vIEW of the MILLENNIAL CHURCH
Excerpts from the Second Edition 1848
Concerning the Decrees of God, Election and Reprobation.
1. THE Decrees of God have, for many ages, employed the pens and tongues of many professed divines, and great controversies have been excited and maintained on this subject, but the differences of opinion still remain without producing much light to mankind, except that of discovering the darkness and ignorance of the disputants.
2. Many arguments have been drawn from certain passages of scripture to prove that God, by an unalterable decree, and without any respect to faith or good works, has elected a certain portion of the human race to eternal salvation, and reprobated the remainder to eternal damnation. Hence we hear much about the doctrine of election and reprobation, from those preachers and writers who build their tenets on these favorite passages. But it is to be lamented that there are so many, in this enlightened age, who minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith; desiring to be teachers; yet understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm; who presume to maintain doctrines so contrary to the liberal and righteous principles of the gospel, and so inconsistent with the true character of God.
3. As it is by Divine revelation, that the true character of God is made known to man; so a true knowledge of his decrees, as far as they relate to what he requires of man, are known only by revelation. But those decrees by which, in the beginning, God established the laws of creation, and by which the works of creation and providence are governed, though they are beyond the reach of man, yet their existence is readily ascertained and confirmed by their visible effects. And by these effects the rational mind may easily be led to believe, what none can deny, that God works by an unalterable plan of wisdom, which necessarily produces an unchangeable order and regularity in all his visible works. And hence we must rationally conclude that all his invisible works are under the same established laws; and that they all must and do operate with the greatest order and harmony, and in the end, will most certainly accomplish all his divine purposes in perfect wisdom and righteousness.
4. The decrees of God, so far as they are made manifest, either by Divine revelation, or by their visible effects in the natural world, are of two kinds. The first are those which respect Gods own established and determinate laws and purposes, whether they relate to man, or to any other part of the creation. The second are those which God has given to man, for his protection, and which are calculated and designed to prove his faithfulness and obedience.
5. First. Those decrees which respect Gods own established laws and purposes, comprehend not only the works of creation and providence, but the final event of whatever he has designed. In the works of creation, it is obvious that God has established laws which are unalterable, except by the same Almighty Power which first established them. Among these we may reckon the established order, courses and relative situation of the sun; moon and stars, together with the whole planetary system; the order and courses of the seasons, and the laws of nature by which they are governed; heat and cold, light and darkness, the powers of procreation and vegetation, the laws of gravitation, attraction and repulsion, and everything which depends upon the established laws of nature: these are known by their visible effects.
6. Also Gods determinate purposes, relative to the operation of his divine attributes with respect to man. Among these may be mentioned the decree of his power, in creating man a moral agent, perfectly capable of exercising his moral faculties in choosing and acting according to the dictates of his own mind, in doing good or evil. Also the decree of his wisdom, in placing man in a state of probation, and giving him a fair trial, that he might prove himself in the choice of good or evil, without any influence on either side, more than what he was fully able to resist or follow, according to his own free choice. And also the decree of his goodness, by which he determined to extend his blessings to all his creatures in their obedience, and after the fall, to extend mercy to man, and send a Redeemer to redeem him from his fallen state, and raise him to a heavenly Paradise, of which the earthly paradise, from which he fell, was but a figure.
7. Man being still endowed with the faculty of free agency, notwithstanding his fall, by which he was brought into darkness and bondage, God; who is the source of light, decreed to afford him a sufficient degree of light to see and appreciate, in some measure, the benefits to be obtained by accepting the offers of salvation, through the mediation of the Redeemer; that he might be at no loss respecting his duty and privilege, in choosing for himself, nor respecting the course of life to be pursued, in order to obtain salvation through this medium. In his holiness he decreed that man, by a life of holiness, which he might obtain by obedience, should find an entrance into the mansions of holiness; and he decreed at the same time, that without holiness no man should see the Lord. In his love he also decreed, that the blessings of his love should attend the faithful and obedient. And in his righteousness and justice, he decreed a crown of righteousness, as the just reward of all who should walk in the way of righteousness and peace; and his decree necessarily excludes the disobedient from any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ.
8. These are the unalterable decrees of God, and all who are willing to accept the benefits of these decrees, are freely entitled to them, in the line of obedience; but God has decreed that they shall not be obtained in any other way. By a careful examination of these decrees, we can see nothing in them but what is perfectly just and reasonable, and perfectly consistent with infinite wisdom and goodness; and they certainly display in very striking colors, the great perfection and glory of the Divine Attributes. The fixed and unalterable nature of these decrees, by no means renders them unreasonable or unjust; but the contrary. Even those which more immediately respect man, show forth the unchangeable goodness of God, by their permanence, and are rendered infinitely valuable, by being unalterable.
9. When we consider that God is infinitely wise and powerful, that he is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works, and that he is perfectly free and independent, it must appear perfectly consistent, just and reasonable, that he should create man a moral agent, perfectly free to choose and act for himself, independent of any supernatural control. Herein appears mans divine origin. And where is the man who is willing to have his moral freedom and independence taken from him, and to be compelled to think and act according to the dictates of some other being, without any choice or will of his own, and at the same time, to be made accountable for his thoughts, words and actions.
10. But this cannot be: for God has endowed man with moral agency, and it cannot be taken from him: it is fixed by an unalterable decree; and though intolerant Popes and ecclesiastical persecutors have often attempted it, even by the power of fire and sword, and every implement of torture; yet they never could control the moral powers of man, nor deprive him of his free agency. They have sometimes, indeed, compelled people to speak and act the hypocrite, in order to escape punishment or gain favor; but they never could destroy his moral agency, nor extinguish the light of his conscience. They may indeed bind, imprison or kill the body; but they cannot fetter the thoughts, nor destroy the soul. As well might they attempt to arrest the sun in its progress through the sky, or change the course of the stars.
11. Second. Those decrees which God has given to man for his protection, and which are calculated and designed to prove his faithfulness and obedience. Such was his decree to Adam: In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Such was his decree to the Jews, by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah: If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. And such was the testimony of Jesus Christ: If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God. This may also apply to any command, or any established law of God, for the government of his people, which requires their obedience; and in case of disobedience, exposes them to suffer the penalty decreed by that law.
