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of their own selves." Sin does nothing to diminish the degree of love which they exercise towards themselves, though it makes them act like the veriest fools in the choice of means to promote even their own happiness.
The whole affection of a totally depraved creature centres in himself. Himself is the only object, out of the three classes proposed in the divine law, which an apostate continues to love. The law says, Thou shalt love God, thy neighbor, and thyself. That creature, who retains his original uprightness, cheerfully consents to the law in each of these particulars : but the apostate dissents from the law in relation to the first two objects, and gives to the last, which is a mere speck in creation, all that love which the Creator requires to be exercised towards Himself and his whole intelligent family. Men, who are full of love to themselves, are described as destitute of love to God. Lovers of pleasures are not lovers of God. It was manifestly the sentiment of Christ, that men who did not love God, had no love to their fellow men, except that which had its source in love to themselves : “ For sinners," said he, “ love those that love them." The entire sinfulness of apostate creatures does not therefore consist in a destitution of all love; but in a destitution of all pure love, all that which rises above self. Selfishness is the comprehensive sin, which includes all that is evil in the character of transgressors. There is no sin committed where self gratification is not the immediate or ultimate end. Hence it is, that the whole of a sinner's life is, by an inspired apostle, summed up in one word, namely, his living to himself. 2 Cor. v. 15.
The nature of sin, as it has now been described, is capable of being clearly understood, even by a child. We can every one of us, by means of our own experience, form a definite idea of selfishness; for we know what it is to be governed by interested motives. Now to be governed by such motives entirely, is to be completely under the dominion of sin. Of motives more contracted and unworthy we can form no conception. Malice of the most malignant kind, takes its rise in a selfish heart. Envy springs from the same corrupt fountain. So does pride, covetousness, intemperance, uncleanness, and every other vile affection and base action.
In the foregoing Article, while looking at the nature of moral gov. ernment, we were led to contemplate apostacy from God as an evil which might exist ; but now it is presented to us as a fact. And when we contemplate sin as an actual existence, it appears as vile and noxious, as the prohibitions and threatenings of the law ever represented it. By what has transpired it is proved out, that the tendency of sin is utterly to ruin the character of intelligent beings. It makes them odious and mischievous, in proportion as they have capacities to qualify them to be amiable and useful.
What an inconceivably vile and mischievous being is Satan! In his state of innocence he was among the first of the works of God; but sin has rendered him vile and despicable beyond any other being in the universe. See Gen. iii. 14. In his case we see that sin not only spoils the creature who commits it, but that its natural tendency is to destroy all the good there is in the universe. Since he is distinguished from the other fallen angels as their leader and prince, there is reason
to believe that rebellion commenced with him, and that he would have drawn into it all the angels of light, had it been in his power. He did effect, as we well know, the revolt of the whole race of man, by drawing our common parents from their allegiance. And now, since a kingdom of reconciliation has been set up in this apostate world, he is doing all in his power to hinder its success. He walks about seek. ing whom he may devour. 1 Pet. v. 8. In this individual being we see strikingly exemplified the nature and tendency of moral evil. Its nature and tendency are the same in every other sinful creature.
Thus by its actual existence, sin is shown to be most vile and ruinous. Is it not proper to denominate it an infinite evil? We are sensible there is no creature, not even the prince of devils, who can oppose God with infinite strength ; for all created minds are limited in their capacities. But rebellion against the government of the Most High, is the greatest evil of which creatures are capable. It is viola. ting the greatest possible obligation, and the mischief, which it has a direct tendency to produce, is absolutely infinite.
