THE FIRST ESSAY.
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DO THE PRESENT MISERIES OF MAN ALONE PROVE HIS APOSTASY FROM GOD?
A GENERAL SURVEY OF THE FOLLIES AND MISERIES OF MANKIND.
“UPON a just view of human nature, from its entrance into life, till it retires behind the curtain of death, one would be ready to say concerning man, ‘Is this the creature that is so superior to the rest of the inhabitants of the globe, as to require the peculiar care of the Creator in forming him?
Does he deserve such an illustrious description, as even the heathen poet has given us of him?’
Sanctius his animal, mentisque capacius altae Deerat adhuc, et quod dominari in caetera posset.
Natus homo est! Sive hunc divino semine cretum Ille opifex rerum mundi melioris origo Finxit in effigiem moderantum cuncta deorum.
Pronague cum spectent animalia caetera terram; Os homini sublime dedit; coelumque tueri Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus. ‘A creature of a more exalted kind Was wanting yet; and then was man design’d:
Conscious of thought, of more capacious breast, For empire form’d, and fit to rule the rest.
Whether with particles of heavenly fire The God of nature did his soul inspire, And moulding up a mass in shape like ours, Form’d a bright image of the’ all-ruling powers, And while the mute creation downward bend Their sight, and to their earthly mother tend, Man looks aloft, and with erected eyes Beholds his own hereditary skies.’”
“Now, if man was formed in the image of God certainly he was a holy and a happy being. But what is there like holiness or happiness now found running through this rank of creatures? Are there any of the brutal kind that do not more regularly answer the design of their creation? Are there any brutes that we ever find acting so much below their original character, on the land, in the water or the air, as mankind does all over the earth? Or are there any tribes among them, through which pain, vexation and misery are so plentifully distributed as they are among the children of men?” (pages 359, 360, 361.) “Were this globe of earth to be surveyed from one end to the other by some spirit of a superior order, it would be found such a theater of folly and madness, such a maze of mingled vice and misery, as would move the compassion of his refined nature to a painful degree, were it not tampered by a clear sight of that wise and just Providence which strongly and sweetly works in the midst of all; and will, in the end, bring good out of all evil, and justify the ways of God with man.” (Page 362.)
A PARTICULAR VIEW OF THE MISERIES OF MAN.
“BUT, to wave for the present the sins and follies of mankind, may we not infer from his miseries alone, that we are degenerate beings, bearing the most evident marks of the displeasure of our Maker?” (Page 363.) “View the histories of mankind; and what is almost all history but a description of the wretchedness of men, under the mischiefs they bring upon themselves and the judgments of the great God? The scenes of happiness and peace are very thin set among all the nations; and they are rather transient glimpses here and there, than anything solid and durable. But if we look over the universe, What public desolations by plague and famine, by storms and earthquakes, by wars and pestilence that secret mischiefs reign among men, which pierce and torture the soul! What smarting wounds and bruises what pains and diseases attack and torment the animal frame!” (Page 364.) “Where is the family of seven or eight persons wherein there is not one or more afflicted with some troublesome malady, or tiresome inconvenience? These indeed are often concealed by the persons who suffer them, and by the families where they dwell. But were they all brought together, what hospitals or infirmaries would be able to contain them?” (Page 365.) “What toils and hardships, what inward anxieties and sorrows, disappointments and calamities, are diffused through every age and country! Do not the rich feel them as well as the poor? Are they not all teased with their own appetites, which are never satisfied?
And their impetuous passions give them no rest. What keen anguish of mind arises from pride, and envy, and resentment! What tortures does ambition, or disappointed love, or wild jealousy, infuse into their bosoms! Meanwhile the poor, together with inward vexations and corroding maladies of the mind, sustain likewise endless drudgeries in procuring their necessary subsistence. And how many of them cannot, after all, procure even food to eat and raiment to put on!” (Page 366.) “Survey man through every stage. See, first, what a figure he makes, at his entrance into life! ‘This animal,’ says Pliny, ‘who is to govern the rest of the creatures, how he lies bound hand and foot, all in tears, and begins his life in misery and punishment!’ If we trace the education of the human race, from the cradle to mature age, especially among the poor, who are the bulk of all nations, the wretchedness of mankind will farther appear. How are they everywhere dragged up in their tender age, through a train of nonsense, madness, and miseries! What millions of uneasy sensations do they endure in infancy and childhood, by reason of those pressing necessities, which, for some years, they can tell only in cries and groans, and which their parents are either so poor they cannot relieve, or so savage or brutish that they will not! How wretchedly are these young generations hurried on through the folly and weakness of childhood, till new calamities arise from their own ungoverned appetites and impetuous passions! As youth advances, the ferments of the blood rise higher, and the appetites and passions garner much stronger, and give more abundant vexation to the race of mankind than they do to any of the brutal creation. And whereas the all-wise God, for kind reasons, has limited the gratification of these appetites by rules of virtue; perhaps those very rules, through the corruption of our nature, irritate mankind to greater excesses.” (Pages 368, 369.) “Would the affairs of human life, in infancy, childhood, and youth, have ever been in such a sore and painful situation, if man had been such a being as God at first made him, and had continued in the favor of his Maker? Could divine wisdom and goodness admit of these scenes, were there not a degeneracy through the whole race, which, by the just permission of God, exerts itself some way or other in every stage of life?”(Page 370.) “Follow mankind to the age of public appearance upon the stage of the world, and what shall we find there, but infinite cares, labors, and toil, attended with fond hopes almost always frustrated with endless crosses and disappointments, through ten thousand accidents that are every moment flying across this mortal stage? As for the poor, how does the sultry toil exhaust their lives in summer, and what starving wretchedness do they feel in winter!
