Page images







THE establishment of Christianity was the great object to which the several dispensations of Divine Providence, intervening between the creation of the world and the birth of Christ, were designed to be subservient. If, therefore, we are solicitous clearly to comprehend the nature of the Christian Religion, and fully to perceive the magnitude of the blessings which it offers to every person who sincerely embraces and faithfully obeys it, our attention ought, in the first place, to be directed to the original situation of the parents of the human race; and to those successive events, whether in the extraordinary dealings of God with man, or in the civil history of particular nations, which were evidently calculated to prepare the way for the advent of the great Redeemer.


God*, saith the Scripture, created man in his own image. Wherein did this resemblance of man to his Maker consist? The answer to that question must be derived from the sacred writings. The true explanation of the counsels of God can be obtained only from the word of God. Some persons, observing that after the Almighty had said, "Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness," he immediately subjoined, "and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth +," have concluded that the image of God impressed upon man consisted in the sovereign authority delegated to mankind over the whole inferior creation. This opinion may not be destitute of truth. Yet it seems to overlook the principal circumstance indicated by the expression under consideration. The most distinguished characteristic of the Supreme Being is holiness. And we have scriptural grounds for inferring that the primitive uprightness and purity of man was the feature in his soul, which constituted his likeness to his Maker. St. Paul, exhorting the Ephesians to labour for that radical change of heart which Christianity requires in her followers; a change from the corrupt frame of mind natural to fallen man, to one resembling the state of innocence and happiness in which Adam was created; uses these remarkable words: "Put on the new man, which after God" (that is, after the image of God)" is created in righteousness and true holiness."‡ And when addressing his Colossian converts on the same subject, "Ye," saith he, "have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge" (the knowledge

*Gen. i. 27.
Ephes. iv. 24.

+ Gen. i. 26.

of righteousness through Christ), " after the image of him that created him."* The resemblance, therefore, which man originally bore to God, consisted chiefly, if not entirely, in holiness and righteousness, similar in kind, though infinitely inferior in degree, according to the distance between the Creator and the created, to the holiness and righteousness of his heavenly Father. But this blessed state was of short continuance. Ensnared by the Devil, who is repeatedly denominated in the Scriptures "the old Serpent, Satan" (the Adversary), "who deceiveth the whole† world;" and is expressly declared by our Saviour to have been a "murderer from the beginning, the father of lies, who abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him;" our first parents concurred in breaking that single commandment, the observance of which God. had enjoined as the test of their obedience. They ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; that fruit which taught them the difference between good and evil, by rendering them acquainted with evil, which until that hour they never had known. Thus they annulled the covenant between them and their Maker. They forfeited all claim to every blessing which they had antecedently possessed. They stripped themselves of all title to every favour which their Creator had previously given them hopes of receiving from his bounty; for all was to depend on the steadfastness of their obedience to the original commandment. They incurred the penalty of death; the penalty, which from the beginning had been announced to them as annexed to the breach of that commandment. They became obnoxious to any measure of punishment, in addition to death, the loss of Rev. xii. 9. and xx. 3. See also 1 John, iii. 8.

* Coloss. iii. 10.
John, viii. 44.

« PreviousContinue »