The apostacy which has taken place has afforded an opportunity to the Supreme Lawgiver to furnish us with a practical exposition of his law. We are now taught by facts, that its penalty is incurred by the first sin, and that its penalty is nothing less than punishment without end. “ The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Jude 6. As soon as man had become a transgressor of the law, he was driven from an earthly paradise, the figure of a heavenly; and a flaming sword which turned every way, was so placed as to keep the way of the tree of life. Gen. iii. 24. The solemn denunciation was then pronounced, “ Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return;" and this has been executed before our eyes with an affecting exactness, which seems designed to give ocular proof of the certainty of the second death,” unless its pains should be avoided by an interest in the Redeemer's righteousness. The race of Adam, excepting those who have been recovered by grace, are as much under the curse of the law as the apostate angels : “ As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse ; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Gal. ii. 10. These apostacies have given an opportunity for God to show his creatures what he meant by the threatenings annexed to his law. The sinning angels are now suffering punishment without hope of release. Fallen men are under the same condemnation, but with this difference, that they are favored with another probation. But as this probation is represented to be wholly of grace, it helps establish the point, that the evil threatened in the law is nothing less than death eternal.
Sin, though a transgression of the law, is not an abrogation of it ; there is therefore no want of agreement between that Article, which exhibits the law as a perfect rule of moral government, and this, which shows it has been shamefully transgressed. The law remains in full force, though the conduct of apostates has manifested their determination to be regulated by it no longer. But when the precept is disregarded, the penalty takes effect; and punishment executed upon the transgres
sor, preserves the law from suffering that contempt which otherwise would result from his transgression.
Some may think there is no harmony between this and the second Article. We readily grant that the Creator is not glorified by the rebellion of his creatures, through any natural tendency it can have to produce such a result. It is certain, that nothing can be more remote from the intention of rebellious creatures, than to glorify God. Could they succeed in their projects, his declarative glory would suffer an eternal eclipse. But that which was spoken by the psalmist concern. ing a portion of God's enemies, will apply to them all : « They intended evil against thee; they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform.” Ps. xxi. 11. There is probably no part of all the system of God's providence, where his infinite perfections will be so gloriously displayed, as in his management of this dreadful rebellion.
This Article is in harmony with the first. It is in view of the truth contained in that Article, that we discover the immensely evil nature of the rebellion which is treated of in this. The Being against whom angels and men have rebelled, is none other than the eternal, all-suffi. cient, holy, and blessed God. He it is whom we have hated, whose authority we have contemned, and whose favor we have despised. A Being of such unspotted holiness, as that Article exhibited, must infinitely abhor such a vile thing as the rebellion of the subjects of his moral government. It ought not to excite our wonder that he could not endure to have those angels, who by transgression had become devils, remain in heaven ; or that he should expel our apostate parents from Eden ; or that he should deluge the old world with water and the cities of the plain with fire, on account of their high-handed contempt of his righteous authority. Nor ought we to think it strange to hear it said, “ God is angry with the wicked every day.”
1. What an unprovoked thing is rebellion under the government of God! Nothing could be more causeless than the apostacy of angels and men. Well might the supreme King say, “ They hated me with. out cause.” He who required their subjection was their Creator and Benefactor; and nothing could be more righteous and benevolent than the laws by which he required them to be ruled. Why were they not contented to be the subjects of such a King, and to be ruled by such perfect laws!
2. Rebellion against the government of God is as foolish as it is wicked. How could the first rebel entertain the least expectation of success in his resistance of the authority of the Most High, the being who gave existence to a universe! And what encouragement can later rebels have to imagine they shall be able to harden themselves against God, and prosper? Notwithstanding the expulsion of sinning angels from the paradise above, and of our sinning progenitors from a paradise below, the rebellion against the government of heaven's King is still prosecuted, and with as much zeal as if the most sanguine hopes were entertained of final success.
Rebellion against divine government is foolish, not only because there is no hope of success, but because without this government the universe can never have peace and happiness. Were the enemies of God to succeed in their attempts to subvert his government, what would they establish in its room ? All such attempts to better their condition, are well described by the conduct of those, who forsake a fountain of living waters for broken cisterns which can hold no water.