12. The decrees of God which require the obedience of man, consist in the declaration of his mind and will, concerning their duty, and are manifested by divine revelation, either mediately or immediately. His decree to Adam respecting the forbidden fruit, was direct and positive. His decrees to the people of Israel, through Moses, Joshua and the judges and prophets, were positive, and the promises conditional; yet punishments or sufferings of some kind followed disobedience. Adam and Eve violated the decree of God to them, and therefore they fell from their union with God: for the decree could not be altered. A decree may be permanent and unalterable, or it may be temporary and alterable. Decrees which are temporary and alterable are given according to the existing circumstances of those to whom they are given; but the annulling of them argues no changeableness in the Giver, it only shows a change of the circumstances which occasioned the decree. Gods laws are his decrees, and they may be permanent and unconditional, or temporal and conditional. A sovereign may enact laws for the government of his people, which may be repealable; yet while they exist, they are positive and must be obeyed. So it is with many decrees given for the government of Gods people.
13. The doctrine so strongly maintained, and so extensively believed, that God decreed the fall of man, is most unreasonable and inconsistent. If God decreed that man should sin, then man could not be at all culpable. If he fulfilled Gods decree in eating the forbidden fruit, then he must have done the will of God, and therefore did not commit sin in so doing: for it cannot be sin to do the will of God, and God cannot decree anything contrary to his will; therefore he cannot decree that man shall commit sin. Such a decree would indeed be contrary to every attribute of his nature. The command of God to Adam, was his law; in keeping that law, he could not sin: for sin is a transgression of the law. The command was given to prove Adams obedience, and protect him from evil. In transgressing the command, he violated the law of God, and that occasioned his fall.
14. If sin is a transgression of the laws of God, as the scriptures declare, and Gods decrees are his laws, as all must acknowledge; then it follows, that God never decreed that man should sin: for, to say that he decreed that man should sin, is to say that sin is not a transgression of his laws, but a compliance with them, and therefore, sin is not sin; which is a contradiction. Again: If God did decree that man should commit sin, then sin must have been agreeable to the will of God: for God cannot, without an absolute inconsistency, decree anything which is contrary to his will. Hence the sin cannot be imputed to man; it must be imputed to the will of God; consequently no condemnation can fall on man, seeing he did the will of God. This involves the same absurdity, namely, sin is not sin! Such are the inconsistencies which necessarily flow from this soul-darkening, this heaven-blaspheming doctrine which had its origin in the regions of antichristian darkness.
15. Again: God could not interpose his power to prevent the fall of man, or to prevent him from sinning, whether he would or not; because this would, at once have deprived man of the trial of his obedience, and of all accountableness, by fixing an insurmountable barrier to prevent in him the power of transgression. In this case man could never have been the subject of praise nor blame; he never could have known the power nor the extent of his own free agency; he could never have enjoyed the glorious reward of faithfulness, nor have felt the dishonor and shame of unfaithfulness; having no law which he could, of his own choice, obey or disobey, his conduct, in all things, must, of course, have been impelled by Almighty power, like the stars in their courses. This would have deprived man of the power of self-action, and rendered him a mere machine.
16. Man was created a moral agent, at the beginning: that is, he was endowed with free agency, capable of acting according to his own voluntary choice, without any compulsion either of good or evil: and his having good and evil set before him, was that which constituted his state of trial. God assumed no compelling power over him; and the devil could have none, without the mans previous consent. He was therefore, in this respect, left entirely without control.
17. But it may be asked, whence came this choice of evil? This may be answered in short: It was insinuated by the tempter. The temptation was first addressed to the mind: Ye shall be as Gods; and thence applied to the animal propensities, which were inferior to the rational powers. The faculties of the soul, being superior to those of the body, ought to have had the government. But when the mans animal sensations were addressed, and excited by the temptation, though he possessed a governing power in the faculties of his soul; yet he gave up that power, and gave loose to his animal desires, and under their excitement, yielded to the temptation. This occasioned his fall; and hence the loss which ensued. He proved himself unfaithful to his trust, and the curse followed as the inevitable consequence.
18. Some will argue, that because God is omniscient and knows all things, even before they come to pass, he must of course foreordain that they should come to pass. But this consequence does not follow; it is taking for granted, that which cannot be proved; namely; that God cannot know that such an event would come to pass, without first foreordaining that it shall come to pass: thus making his foreknowledge to depend on a previous decree.
19. But if God possesses almighty power; if in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; then he must certainly be able to endow man with perfect freedom, and render him perfectly independent, as to his power of choosing or refusing, without any constraint of the foreknowledge or decrees of God. And certain it is, that there is nothing in the foreknowledge of God which can operate, either directly or indirectly, against the free and final choice of any soul, in respect to the work of salvation: for this would be predestination in very deed. To say that God cannot foreknow without foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass, is to limit his attributes of power and wisdom, and subject them to his decrees, making his decrees, which are evidently the effect of his power and wisdom, superior to both; this is, in reality, making the effect superior to the cause, and placing the common absurd doctrine of predestination above the Divine attributes.
20. The advocates of unconditional decrees readily admit, that God is able to give his creatures intelligence and volition, and to endow them with the power of thought and action; because this appears too evident to be denied. But still they contend that the operation of these faculties, is immediately dependent on a supernatural impulse; because they cannot conceive how God can confer on man an independence of this kind; or in other words, how he can give man the power to choose and refuse, according to his own will, independent of his Makers influence. Herein they discover their contracted ideas of Divine Power and Wisdom. But mans reason and observation, where they are not blinded by the dark mists of antichristian doctrines, might teach him that, according to what is made manifest in the works of the visible creation, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God must extend infinitely beyond all human conception. This truth may be illustrated by a comparison.
21. It is well known that a clock, being constructed on certain mechanical principles, is able to keep time without the makers assistance; and though the maker cannot confer the power of intelligence and volition on his clock, so as to enable it to go right or wrong, of its own choice; yet it is capable of keeping time, according to the principles of its construction, independent of the Maker, even were he a thousand miles distant. And since it is admitted, that God can and does confer the power of intelligence and volition on man, why should it appear unreasonable to suppose that he, as an Almighty Creator, can render that intelligence and volition perfectly free and independent of his own influence, or the influence of any other being, as easily as a clock can be made to keep time independent of its maker.
22. God is not only able to endow man with perfect freedom and independence, in this respect, but he has in truth done it; and herein consists mans free agency, and his accountability. For if the mind of man were not free, if its action depended on some foreign influence, whether that influence came from God, or some other being, the man could not be a free agent, and therefore not accountable for his conduct. But man being a free agent, and having received the law of his Creator, by which he is taught how to govern his conduct aright, that law is the decree of God to him; in obeying that decree, he finds justification before God; in violating it, he becomes a transgressor.