How is a miserable life sustained among all the pains and fatigues of nature, with the oppression, cruelty, and scorn of the rich!” (Page 371.) “Let us follow on the track to the close of life. What a scene is presented us in old age! How innumerable and how inexpressible are the disasters and sorrows, the pains and aches, the groans and wretchedness, that meet man on the borders of the grave, before they plunge him into it! “And indeed, is there any person on earth, high or low, without such distresses and difficulties, such crossing accidents and perplexing cares, such painful infirmities in some or other part of life, as must pronounce mankind, upon the whole, a miserable being? Whatever scenes of happiness seem to attend him, in any shining hour, a dark cloud soon casts a gloom over them, and the pleasing vision vanishes as a dream. “And what are the boasted pleasures which some have supposed to balance the sorrows of life? Are not most of them owing, in a good degree, to some previous uneasiness? It is the pain of hunger which makes food so relishing; the pain of weariness that renders sleep so refreshing. And as for the blessings of love and friendship, among neighbors and kindred, do they not often produce as much vexation as satisfaction; not, indeed, of themselves, but by reason of the endless humors and follies, errors and passions, of mankind?” (Page 373.) “Again: Do not the very pleasures of the body prove the ruin of ten thousand souls? They may be used with innocence and wisdom; but the unruly appetites and passions of men continually turn into a curse what God originally designed for a blessing.” (Page 374.) “Think again how short and transient are the pleasures of life in comparison of the pains of it! How vanishing the sweetest sensations of delight! But, in many persons and families, how many are the days, the months, the years, of fatigue, or pain, or bitter sorrow! What pleasure of the animal frame is either as lasting, or as intense, as the pain of the gout or stone? How small is the proportion of sensible pleasure to that of pain, or trouble, or uneasiness! And how far is it over-balanced by the maladies or miseries, the fears or sorrow, of the greatest part of mankind! “As for intellectual pleasures, how few are there in the world who have any capacity for them! and among those few, how many differences and contentions! How many crossing objections, bewildered inquiries, and unhappy mistakes, are mingled with the enjoyment! so that ‘He who increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow,’ saith the wisest of men; and upon the whole computation, he writes on this also, ‘Vanity and vexation of spirit.’ “To talk, then, of real happiness to be enjoyed in this life, (abstracted from the foretaste of another,) is contrary to all the common sense and experience of every thinking man. Without this ‘taste of the powers of the world to come,’ I know not what wise man would willingly come into these scenes of mortality, or go through them with any patience.” (Pages 376, 377.) “What, to be trained up from infancy under so many unavoidable follies, prejudices, and wretched delusions, through the power of flesh and sense! to be sunk into such gross ignorance both of our souls, our better selves, and of the glorious Being that made us! to lie under such heavy shades of darkness, such a world of mistakes and errors, as are mingled with our little faint glimpses, and low notices of God our Creator! What, to be so far distant from God, and to endure such a long estrangement from the Wisest and Best of Beings, in this foolish and fleshly state, with so few and slender communications with or from him! “What, to feel so many powerful and disquieting appetites, so many restless and unruly passions, which want the perpetual guard of a jealous eye, and a strong restraint over them; otherwise they will be ever breaking out into some new mischief! “What, to be ever surrounded with such delights of sense as are constant temptations to folly and sin! to have scarce any joys, but what we are liable to pay dear for, by an excessive or irregular indulgence! Can this be a desirable state, for any wise being, who knows what happiness is, to be united to such a disorderly machine of flesh and blood with all its uneasy and unruly ferments?” (Page 378.) “Add to this another train of inbred miseries which attend this animal frame. What wise spirit would willingly put on such flesh and blood as ours, with all the springs of sickness and pain, anguish and disease, in it? What, to be liable to the racking disquietudes of gout and stone, and a thousand other distempers! to have nature worn out by slow and long aches and infirmities and lie lingering many years on the borders of death, before we can find a grave! “Solomon seems to be much of this mind, when, after a survey of the whole scheme of human life, in its variety of scenes, (without the views of hereafter,) he declares, ‘I praised the dead who were already dead, more than the living who are yet alive.’ ( Ecclesiastes 4:2) And, indeed, it appears that the miseries of life are so numerous as to over balance all its real comforts, and sufficiently to show, that mankind now lie under evident marks of their Maker’s displeasure, as being degenerated from that state of innocence wherein they were at first created.” (Pages 380, 381.)
