Page images

more delightful to a generous mind, than to demonstrate grateful sensibility of favours received? His duty and interest were inseparably connected, because the highest attainment of happiness depended upon fulfilling all the pleasure of his sovereign Lord and Benefactor. Moral agency implies a state of trial; and all mankind are undoubtedly on the same footing. We, ourselves, are not capable of judging what kinds of trial are most suitable to exercise our spirits, because we know but little of the nature of them, and less of the designs of Divine Wisdom concerning us. It is enough that the great God hath placed us in a capacity of attaining to his favour, in which alone is supreme felicity.

It does not appear to have been the desire of the Creator, to subject his noble creature man to any kind of misery, had he kept his allegiance, and attended to Divine precepts. But what the serpent suggested, was nothing less than an invasion of the prerogative and authority of the Ruler of the universe. It could not be expected, therefore, that the Most High would suffer so heinous an attempt to go unpunished.

Adam and Eve could not fail to represent to their children, the superlative delight and happiness they enjoyed in the garden of Eden; and

[ocr errors]

this would convince them of the woful degradation and miserable fall of their parents.

Could any means have been devised to impress more forcibly on their minds, the great advantage of pleasing God, and the dreadful consequences of incurring his displeasure? Moreover, the antediluvians were endued with faculties of mind and understanding, to judge of the nature and tendency of things, in order to avoid, or embrace them; to deliberate upon what would improve and exalt their condition, and what would tend to dishonour and misery.

The dignity of the mind of man was consulted, in making the acquisition of habits of holiness to depend upon the faithful exercise of those powers and means, with which his glorious Creator had entrusted him. To have forced happiness upon him, would not have been treating him as a rational and intellectual being. But no stimulus was withheld, which, without impairing freedom of choice, could engage the antediluvians to practice virtue, and abstain from vice; for the two first brothers exhibited, in a most striking manner, the different consequences of the prevalence of opposite principles.

The rejection of the sacrifice of Cain, seems intended to inculcate the important lesson, that no offering will be pleasing to God, if the heart

is not right in his sight. Cain envied his brother because he was more righteous than himself. Envy begat malice. Malice inspired revenge. Revenge hurried him on to blood. How dreadful is the progress of vice! How crime leads on to erime! Here we shall ask: Was it possible that human beings could have begun the world, with stronger incitements to resist the suggestions of that evil spirit, whose aim they must be convinced it was, to work their ruin? We do not see that they could have set out in life, under more awful obligations and restraints.

To compel the will would have been to destroy choice, and consequently to destroy virtue. He who is not free to choose vice, is not free to choose good. But an omniscient and compassionate Being, knowing the danger to which man would be exposed by the freedom of his will, - thought proper to reduce his vanity, by subjecting him to a laborious life, to diseases, and to death; and this, in much goodness, to repress the fleshly principle, and to give a taste of the bitterness of the fruits of sin, in order to excite his aversion and disgust of it; and, by humbling his mind, to make him sensible that his truest interest, and greatest happiness, would be derived from the service and adoration of his Maker. Some persons have asked: "Why was only

one pair of the human species created, instead of such a number as might have been sufficient, if not fully to people the earth, yet at least to accelerate the time, when, in the course of nature, it would be replenished with intellectual beings?"

To this it may be replied: The creation of the first man, in a perfect state, both as to corporal, and mental faculties, afforded ample demonstration of Almighty Power; no extension, or repetition of it was necessary to produce conviction of Omnipotence.-Let us then see whether some traces of Divine wisdom and goodness are not discernible in the different mode chosen for peopling the world. For this purpose we will contrast Adam with Noah. Adam was surrounded with all imaginable incitements to serve and obey his gracious Benefactor; but however perfect his condition, he was a new and inexperienced being, and easily seduced. We have reason to conclude he fell into the first snare that was laid for him. Noah, notwithstanding the disadvantages of the fall, having opportunity of making observations on the different consequences of of vice, and virtue in a variety of instances, and having the whole compass of antediluvian knowledge in his possession, stemmed a torrent of al

most universal iniquity, and gave proof of a firm adherence to religious duty.

In the plain recital of Adam's fall, there is much to reconcile young persons to a continued course of submission to their superiors in age and experience; and even to induce their gratitude, that they are not called upon to exhibit the discrimination and judgment of manhood, without being prepared for it, by a series of observations, convictions, and reflections.

The aggregate of mankind is composed of families. Without the endearing relations of father and son, of brother and sister, that cement would have been wanting, which constitutes the strong bond of social union.

After an account of 600,000 men, besides a corresponding number of women and children, having been fed, during forty years, from the clouds, with grain resembling coriander seed, ean any one question the possibility of the same process being continued? But had it been so, where would have been occasion for the exercise of those faculties, with which human nature has been endowed?

Is there any source of occupation more useful than that of Agriculture? Is there any in the present day which has held out greater incite>

« PreviousContinue »