23. Although man is indebted to his Creator for the power of intelligence and volition, as well as for all his power and faculties of every kind; and although he is continually dependent on the providence of God, for all the benefits and privileges he enjoys; yet without the power to exercise and improve all these gifts, to good or evil purposes, according to a free choice of his own, independent of any external or foreign influence, he could not be accountable for his conduct. But being honored of God, with this most important and highly exalted trust, he is therefore highly responsible to his Maker for a faithful discharge of his duty; and herein appears his great accountability.
24. The doctrine of particular election and reprobation, so called, which maintains that God, by his omnipotent decrees, has, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, and doomed others to eternal damnation, without any regard to faith or good works, is supposed to be confirmed by certain passages of scripture, which its advocates, contrary to all truth and right reason, have seen fit to interpret in that sense. But it appears evident from all that we have seen written and published on this subject, by its most strenuous advocates, that they are entirely ignorant of the true sense and import of those passages. Certain it is, that nothing recorded in the scriptures, on the subject of election or predestination, has any reference to the final lot of any souls, without a special regard to their faith and works. There is not a single passage of scripture advanced in support of this doctrine, but what will easily admit of a reasonable explanation, consistent with the free agency of man; while on the other hand, there are many passages which are direct and positive in the support of free agency, and which cannot consistently admit of any other explanation; but for brevitys sake we shall only notice the following:
25. 1. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live. Here is a positive declaration of God, through Moses, to the children of Israel, that he had set before them the free and uncontrolled choice of good and evil; and that their reward of life or death depended, not on any predestinated decree, but on their good or evil works, freely done: for God is a God of righteousness and truth. But to say that God had before determined to fix their choice by any secret decree, is to make this declaration a most glaring imposition upon their faith and understanding, which is wholly inconsistent with the righteousness and goodness of God.
26. 2. What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the childrens teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion anymore to use this proverb in Israel. This proverb is founded on the same principle with that which maintains, that because Adam partook of the forbidden fruit, it is just and right for God, by an arbitrary decree, to damn all his children, without any regard to their works, or rather for works which they were impelled to do by irresistible necessity; and that if any are saved, it must be through a partial election, by the same arbitrary decrees. But if this be really the case, we certainly have still occasion to use this proverb, notwithstanding the positive declaration of Jehovah to the contrary. Thus we may see that this preposterous doctrine has a direct tendency to impeach the character of the God of justice and truth.
27 3. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, Oh house of Israel! Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? What can render the way of God more unequal than the doctrine of unconditional decrees? On the other hand, what can be more equal, just and reasonable, than to reward all souls according to their works, whether good or evil?
28. 4. As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live. What can be more plain and positive? It is impossible that God should foreordain anything contrary to his own will and pleasure. If therefore, God has foreordained that man should commit sin, for which he must die, then, of course he certainly must have pleasure in the death of the wicked. Here again, we may see that the aforementioned doctrine not only charges God with the height of injustice, but with the grossest deception and falsehood towards his rational creatures.
29. But it may be objected by some, that, as these declarations were made under the law, they only concerned this life, and not the final state of the soul; and that unconditional election was in Christ, which respected the eternal state of all souls. But we would ask, Are Gods ways more just and equal to men in their temporal, than in their eternal state? Is he more favorable to the bodies, than to the souls of men? Even this supposition can by no means remove the inconsistency of the doctrine, nor lessen the absurdity of the argument advanced in its support. But the declarations and promises under the gospel are equally plain and positive.
30. 5. Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls. Here is a positive call, and a positive promise, to all who will obey it. Where then is the decree that can hinder the fulfilment of this promise, aside from the unwillingness of mankind to comply with the call? Has God decreed that they shall not be willing to comply? Then the call must be a mere mockery, a vain pretence, to deceive souls into a belief that the gospel was intended for all, when in fact, only a part were to be saved by it: while the rest, after being mocked with a pretence that the grace of God was free for all, and that the call of Christ extended to all, without exception, were to be eternally damned! Such are the natural and necessary consequences of that blasphemous doctrine of unconditional decrees, which have been forged in the tyrannical school of Antichrist, and palmed upon the God of righteousness and truth.
31. 6. Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. This testimony of the apostle Peter is directly to the point, and shows plainly who will be elected, and what the conditions are. He that feareth God, and worketh righteousness. But if God has in fact, decreed the final lot of all souls, from all eternity, and has unconditionally elected some to salvation, and others to damnation, which necessarily fixes an eternal difference between them, he must, in this case, be the greatest respecter of persons, and must display the greatest possible partiality and injustice towards his rational creatures.
32. 7. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Here again, we have another plain testimony of the same apostle. If therefore, God is not willing that any should perish, and yet has foreordained, by an unconditional decree, that any part should perish, that any part should not come to repentance, then he must have passed this decree against his own will! Such is the ridiculous light in which this horrid doctrine places the God of wisdom and goodness.
33. 8. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. If then God will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, he cannot possibly will to the contrary; therefore he could not foreordain that any should not be saved, nor come to the knowledge of the truth.
34. Thus it appears that the law and the prophets, and also the testimony of Jesus Christ and his apostles, all tend to disprove the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation, and to confirm, in the most positive manner, the free agency of man. Hence it is clearly evident that the obedience or disobedience of all souls depends on their own free choice, and that their reward will be according to their works. As to those passages which are supposed to imply the doctrine of predestination, according to the sense in which it is held, and which its advocates generally advance as evidence in its favor, they are easily explained upon rational principles, without involving that absurd doctrine. Election does not necessarily imply predestination; nor does foreordination, as used in the scriptures, by any means involve the final destination of any soul, without a fair and impartial trial, according to the just and equitable principles of the gospel.
35. Election, according to the common import of the term, means choice; and where it is used in the Scriptures, it implies a particular selection of certain persons or people, for certain purposes. This subject may be illustrated by a comparison. It is well known that in an elective government, the officers are elected or chosen to fill certain places or stations, and to perform certain duties. But this election does not necessarily imply that they were predestinated to those offices; nor does it exclude other citizens from the privilege of participating in the affairs of government, or of enjoying its benefits. There must be public offices in every well regulated government, and suitable characters must be elected and appointed to fill those offices. But all cannot be presidents nor secretaries of state; all cannot be senators, nor representatives in congress; yet all may enjoy the blessings and privileges of a good government, provided they conduct themselves worthy of it.
