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teach us what man becomes when he is a centre to himself, and supposes that all things are revolving around him. But we learn at the same time, by fresh discoveries and revelations, why the words 'the Heavens' have always conveyed to the readers of this book, not merely or chiefly the notion of bright and luminous bodies on which they were to gaze, but much more, of Persons—of Spirits— dwelling in unknown regions, with reasons and wills like their own, standing in dutiful subjection to the Creator, or revolting against him. Such a belief, so far as it was maintained, was a preservative against the disposition to look upon the earth as if it were the highest and most glorious portion of the universe, though it might be the prize for which two mighty hosts were contending.
But most of all, these chapters prepare us for the announcement of that truth which all the subsequent history is to unfold—that the Word who said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light, who separated the firmament from the waste of waters, and made the dry land appear, and placed the sun and moon and stars in their orbits, and called all organised creatures into life, and who is in the highest sense, the light of men—the source of their Reason—the guide of their Wills—is the head of all principalities and powers, the upholder of the whole universe.
It was, brethren, the recognition—the partial recognition at all events—of this truth in the 16th century, the acknowledgment that the righteousness which dwells in this Word, is that in which alone man could find his own righteousness, which can alone raise him out of degradation and sin—it was this which prepared men for the scientific discovery of the 17th century— which enabled them to give up the self-exalting dream, that all surrounding worlds looked to the earth as their centre, for the acknowledgment of the strange, seemingly monstrous, mystery that the ball, which appeared to be intended only for its illumination, was that to which all its movements must be referred. A selfish material religion, which consists only of arrangements to secure our individual felicity hereafter, a selfish material philosophy, which consists only of arrangements to secure our felicity here, a selfish spiritual religion or spiritual philosophy, which glorifies man above God, may, sooner than we are aware, rob us of this scientific conviction; or, at least, make it incapable of bearing any newer and riper fruits hereafter.
For the sake then of physical science, it may be necessary that we should study more earnestly and deeply that Book which has been thought to contradict it, and yet which has never been hidden without peril to its existence, has never been simply perused and heartily delighted in, without awakening new and livelier zeal in the pursuit of it. Not for the sake of cultivating such desires however, but for other ends more directly concerning our personal and social life, do I invite you to enter upon this study. I cannot give you an adequate explanation of these or of any chapters in the Bible. I would not if I could. We do not want adequate, self-satisfying explanations. We want to be stirred up to fresh discoveries of our ignorance, to fresh desires for light. I go to the Bible—I would bid you go to it—because I feel how much darkness surrounds you and me ; because I believe that He, in whom all light dwells, is ready to meet us there, to reveal Himself to us, to guide us onward to the perfect day.
The passage of Augustine referred to in the text will be found in the Commentary De Oenesi ad Litteram, Lib. I. § 39, beginning 'Plerumque enim accidit.' In the previous part of the book the difficulty about 'time' is boldly stated, and the idea of a succession in the divine mind which is the ground of succession in our minds, not dependent upon its conditions, is clearly indicated.
THE FALL AND DELUGE.
Preached at Lincoln's Inn on Sexagesima Sunday, February 23,1851.
Genesis VI. 5, 6, 7.
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for itrepenteth me that I have made them.
THERE can be no doubt that the chapter we have read this afternoon was chosen because it was supposed to illustrate the one we read this morning. Milton makes the Deluge the most prominent object in the vision by which Adam is instructed respecting the consequences of the Fall. All readers of Scripture have felt that there is a connexion between them, though they might not be able clearly to perceive the nature of it. Perhaps if we consider what it is, we may gain some light respecting the meaning of the first event as well as of the second.
'God saw that the thoughts of men's hearts were only evil continually' He had said before, 'My Spirit shall not always strive with man.' 'Here,' it will be said, 'we see the results of the fall. Adam, created innocent, transgressed. Hence the evil which had at this time spread so widely among his descendants.' I do not say that there is any thing erroneous in this statement, but I think that it is vague. There are expressions in it, which are capable of very different significations; some of them may be more or less in accordance with the teaching of Scripture; some may be quite at variance with it. I believe we must ascertain the force of the words we use before we can be at all sure that we are not, under seemly and orthodox phrases, admitting serious practical heresies into our minds.
When we say that God made man innocent, what do we mean? The sense often affixed to that language is this: 'that God gave to Adam, the first man, a certain independent power, an innocence of his own, which he parted with by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; that man fell when he lost this independent virtue, this innocency of his own; that as the first father lost it, all his descendants by the decree of God, or by some necessity of their relationship, lost it too; that thence arose the need for Divine Grace, and for men being made partakers of a righteousness which is not their own.'
Now I apprehend that the Scripture narrative,