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DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN,
&c. &c. &c.
The past and present State of Mankind.
BEFORE we attempt to account for any fact, we should be well assured of the fact itself. First, therefore, let us inquire what is the real State of mankind? And in the second place endeavour to account for it.
I. First, I say, let us inquire, What is the real State, with regard to Knowledge and Virtue, wherein mankind have been from the earliest times? And what state are they in at this day?
1. 1. What is the state, (to begin with the former branch of the inquiry,) with regard to knowledge and virtue, wherein, according to the most authentic accounts, mankind have been from the earliest times? We have no authentic account of the state of mankind in the times antecedent to the Deluge, but in the writings of Moses. What then, according to these, was the state of mankind in those times? Moses gives us an exact and full account: God then “ saw that the wickedness of man was great, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," (Gen. vi. 5, 12, 13.) And this was not the case of only part of mankind; but “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” And accordingly God said, “ The end of all flesh is come, for the earth is filled with violence through them.” Only Noah was righteous before God," (ch. vii. 1.) Therefore he and his househoid were spared, when God“ brought the flood upon the world of the ungodly," and destroyed them all from the face of the earth,
Let us examine the most distinguishing features in this draught. Not barely the works of their hands, or the words of their tongue, but “ every imagination of the thoughts of their heart was evil.” The contagion had spread itself through the inner man; had tainted the seat of their principles, and the source of their actions. But was there not some mixture of good ? No; they were only evil. Not so much as a little leaven of piety, unless in one single family, But were there no lucid intervals? No happy moments wherein virtue gained the ascendency? None: Every imagination, every thought was only evil contipually.' *
2. Such was the state of mankind for at least sixteen hundred
years. Men were corrupting themselves and each other, and proceeding from one degree of wickedness to another, till they were all (save eight persons) ripe for destruction. So deplorable was the state of the moral world, while the natural was in its highest perfection. And yet it is highly probable, that the inhabitants of the earth were then abundantly more numerous, than ever they have been since, considering the length of their lives, falling little short of a thousand years, and the strength and vigour of their bodies, which we may easily gather from the time they were to continue: to say nothing of the fertility of the earth, probably far greater than it is at present. Consequently it was then capable of sustaining such a number of inhabitants, as could not now subsist on the produce of it.
3. Let us next take a view of the Families of the sons of Noah, the inhabitants of the earth after the Flood. The first remarkable incident we read concerning them is, that while “ they were all of one language, they said one to another, Let us build a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, lest we be scattered abroad upon
the face of the earth.” It is not easy to determine, what were the peculiar aggravations which attended this attempt. But it is certain, there was daring wickedness therein, which brought upon them the very thing they feared. For “ the Lord by confounding their language," (not their religious worship: Can we suppose God would confound this ?) 66 scattered them abroad upon the face of all the earth,” (Gen. xi. 4.-9.) Now whatever particulars in this account may be variously interpreted, thus much is clear and undeniable, That all these, that is, all the inhabitants of the earth had again “ corrupted their way;" the universal wickedness being legible in the universal punishment.
* Mr. Hervey's Theron and Aspasio, Dial. 11.
4. We have no account of their reforming their ways, of any universal or general repentance, before God separated Abraham to himself, to be the father of his chosen people, (Gen. xii. 1, 2.) Nor is there any reason to believe, that the rest of mankind were improved either in wisdom or virtue, when “Lot and Abraham separated themselves, and Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom,” (ibid.) Of those among whom he dwelt, it is particularly remarked, “ The men of Sodom” (and of all “the cities of the plain) were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly,” (xiii. 13.) “ so that not even ten righteous persons” could be found among them : the consequence of
: which was, that “ The Lord rained upon them brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven,” (xix. 24.)
5. We have no ground to suppose, that the other inhabitants of the earth, (Abraham with his family and descendants excepted,) had either the knowledge or the fear of God, from that time till Jacob went into Egypt. This was then, as well as for several ages after, the great seat of learning: insomuch that “ the wisdom of the Egyptians," was celebrated even to a proverb. And indeed for this end, (as well as “ to save much people alive,” (Gen. 1. 20,) did “God send Joseph into Egypt, even to inform their prinées after his will, and to teach their senators wisdom," (Psm. cv. 22.) And yet not long after bis death, as their king knew not Joseph, so his people knew not God. Yea, they set him at defiance; they and their king provoked him
more and more, and “hardened their hearts” against him: even after they had “ seen his wonders in Egypt,” after they had groaned under his repeated vengeance. They still added sin to sin, till they constrained the Lord to destroy them with an utter destruction; till the divided “ waters returned and covered the chariots and horsemen and all the host of Pharaoh."
6. Nor were the other nations who then inhabited the earth, any better than the Egyptians: the true knowledge and spiritual worship of God being confined to the descend
ants of Abraham. “ He had not dealt so with other na- tions, neither had the Heathens knowledge of his laws,"
(Psm. cxlvii. 20.) And in what state were the Israelites themselves? How did they worship the God of their fathers : Why even these were a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that set not their heart aright,” (Psm. lxxviji. 8.) They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law," (ver. 10. Psm. cvi. 7. Ex. xiv. 11, 12.) “ They provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Sea ;” the very place where he had so signally delivered them. “ They made a calf in Horeb, and wor
a shipped the molten image,” (Psm. cvi. 19,) where they had heard the Lord, but a little before, saying out of the midst of the fire, “ Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them." And how amazing was their behaviour during those whole forty years, that they sojourned in the wilderness. Even while he “ led them in the day time with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire ?” (Psm. lxxviii, 14.) Such were the knowledge and virtue of God's peculiar people, (certainly the most knowing and virtuous nation which was then to be found upon the face of the earth,) till God brought them into the land of Canaan: considerably more than two thousand years from the creation of the world. - None, I presume, will say, There was any other nation at that time more knowing and more virtuous than the Israelites. None can say this while he professes to believe,
according to the scriptural account, That Israel was then under a theocracy, under the immediate government of God: That he conversed with their subordinate governor 6 face to face, as a man talketh with his friend ;” and that God was daily through him conveying such instructions to them, as they were capable of receiving.
7. Shall we turn our eyes for a moment from the scriptural, to the profane account of mankind from the earliest ages? What was the general sentiment of the most polite and knowing nation, the Romans, when their learning was in its utmost perfection ? Let one, who certainly was no bigot or enthusiast, speak for the rest. And he speaks home to the point.
Fuit ante Helenam mulier teterrima Belli
Claims the whole subject herd, and reigns alone. I doubt he who gives this, not as his peculiar opinion, but as what was then a generally received notion, would scarce have allowed even so much as Juvenal,
Pudicitiam Saturno rege moratam
On earth, and flourish'd in old Saturn's reign. Unless one should suppose the reign of Saturn to have expired, when Adam was driven out of paradise.
I cannot forbear adding another picture of the ancient dignity of human nature, drawn by the same masterly hand. Before men dwelt in cities, he says, this
Turpe pecus, glandem atq. cubilia propter,