36. The constitution of the United States has foreordained or predestinated, that the persons elected and qualified, according to such and such provisions, shall hold such and such offices; consequently their election is established and confirmed by certain articles or decrees of the constitution which, perhaps, were enacted, and made a part of the supreme law of the land, before some of the persons so elected were born. Yet the constitution did not foreordain nor elect these persons, it only designated the characters and qualifications necessary for such offices; but left the actual election of the officers to the future determination of the electors, who were to be governed in their proceedings, according to the provisions of the constitution on the subject. But the choice of the worthy candidates, so far from being detrimental to the rest of the citizens, is of essential benefit to them, being chosen for their service. And it must be obvious also, that this choice can be of no use to the persons chosen, unless they accept of it, and fulfil the duties of the office; so it is with the election of all souls in the work of God.
37. Hence we may see the comparison between things temporal and spiritual. By the constitution of heaven which was decreed and established by the Almighty, it was predestinated that such and such characters, possessing such and such essential qualifications, should be leaders, teachers and prophets to the people, to guide and direct them in their duty. Accordingly, when the time arrived, in which the occasion required the selection to be made, Noah was chosen to build the ark, and save himself and his family from the flood; because he was a just man, and one who was obedient to the will of God, and thereby found favor with God. Abraham was chosen and ordained to be the typical father of the faithful; because of his faithfulness and obedience to the call of God. For the same cause, Moses, Joshua, Samuel and the prophets, were chosen as faithful servants of God, to do the work which God ordained to be done.
38. But these individuals were not chosen to the exclusion of others from the work of God; but for the benefit of all over whom they were appointed the leaders and guides, that all might be sharers with them, in the blessings promised to the faithful and obedient. Thus the election of Moses as a leader to the Israelites, was designed for their deliverance from their Egyptian bondage, and for their protection and salvation in their journey through the wilderness. But this election did not decide the final state of a single individual of that nation, or of any other; it was intended to serve as a figure to typify Jesus Christ, who was to be the Savior of his people. And as all who were faithful and obedient to the law of Moses, were blessed and protected, and delivered from the power of their enemies, while the disobedient and rebellious were destroyed; so all who will be faithful and obedient to the law of Christ, will be blessed and protected, and delivered from the power of sin and Satan, and find an inheritance in the heavenly Canaan, as Gods elect; while the disobedient and rebellious will lose their day and their privilege, and be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven.
39. Though the posterity of Abraham were highly privileged with temporal blessings, according to the promise of God to their faithful father Abraham; though they were called Gods chosen people and his elect; yet that election could never secure their final salvation, without their own faithfulness and obedience. It is evident that it did not decide the final character and state of the Jews; for they proved a rebellious people, and therefore, notwithstanding their elections they were afterwards cut off by the judgments of God, and scattered over the face of the earth, and exist, even to this day, as a monument of Gods displeasure against the sin of disobedience and rebellion.
40. Many are called but few chosen, said Jesus. And this was evidently the case with respect to the Jews; for although the whole nation was called, and was figuratively a chosen nation; yet comparatively very few of them proved so faithful as to be found at last among the real chosen of God. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel. Election is therefore not the seal of Salvation. It did not save Judas, although he was elected, and appointed one of Christs twelve apostles; yet he proved himself a traitor, and was therefore disinherited and cut off; and another was chosen to fill his place.
41. The case of Jacob and Esau is often advanced, as an argument in proof of the doctrine of predestination, which is supposed to be fully confirmed by the following passages of scripture. Was not Esau Jacobs brother? saith the Lord; yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau. And again; For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.
42. But what does this prove? What was the purpose of God according to election, concerning them? As before observed, election implies choice. The purpose of God therefore, in the choice of these two individuals, was to typify in them, the flesh and the spirit; and to show where the love and blessing of God would finally rest, and where his hatred and displeasure would fall. It is written, The elder shall serve the younger. But though we have no account that ever Esau served Jacob, personally; yet this prediction was evidently fulfilled in the two nations which sprung from them, which rendered the figure still more complete. God therefore selected these two children, (even before they were born, and of course before they had done either good or evil, by which they might be judged as to their own merits,) for the very purpose of displaying in them and in their posterity, a figurative representation of the wide difference between the flesh and the Spirit; between the old creation and the new.
43. But in this election, there is nothing which could decide their future state, as to their salvation or damnation. The final lot and portion of these two nations, and every individual of them, was yet to be proved and decided; in a future day of greater light and spiritual power, and by a more unerring rule of judgment, than could be given in that day. Therefore the election or choice of these two brothers, was never intended to decide their eternal state; but only intended to represent, in a figure, Gods hatred of sin and the fallen nature of the flesh, in the children of wickedness, who will sell their heavenly birthright for a little carnal pleasure; while he manifests his distinguishing love and blessing to those who will wisely distinguish themselves, by their faith and obedience to the calls of the gospel.
44. The instance of Pharaoh is produced as another argument in favor of the doctrine of predestination. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
45. This text is supposed, by the advocates of unconditional election, to be an unanswerable argument in its favor. But we consider it a very fallacious argument. For how did God raise up Pharaoh? He undoubtedly raised him up as he raises up all other men, and for a similar purpose, only he was in a more distinguished station. In the order of his divine providence, he raised him first to a child, then to a man, and then to a king. Hence by Gods providence, his power was made known and his name declared through the earth, according to his exalted station.
46. Again: How did God harden Pharaohs heart? We answer: He sent his commands to him, to let Israel go. This aroused his selfish feelings, and he refused to obey. God then sent judgments upon him for his conviction, which softened his heart, so that he promised obedience. He was then left to prove his obedience. Being left to himself after the judgment was removed, he still refused to obey; and by his rebellion he hardened his own heart still harder than before. Thus God repeatedly softened his heart by the merciful displays of convicting judgments, while he still refused obedience. Hence Gods convicting power proved the means, and his own disobedience the cause of his hearts being hardened. So that in consequence of his continued rebellion and hardness of heart, he finally brought upon himself a just judgment, which terminated in his own destruction.
47. This is in accordance with the words of Christ: If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! God displays light to man, and requires him to follow it; and though this light cannot be turned into darkness; yet if he refuses to follow the light, he will fall into greater darkness than before. And this will continue to be the natural effect so long as he continues to reject the light, until by final rebellion he will be left, as a just judgment, to fall into eternal darkness.
48. The Spirit of God never did, and never can operate to harden the heart of any man; it is inconsistent with his nature: For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man with evil. Nay, the direct tendency of his Spirit is to soften the heart and draw souls to obedience; as evidently appears even in the case of Pharaoh. And if they comply, they will inherit his goodness; but if they refuse and rebel, they will be hardened in judgment to their own destruction: For the reward of their hands will be given them, and they cannot charge it upon a just God. Such has been the dealings of God with man from the beginning, and such have been the effects, and ever will be, to the end of his probationary state.
