conditions being broken.

It should here be distinctly understood, that the mortal nature of man, is only meant as applying to his body. The soul was so constituted as to be immortal from the first, and never had a sentence of death, annihilation, or state of temporary torpor in its separate condition, passed upon it, so it must continue alive when the body dies ; but it is properly said that man dies, or is subject to death ; for although the separated soul lives on, yet man, as a complete being, has ceased for the time to live or exist; his soul, when by itself, not being in strict language, a man, although, when speaking of a deceased man, his principal part may with perfect propriety be put for the whole, and it is very often done in Scripture, in common writing, and in conversation.

The tree of life was planted in the midst of the garden, and Adam and Eve had permission to eat of all the trees, except of the tree of knowledge alone. They did not eat, however, of the tree of life ; seemingly, because they had not sufficient penetration to know its power; but this, the partaking of the other would soon have disclosed to them, and therefore, on their fall, they were immediately removed from paradise.*

It cannot be supposed, however, since this tree was planted in so conspicuous a part of the garden, (which language must at least indicate that it was something very apparent and easily attainable,) but that it was the intention of God at some future period to have shown that it was placed there for the benefit of man ; particularly as he was not prohibited from eating of it, and it was rendered capable of very great advantage to him, by preventing his body from dying, or suffering decay by old age ; and we may also infer that the immortality it would have conferred, would have included an exemption from all bodily liability to pain and disease, The properties of its fruit might probably, after a long life of purity spent on earth, have been disclosed to him, and he might then have become immortal with a glorified body, such as we still hope to receive at the resurrection. Nearly the same idea is thus expressed by Dean Sherlock :“We have some reason to think that, although man should never have died, if he had not sinned, yet he should not always have lived in this world.”—“Human nature was certainly intended for nobler advancements, since it was made capable of them. After a long and happy life here, man might have been carried to a heavenly state, without dying, and with his body rendered immortal, as Enoch and Elijah

* See Gen. iii. 22-24.

« VorigeDoorgaan »