“But it is objected, ‘If human life in general is miserable, how is it that all men are so unwilling to die?’ “I answer, 1. Because they fear to meet with more misery in another! life than they feel in this. So our Poet,
— ‘The weariest and most loathed worldly life That pain, age, penury, and imprisonment Can lay on nature, tis a paradise To what we fear of death.’ “And in another place: — ‘If by the sleep of death we could but end The heartache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, were a consummation Devoutly to be wished. O who would bear The oppressor’s wrongs, the proud man’s contumely, The insolence of office, and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, With all the long calamities of life; When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? Who would bear such burdens, And groan and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death — That undiscovered country, from whose border No traveler returns — puzzles the will, And makes us rather bear those ills we have, Than fly to others which are all unknown.’ “If you say, ‘But the Heathens knew nothing of a future life; and yet they too in all their generations, have been unwilling to die; nor would they put an and to their own life, were it never so miserable;’ I answer, Most of the ancient as well as the modern Heathens had some notions of an after-state and some fears of punishment in another life for sins committed in this.
And in the politer nations they generally supposed self murderers in particular would be punished after death.” (Page 384, 385.)
Proxima deinde tenent maesti loca, qui sibi lethum Insontes peperere manu, lucemque perosi Projecere animas. Quam vellent aethere in alto Nunc et pauperiem et duros perferre labores!
With late repentance now they would retrieve The bodies they forsook, and wish to live:
But fate forbids; the Stygian floods oppose, And with nine circling streams the captive souls inclose.’
“I answer, 2. Suppose this love of life and aversion to death are found even where there is no regard to a future state, this will not prove that mankind is happy; but only that the God of nature hath wrought this principle into the souls of all men, in order to preserve the work of his own hands: So that reluctance against dying is owing to the natural principle of self preservation, without any formed and sedate judgment, whether it is best to continue in this life or no, or whether life has more happiness or misery.” (Page 386.) “It may be objected, Secondly, ‘If brutes suffer nearly the same miseries with mankind, and yet have not sinned, how can these miseries prove that man is an apostate being?’” (Page 389.) “3. I answer: It is by reason of man’s apostasy that even brute animals suffer. ‘The whole creation groaneth together’ on his account, ‘and travaileth together in pain to this day.’ For the brute ‘creation was made subject to vanity,’ to abuse, pain, corruption, death, ‘not willingly,’ not by any act of its own, ‘but by reason of him that subjected it;’ of God, who, in consequence of Adam’s sin, whom he had appointed Lord of the whole lower world, for his sake pronounced this curse, not only on the ground, but on all which was before under his dominion. “The misery, therefore, of the brute creation is so far from being an objection to the apostasy of man, that it is a visible standing demonstration thereof: If beasts suffer, then man is fallen.” (Page 389.)
THE APOSTASY OF MAN PROVED BY SCRIPTURE AND REASON.
“BUT whether or not the miseries of mankind alone will prove their apostasy from God, it is certain these, together with the sins of men, are an abundant proof that we are fallen creatures. And this I shall endeavor to show, both from the express testimony of Scripture, from the necessity of renewing grace, and from a survey of the heathen world.” (Pages 409, 410.) “First. The Scripture testifies that a universal degeneracy and corruption is come upon all the sons and daughters of Adam. ‘Every imagination of the thoughts of the heart of man is only evil continually;’ ( Genesis 4:5) yea, ‘evil from his youth.’ ( Genesis 8:21) ‘The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. They are gone out of the way; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.’ ( Psalm 14:2,3) ‘There is not a just man upon earth, who doeth good, and sinneth not.’ ( Ecclesiastes 7:20) ‘All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way;’ ( Isaiah 53:6) different wanderings, but all wanderers. ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Every mouth is stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. All are fallen short of the glory of God, because all have sinned.’ ( Romans 3:10,12,19,23) ‘If one died for all, then were all dead;’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:14) that is spiritually dead; ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’ “Now, can we suppose that all God’s creatures would universally break his law, run into sin and death, defile and destroy themselves, and that without any one exception, if it had not arisen from some root of bitterness, some original iniquity, which was diffused through them all, from their very entrance into the world?