49. Therefore this selection of Pharaoh was also designed, as a figure, to represent the arch oppressor of Gods people, in the spirit of wickedness. And the subsequent destruction of him and his host, in the red sea, typified the flood of destruction which will finally overwhelm the enemies of Gods people, and put an end to all manner of oppression. But neither the hardening of Pharaohs heart, nor the destruction of the Egyptian host, can be any evidence of the final state of either. It will doubtless be more tolerable for them, in the day of judgment, than for the rebellious Jews; and beyond comparison more so, than for those who reject the light of the gospel in the present day. Obedience or disobedience to the everlasting gospel, the light of which must finally be extended to all, whether living or dead, will at length prove the salvation or damnation of every soul.
50. The scriptures have been greatly wrested to prove doctrines which have originated in antichristian darkness; but after all, there is nothing to be found throughout the sacred volume, that affords the smallest proof of that gloomy and soul-darkening doctrine of eternal and unconditional decrees, which so unjustly fixes the final salvation or damnation of souls, without a special regard to their works. The election of individuals as ministers, prophets, or leaders of the people, by no means implies a certainty of the final salvation of the persons so elected, anymore than it implies the damnation of those who are not elected to these offices; because all must finally be judged and rewarded according to their works. Those works, however, which were performed in a state of darkness and ignorance, though they must have their due reward, can never decide the final doom of any soul. Those performed under the light of the gospel, and with a full understanding of its requirements, are the works by which the soul must be tried, and for which he must receive his final reward.
51. The truth of these things is so abundantly testified in the scriptures, and appears so consistent with the righteousness and justice of God, that there seems to be no possible ground to dispute it; and yet we find many antichristian preachers and writers continually exclaiming against the efficacy of good works, and thus discouraging all attempts to obtain the mercy and favor of God by the virtuous acts of faithful obedience. But this discouraging doctrine will finally prove a poor excuse for their own idleness and disobedience. Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his works shall be.
~ End of Part III, Chapter 2 ~
1. THE natural world, and the things therein contained, were, from the beginning, wisely designed as figurative representations of spiritual things to come. As this earth was created for a temporary use, and was never intended to be the abiding place of man, but only a place of preparation for a more substantial, durable and glorious state, in the spiritual world; it was therefore highly proper and necessary that, in its creation and order, it should bear a suitable comparison with that spiritual creation of which it was a figure. But as the difference between things natural and spiritual is very great; so this comparison is but as a shadow compared with the substance.
2. Jesus Christ, both in his public ministry and in his discourses with his disciples, often made use of natural similitudes to represent spiritual things. By this he evidently manifested that the natural creation and the things pertaining to it, were well adapted to represent spiritual and eternal things, which indeed could not be represented otherwise than by the things of time. This truth is more fully revealed in these last days, to those who are now made partakers of the real substance of those things, which were formerly represented by types and shadows. That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
3. In the first of Genesis, we have the following account of the commencement and progress of the natural creation and its established order, together with the first creation of man. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. Or rather, according to the original, God divided, or made a separation between the light and the darkness. The sacred historian then proceeds to show the formation and order of the natural heavens and earth, the sea and the dry land, and the natural productions and established order of each. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth; and it was so.
4. Thus the fixed and unalterable laws of nature were established in the fruits; each kind must bring forth fruit according to its nature. It was therefore contrary to the nature of the oak to bring forth oranges, or for the fig-tree to yield peaches. The seed of the melon could not produce cucumbers, nor the flaxseed bring forth barley. The laws of nature could not be violated, in this respect, in any part of the vegetable creation.
5. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day from the night: and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of heaven, to give light upon the earth: and it was so. Here we see that when these sources of natural light were created, and established in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness, God, at the same time, ordained that they should be for signs and for seasons, as well as for days and years. Thus it appears that Divine Wisdom has ordained that the things of the natural creation, under the government and influence of these lights, should be regulated by times and seasons; and these are for signs to those who walk in the light. But this subject will be more particularly noticed in the sequel. The account thus proceeds:
6. And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly after their kind, and every fowl after his kind. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. Thus all these things were created and established in their order, and endowed, by the laws of creation, with the power of generating their own species, in their order, and according to the times and seasons appointed by the Creator.
7. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.
8. Thus man was appointed the sole lord of the creation; his power and dominion was over all. But as he was constituted Gods representative on earth, who best knew his situation, and the danger to which he was exposed, it was necessary that he should yield perfect obedience to the commands of his Creator, as the only possible means by which he could retain that power and dominion which the Creator had given him upon these conditions. From the foregoing statement the following observations may be drawn.
9. 1. It appears that the natural creation was gradually formed and brought into order: that this order, which extended through the whole creation, was supported and governed by certain laws and regulations, which constituted the beauty and harmony of the creation, and which could not be broken without creating confusion; and that everything in its proper order and place was pronounced good, and placed under the dominion of man.
10. 2. In the creation a separation was made between light and darkness, day and night, and many other things of different and opposite qualities, which when contrasted, clearly represented good and evil, and were calculated to present to the mind of man the qualities of things beautiful and ugly, lovely and hateful, harmless and hurtful, and were doubtless necessary to impress upon his understanding a sense of good and evil, happiness and misery.
11. 3. These things, so different and opposite in their nature, were entirely separate and distinct from each other; and as each in its place was designed, as a sign or figure, to represent that which was good or evil among spiritual things, it was therefore necessary for man, in all his transactions, to keep that distinction in view, and to govern himself accordingly.
12. To the spiritually minded the comparison between natural and spiritual things is plain and obvious. The light of the sun, being the source or fountain of light in the natural creation, is a most striking figure of the fountain of spiritual light, the bright source of everlasting life, the glorious Light of Heaven, of which all souls who shall be found faithful to improve the light which God has given them, will be made partakers. The darkness of the night evidently prefigures the shades of spiritual darkness, and the gloomy mansions of hell, where all souls who choose darkness rather than light must sink at last. The beautiful and harmonious songsters of the grove are so many emblems of happy spirits, whose blessed influences communicate happiness to all around them. The voracious raven, the midnight screech-owl, and the like, are emblematic of those destructive and tormenting spirits which haunt the infernal regions, and torment the wicked.