3. It is truly affecting to think how much mischief a single indi. vidual can do. “ One sinner destroyeth much good.” There is reason to believe, the rebellion in heaven began with one of the angels, and that the rebel angel effected the apostacy of a multitude of his associates. This did not satisfy him : he next drew from allegiance our first mother; and she in her turn prevailed with our first father to disobey the divine command : and thus our whole race was rendered corrupt. How affecting the thought, that sin has such a tendency to diffuse itself. If an individual has the power of being so extensively mischievous, with how much care ought every one of us to watch over all he does, all he writes, all he speaks, or even thinks. A mischievous life is what we ought to deprecate more than poverty and disgrace.
4. If sin belongs to the character of man, then it belongs to you and me, for we are men. To acknowledge that human nature is depraved, is one thing; and to feel that we are sinners, is another. Do we admit that what has been said to prove that human depravity is entire, will apply to ourselves ? Are we fully convinced of total depravity in relation to our own hearts ? Am I? Are you ? And is this conviction the result of an actual survey, which each one has taken of his own heart and life? To be destitute of such conviction, implics self-ignorance, and betokens a state of moral death.
BY MEANS OF AN INFINITE ATONEMENT FOR SIN, GOD HAS MADE A PROVISION, WHEREBY THE RACE OF ADAM CAN BE DELIVERED FROM THEIR STATE OF DEPRAVITY AND CONDEMNATION.
It is matter of eternal gratitude and praise, that a doctrine which so brightens the prospects of our fallen world, is revealed with such copiousness and plainness in the word of God. Here is that fountain which, it was predicted, should be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. Zech. xiii. 1. Indeed there is no other such fountain ; and this is free, not for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem alone, but for the whole of this polluted world.
The word atonement, which occurs frequently in the Old Testament, is found but once in the New. Rom. v. 11. In this place the sense of the original word is reconciliation. Atonement is thus denominated, not because it is reconciliation itself, nor because it is the efficient cause of it, but rather on account of the influence it exerts in preparing the way for a reconciliation, to be effected by the agency of the Holy Ghost. Propitiation is a word much of the same import, implying that an expedient has been devised to render a peace between our offended Sovereign and his offending subjects, consistent with the maintenance of his supreme authority over us. Rom. iii. 25. 1 John ii. 2, and iv. 10. Besides the terms atonement and propitiation, the scriptures have made use of a number of other words to describe the same thing : such as a sin-offering; a sacrifice ; a price with which we are bought; a ransom, a redemption by which we are redeemed ; a righteousness brought in, a righteousness by which comes the free gift unto justification of life, and through which grace reigns unto eternal life. Ex. xxix. 14. Heb. xiii. 11, 12. Heb. ix. 26, and x. 26. 1 Cor. vi. 20. Matt. xx. 28. Rom. iii. 24. Dan. ix. 24. Rom. v. 18—21.
The atonement, by whatever name it is known, is manifestly a provision for apostate men, to render it honorable to the government of the Most High, for him to reconcile them to himself, and remit the punishment of their sins. “ God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” 2 Cor. v. 19. The inconsistency of granting forgiveness to rebellious men, unless they become reconciled to God, and exercise unfeigned repentance for their sins, must be evident to all.
But why, (some will say,) must forgiveness be granted through the blood of Christ? Why can not God forgive those who repent without any expiation for their sins ? Does not a scheme of religion which makes an expiatory sacrifice necessary to forgiveness, represent him as implacable, rather than merciful ? Let me hope that I shall have the most careful and candid attention of every individual, to a doctrine which claims to be at the very foundation of the religion of the gospel. That it does make this claim, is made clear by such passages as these : " This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” « For other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” “ For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him cruci. fied.” Acts iv. 12. 1 Cor. ii. 2 ; iii. 11.
Let the gospel atonement be investigated ; and let its unlovely features (if it has such) be pointed out. But surely, if the law be viewed as holy, just, and good, I do not see how it is possible the atonement should be considered as unlovely. And does the Creator, I would ask, appear unamiable, because he claims the prerogative to exercise authority over his intelligent creatures? Is it not altogether better for the moral system to have government than to be without it? And who is so capable of exercising this government as the infinite God: or to whom else does it appertain to sway the sceptre of the universe ? All will acknowledge that obedience to good laws is preferable to a state