It is utterly incredible, that every single person, among the millions of mankind, should be born pure and innocent, and yet should all, by free and voluntary choice, every one for himself, for near six thousand years together, rebel against Him that made them, if there were not some original contagion spread through them all at their entrance into life. “Secondly. The same thing appears from the scriptural doctrine of our recovery by divine grace, Let us consider in what manner the Scripture represents that great change which must be wrought in our souls, in order to our obtaining the favor and image of God, and future happiness. ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ ( John 3:3,6,8) In other scriptures it is represented, that they ‘must be born of the Spirit;’ they must be ‘born of God;’ they must be ‘created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works;’ ( Ephesians 2:10) they must be ‘quickened,’ or raised again, from their ‘death in trespasses and sins;’ (Ephesians 2:5) they must ‘be renewed in their spirit,’ or ‘created after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness;’ they must ‘be reconciled to God by Jesus Christ;’ they must be ‘washed from their sins in his blood.’ ‘Since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,’ therefore, if ever they are saved, they must be ‘justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.’ Now, can any one suppose God to have made so many millions of creatures, as have come into the world from Adam till now, which have all entered the world, innocent and holy, and yet not one of them should retain his image in Holiness, or be fit for his favor, without being born again, created anew, raised from the dead, redeemed, not with corruptible things, but with the blood of his own Son? Do not all these representations prove that every man is born with some original contagion, and under some criminal imputation in the sight of God? Else would not one among all these millions be fit to be made a partaker of his favor, without such amazing purifications as require the blood of the Son of God, and the almighty operation of his Spirit! Do not all these things show that mankind in their present generations are not such creatures as God at first made them?” (Pages 413, 414.) “The same great truth we may learn, Thirdly, from even a slight survey of the heathen nations. A few days ago I was viewing, in the map of the world, the vast Asiatic empires of Tartary and China, and a great part of the kingdom of the Mogul, with the multitude of islands in the East Indies. I went on to survey all the southern part of Africa, with the savage nations of America. I observed the thousands, or rather millions, who dwell on this globe, and walk, and trifle, and live and die there, under the heaviest cloud of ignorance and darkness, not knowing God, nor the way to his favor; who are drenched in gross impieties and superstitions, who are continually guilty of national immoralities, and practice idolatry, malice, and lewdness, fraud and falsehood, with scarce any regret or restraint.” (Page 415.) “Then, sighing within myself, I said, It is not many years since these were all infants; and they were brought up by parents who knew not God, nor the path that leads to life and happiness. Are not these unhappy children born under difficulties almost unsurmountable? Are they not laid under almost an impossibility of breaking their way of themselves, through much thick darkness, to the knowledge, the fear, and love of Him that made them?
Dreadful truth indeed! Yet, so far I can see, certain and incontestable. Such, I fear, is the ease of those of the human race who cover at present the far greatest part of the globe.” (Page 416.) “Then I ran back in my thoughts four or five thousand years, and said within myself, What multitudes, in every age of the world, have been born in these deplorable circumstances! They are inured from their birth to barbarous customs and impious practices; they have an image of the life of brutes and devils wrought in them by their early education; they have held the seeds of wretched wickedness sown, planted, and cultivated in them, by the savage instructions of those that went before them; and their own imitation of such horrible examples has confirmed the mischief, long before they knew or heard of the true God, if they have heard of Him to this day. Scarce any of them have admitted one thoughtful inquiry, whether they follow the rules of reason, or whether they are in the way of happiness and peace, any more than their parents before them. As they are born in this gross darkness, so they grow up in the vile idolatries, and all the shameful abominations, of their country; and go on to death in the same course Nor have they light enough, either from without or within, to make them ask seriously, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand? Am I not in the way of destruction?’” (Page 417.) “St. Peter says indeed, that ‘in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him; ‘but if there were very few (among the Jews) who feared God, very few in those learned nations of the Gentiles; how much fewer, may we suppose, are in those barbarous countries, which have no knowledge either divine or human!” (Page 419.) “But would this have been the case of those unhappy nations, both of the parents and their children, in a hundred long successions, had they been such a race of creatures as they came out of the hand of the Creator? If those children had been guiltless in the eye of God, could this have been their portion? In short, can we suppose the wise, and righteous, and merciful God would have established and continued such a constitution for that propagation of mankind which should naturally place so many millions of them so early in such dismal circumstances if there had not been some dreadful and universal degeneracy spread over them and their fathers, by some original crime, which met and seized them at the very entrance into life?” (Page 420.)