13. Similar comparisons may be made relative to good and evil beasts, beautiful and ugly animals, and useful and destructive creatures of every kind. The fruits of the earth, the plants and the herbs of the field, and everything that grows upon the earth, as well as all living creatures which inhabit the watery world, or fly in the airy regions, are either useful or destructive, pure or impure, and are figurative either of spiritual good or evil, purity or impurity: for God has created nothing in vain. Therefore, though all these things are temporal, as to their existence, and must soon perish, like all other works of time, yet in their creation, infinite Wisdom evidently had real and essential objects in view, as spiritual substances, to be typified or pointed out by these created objects. How else could the invisible things of him be clearly seen and understood by the things that are made?
14. It may be asserted as an objection to the foregoing doctrine, that these things were created for the use and subsistence of man. Admitting this to be true, it does not prove that they were not, at the same time intended as figurative representations of spiritual things. But there are evidently many kinds of living creatures, as well as many other things in the natural creation, for which mankind have never yet found any use, and perhaps never will in this world; and certainly they were not created in vain. What then could have been the object of their creation, if it was not to represent something of a spiritual nature to be revealed hereafter?
15. The fact that sheep and lambs, as well as a variety of other creatures, were given to be slain, both for food and for sacrifice, did not prevent their being used as figures to typify the sacrifice to be made for sin, and to represent the meek and innocent character of the Savior, who was brought as a lamb to the slaughter. Nor were they, on that account, less typical of the meek and innocent character of his people, whom he calls his sheep and his lambs. So also the best fruits of the earth, which were evidently created for the immediate use of man, and expressly given for his subsistence, are no less figurative on that account; but even the very circumstance of their being given for food, was intended to show that they are figurative of that spiritual fruit with which the righteous will be fed in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus Christ had reference to this, when he said to his disciples, I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Fathers Kingdom.
16. It is well known that those who are born into this world, must be nourished with temporal food, or they would soon perish. And it is as certain that the new born soul, who has been begotten in the regeneration and brought forth in the new creation, by the renovating power of Christ, as really requires spiritual food, as the natural man requires that which is natural. Even the pure waters of the fountain, so refreshing to a thirsty man, are figurative of those spiritual waters which flow from the fountain of everlasting life, and without which souls in the spiritual world must suffer, and be constrained to cry out, like the rich man in the parable, for a drop of the water of life to cool their tongues.
17. These figures extend to everything which pertains to the natural creation: nor do they stop here. All the useful and important works of man, which are produced by the exercise of his natural faculties, are also figurative of the good works to be wrought by his spiritual faculties hereafter. And he who is faithful in performing his duty here, whether in things which are in themselves great or small, will be honored with a glorious employment in the heavenly world, compared with which his greatest works in this world are but a shadow. If therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And as the difference between the faithful and the unfaithful, in this world, is manifested by their works; so in the world of spirits, the difference will appear as much greater, as heavenly and divine things are greater than those which are earthly. The faithful will be honored and the unfaithful degraded: the former will have his talents doubled to him, and the latter will have his taken from him. The parable of Jesus Christ concerning the talents is a striking illustration of this subject.
~ End of Part III, Chapter 3 ~
1. WHEN God created the world, he established in it certain laws by which it was to be governed. Among these were included the order of times and seasons. These laws being established by the Almighty, could not be altered by any inferior power. The established order of the sun, moon and stars, which rise in the east and set in the west, could not be broken, nor their courses changed, so as to rise and set in an opposite direction, and at different periods of time. Nor could the established order of the seasons be changed, so as to produce effects contrary to the designs of infinite Wisdom. Day and night, heat and cold, summer and winter, seed time and harvest must have their appointed courses; nor was it in the power of any human being to change them. It would have been utterly inconsistent with Divine Wisdom to subject, to the control of man, the established laws of nature by which the creation was governed; therefore these laws were necessarily independent of all human power.
2. When God brought forth the vegetable creation he established in it the laws of vegetation, which required that everything pertaining thereto should bring forth fruit, each according to its kind, and be regulated by times and seasons. Hence every different kind had its allotted period to grow to maturity, to bud and blossom, and to bring forth fruit. Thus established and regulated, the order and harmony of the vegetable creation was rendered beautiful and glorious; no violation of nature, nothing disorderly to corrupt and mar its beauty nor destroy its harmony. Similar laws were also established in the animal creation. They too, in their various orders, had their appointed times to grow to maturity, and their seasons to generate and bring forth their offspring according to their kind.
3. Man also had laws given him according to his lot and order in the creation. As he was made superior to all the rest of Gods creatures in the natural world, being endowed with superior faculties and a rational soul, it was necessary that he should be governed by superior laws. The vegetable creation was regulated by the periodical seasons of the year, and these were sufficient for it. The animal creation, in addition to the rotation of the seasons, was endowed with the law of natural instinct, which was necessary to guide and regulate the various kinds of animals in procuring sustenance, and in the propagation of their species, according to their different classes and orders, in their times and seasons.
4. But man, being superior to all other creatures, had not only the rotation of the seasons, and the law of nature, in common with the animal creation; but he had also a superior law, by which he was made capable of overruling and governing all the dispositions and propensities of his animal nature. The rational powers of his soul were superior to his animal faculties, and constituted him a rational being, and brought him into a near relation to his Creator; he was therefore capable of receiving the law of his Creator to govern and direct his rational soul, in all its movements. Hence he was enabled, not only to keep the law of nature, and govern his own inferior propensities, but also to have the government and dominion over all the inferior creation.
5. The work designed for man, in his primeval state, was not only to increase and multiply, and replenish the earth with his own offspring, but also to subdue it, and to improve the condition of it, and with it his own condition. But he was to be regulated in all these things, not by the propensities of his animal passions, but according to the order which God had appointed for him, and which was to be made manifest in his living soul, by the Spirit of God. By so doing, he would have been enabled, under the special guidance and protection of his Creator, to rise by degrees to a higher state of perfection, and might have been, even in this world, the honorable progenitor of a numerous offspring who, by their obedience might have blessed, and beautified the earth, honored themselves and their primeval parents, and glorified their Creator. This was the primeval state and standing of man.
6. But as the man was to be the ruler and governor of all the inferior creation, it was necessary that his faithfulness should be proved. Being created a free agent, and endowed with power to act according to his own will and pleasure, as far as his capacity extended, independent of any other being, it was therefore necessary that he should have a law to direct him aright; an order which he must keep, for his own safety and protection. For although he had power to act freely; yet his situation and inexperience were such as to need protection. There was a work before him; and it was a matter of importance that he should be fully endowed with power and wisdom to perform it. This he was to gain by obedience to the counsel and instructions of his Creator. As a young and inexperienced child is required to walk in obedience to the counsel and instruction of his wise and experienced parent, as the only safe means of gaining wisdom and experience for himself; so he must prove his faithfulness by his obedience, before he can be justly entitled to the heirship of any portion of his fathers inheritance.
7. Hence we may see the importance of mans obedience to his Creator, and the necessity of proving his own faithfulness, by his obedience, before he could fairly be entitled to the full government and dominion over the new formed world. It was for this purpose that God gave him a positive command. By strictly keeping this command, he was fully able to preserve his honor and dignity, and retain his lot and place as the first in the government and dominion of all this lower creation. This command was not entrusted to his animal sensations; but being from God, it was committed to the more exalted faculties of his rational soul, and was, emphatically the law of God to man, for the trial and proof of his faithfulness and obedience.
8. It may be asked, What was this command? We read that he was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or to touch it. This injunction was a prohibitory and positive command to the man, whatever might have been the figure by which it was manifested to him. To abstain therefore from this fruit was only to govern his animal propensities, and keep them in subjection to the law of God in his rational soul. This was an easy task while he kept the power of self-denial in his own soul; but when he had once yielded to the tempter, and had given up his self-denying power, he could not recall it, it was gone forever from him. Thenceforth, without the protecting care and overruling power of his Creator, he was liable to be completely ruined and destroyed by the power of the enemy, to whose temptations he had fallen a victim. What a lesson of warning to mankind in the present day, and especially to young people, to beware of all insinuating allurements to sensual pleasure, and to shun every temptation to evil!
9. But what was this tree of the knowledge of good and evil? and whence arose the temptation to eat of it? Some suppose the forbidden object to be the fruit of some natural fruit-tree. But we would ask, How is it possible that a tree or its fruit should contain the knowledge of good and evil, or be able to communicate that knowledge to man? Yet it was evidently something by which the mans obedience was to be tried. But if the mere proof of obedience had been the only object, though a very necessary one, we might naturally suppose that any other command or prohibition might have answered the same purpose. Proof of obedience was undoubtedly a most essential point. But no candid person will deny that the wisdom of God would select the most important object for the trial of mans obedience; an object not only important in itself, but one which really required that injunction for the mans own benefit, and the benefit of his posterity.
10. And what could be more suitable, and better calculated to try the man and prove his obedience, than to lay upon him an order calculated to govern his animal propensities, and suppress any disorderly influence upon his mind? Hence the forbidden object might, with the greatest propriety, be compared to a fruit-tree of delicious fruit, as a suitable figure to represent to mankind, in after ages, the influence of the temptation upon the animal propensities of the youthful and inexperienced couple. Their propensity to satisfy hunger and slake their thirst, was necessary to support life, and therefore could not consistently be denied; nor could such a denial be attended with any possible benefit, in their situation.
11. But as the power of generation was given to man solely for the purpose of procreation, and not for the gratification of his animal nature, the dignity of his creation required that he should maintain a greater degree of order and purity, in the work of generation, than was required of the inferior part of the creation, which was governed by the law of nature. This was the more essential, as the offspring of man were to possess rational and immortal souls, destined to an eternal existence. It was therefore a matter of the first importance, that the primeval parents of mankind should strictly obey the injunctions of their Creator, that their offspring should not be corrupted by any violation of the order of nature, on the part of their parents, in respect to the times and seasons of generation; but that they should be generated under the sanction of Divine Authority, according to the times and seasons of Gods appointment, as well as in strict conformity to the law of nature. This therefore, was the command of God to man, and was given, not only to prove his obedience, but for his protection against that subtle enemy whose object was to destroy the creation, by infusing his poisonous influence at a point which was calculated to corrupt the whole human race, and produce the most extensive mischief.
12. But why was it called The tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Because these were the most appropriate terms by which the figure could be expressed: for in obedience, the greatest good was to be made known and ensue; and in disobedience, the greatest evil was actually made known, and did ensue, both to himself and all his posterity: hence no other terms could be so suitable to express the real nature and design of this figure.
13. The times and seasons of generation were evidently designed by the Creator, as the established order of propagation, in the animal creation. This order is very visible in the inferior creation, and doubtless would have been no less manifest in man, had he been faithful to his trust. His rational soul, while standing in its primitive purity and uprightness, could never be degraded to the servitude of his animal passions; it must have stood preeminent in dignity, and held the government of every inferior propensity. The power was entrusted to the living and rational soul of man; and the command of God was sufficient to maintain that power, as long as the soul maintained its obedience. This was the point of trial; on this depended the mans fate; on this depended the state and character of his offspring: for like begets like; and if parents are alienated from God, they will of course produce an alienated offspring.
14. The man therefore, in his primeval state, stood in a noble capacity, not only to prove his faithfulness by his obedience, but to preserve inviolate the order of the creation, for the support and maintenance of his important and dignified station, both for his own happiness and the happiness of his posterity, and for the honor and glory of his Creator. This was his trial; it required no sacrifice, but the subjection of his animal propensities to his rational powers against any opposite. But still he was in a state of trial, a state of probation; and his obedience was the very point to be tried. So long as he kept this, all was safe; but if he failed in this, all was lost. This state of trial was unavoidable, without it there could be no proof, either of obedience or disobedience. The soul in yielding obedience to God his superior, was safely protected; but in yielding to an inferior propensity, he must of necessity fall under the power of that influence to which he yielded obedience. Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.
15. But whence originated the evil influence which led to disobedience? It could not be in any of the works of God; for they were all pronounced very good, and it is impossible that very evil should proceed from very good. It could not spring from God; for no evil influence could originate from the source of all goodness. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. Hence darkness could never proceed from light. The evil therefore, must have originated in darkness; it could have had no other source.
16. By recurring back to the order of creation, in the preceding chapter, it will be seen that though Gods works were all very good, though light was created in the midst of darkness, and order established in the midst of confusion; yet the darkness was not annihilated, nor was the source of confusion destroyed. In scripture the power of evil is called the power of darkness. Hence that invisible power of evil, which is eternally opposed to all good, and which is called The Devil, has its existence in that spiritual darkness of which the natural darkness is a figure. From this power flows all spiritual and moral evil; it is the source of all those principles and influences which, in their operations, oppose the nature of godliness and injure the works of God. It is therefore the height of folly and wickedness, in anyone, to charge any of those evil propensities which lead to the dark works of sin, upon the God of light and holiness: for they never originated from him.
17. The darkness which was left in the natural creation, and which was divided from the light, was designed to show that good has no fellowship with evil, nor the spirit of light with the spirit of darkness. It also shows that there was still a place left for the entrance and temptation of an evil influence. That evil influence indeed entered, in the hour of darkness, and found access to the woman in the nature of the serpent, a sly, cunning serpent, a crooked, poisonous serpent, proceeding from the spirit of evil in an inferior animal, which ought to have put the woman on her guard, and instead of listening to the deceitful insinuations of an animal so much her inferior, she ought to have been guided by the wholesome counsel of her superior, and kept the law of her Creator, which it is evident she well recollected, even in the midst of her fatal interview with the serpent.
18. But the woman was overcome: She yielded to that evil influence which, through the subtlety of the serpent, wrought upon her animal propensities, and infused into her mind the filthy passion of lust. The woman being thus enticed and overcome, enticed her husband, and through the same evil influence, overcame him. Thus the noble order of the creation was reversed. Man having yielded to the temptation, and received and indulged an evil propensity, his power was gone. And having been once overcome, by yielding to the insinuations of an authority inferior to his own, he had henceforth no control over the inferior creation, any further than by the permission of his Creator; for he had forfeited his right by his disobedience. Thus man became a servant to the power of evil by yielding obedience to it, by which means his nature, and, through that medium, the whole natural world became corrupted with evil.
19. Hence it is easy to see that this earth was, in every respect, calculated for a state of probation. Had there been no darkness upon it, had there been nothing in it to which evil could find access, then truly it would have been no place of trial; and if no place of trial, then no state of probation to man. As darkness is the habitation of evil; so the spirit of evil can always find access wherever he finds darkness. But darkness had its appointed place and order; and had man been faithful in his duty, evil might have been confined within its own limits. It was evidently mans duty from the beginning, to retire to his place of protection, and rest in the time of darkness, and wait the returning light; and not to expose himself in the dark till he had obtained light sufficient to withstand the power of darkness.
20. Man, by his disobedience, exposed himself to the power of darkness, and opened the way for the entrance of the enemy where, otherwise he never could have entered. This occasioned his fall, the loss of his power and authority, and completed his ruin, as far as respected his relation and connection with the spiritual world. From this loss and ruin, it was impossible that there should be any restoration without a new order of things, and a new man who would prove faithful to his trust. What a lesson of warning to the children of God to be faithful! Unfaithfulness leads to inevitable ruin.
21. This world being created and designed for a state of probation, it must necessarily continue to be such to Adams posterity, as well as to himself. To suppose that Adams faithfulness would have released his posterity from a state of trial, is a mistaken supposition; because a season of probation was no less necessary for them than for him: for evil still existed; and it was therefore as necessary for his posterity to gain power over it, as for himself. His faithfulness could not have released them from the trial of their own obedience, nor have secured them from the wiles of the Adversary. Each individual must therefore necessarily pass through a state of trial; and had Adam stood faithful, his posterity, even to the latest generation, while the order of nature remained, must have stood by their own obedience, or fallen by their own disobedience, to the authority of their righteous parents, who, by standing in the order of God, and keeping the divine law, would have been Gods representatives to their offspring.
22. Adam and Eve having, through disobedience, yielded to the influence of evil, were overcome by it; and the spirit of evil having once found an entrance, could enter again and again. They must therefore, ever after, be under the power of that evil influence, unless protected by some superior power. And as like causes produce like effects, so they begat children in their own likeness, an offspring like themselves, and under the power of the same evil influence in the work of generation. Their union and relation to their Creator was now lost. They were now forever debarred from the tree of life, which was before accessible to them, and by which they partook of the life of God, and shared communion with him in their natural state. Having now nothing to support them in their former exalted station, they of course fell from their relation to God, into that nature which they had indulged and gratified; the nature of lust. The rational soul having yielded its power, their animal propensities, being corrupted by the nature of the serpent, had now the preeminence over them.
23. Here we may clearly see the cause, why it is, even to this day, that the rational soul of man is so much under the influence of his animal passions. And yet, even of this, the greater part of mankind seem to be utterly insensible, and will often imagine that they are guided in their speculations and pursuits, by the dictates of truth and right reason, while in fact they are either led by their animal passions, or deceived by some of the propensities of a fallen nature. This is often seen, not only in the ordinary transactions of life, but also in the pursuits of religion, in the establishment of many religious institutions, in the speculations and writings of men on subjects of divinity, and may be observed in a thousand instances, even among those who are esteemed great and good men: But the tree is known by its fruit.
~ End of Part III, Chapter 4 ~
The cause, nature and effect of Mans loss from God.
1. IT is universally acknowledged by the professors of Christianity, that in consequence of Adams transgression, mankind are lost from God. This is so fully taught in the scriptures, and the evidence of it so visible throughout the world, that it cannot be disputed. But what was the real cause of that loss, and wherein its nature and effects are most clearly manifested, is but little considered, and still less understood. It is generally viewed, however, as a punishment inflicted on mankind, for an act of disobedience committed by their first parents. In this view, God is represented as an arbitrary despot, with his eternal and absolute decrees, imputing guilt to the whole human race, as the effect of Adams transgression. But this doctrine, to say the least of it, is a blind impeachment of Gods righteousness.
2. The idea that mankind are born into the world with Adams guilt upon them, is wholly inconsistent with Divine righteousness, and contrary to all the light of reason and revelation that God ever bestowed on man, and has no foundation in truth. Even the common sense of mankind must teach them, that it is impossible for a son to be guilty of an act of sin which was committed by his father, before he was born; and it would be considered as the height of injustice to punish the son for his fathers sin. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. Yet this son might afterwards become guilty of the same sin by his own act; and in that case he would justly deserve punishment.
3. To say that the child of fallen parents is born in a fallen state, or under the influence of a fallen nature is to declare the truth; but this by no means implies guilt in the child. No one will pretend that a child who is the offspring of adultery, is, on that account, chargeable with the guilt of his parents; nor would it be consistent with justice for him to suffer for the crime of his parents. But as a corrupt fountain cannot send forth pure waters, and as like causes necessarily produce like effects; so the fruit of every tree partakes of the nature of the tree which produced it. And though the wicked act of the parents cannot be charged upon the child; yet the child is liable, unless restrained by a superior principle, to follow the same wicked example, and bring guilt upon himself by a similar act.
4. This is just the situation of Adams posterity. Those who yield to the same propensity, and follow his example, naturally run into the same act of sin, and as really partake of the forbidden fruit as Adam did; and by that means they bring the same guilt upon themselves, and are thenceforth as effectually excluded from the tree of life as Adam and Eve were. But those who are willing to yield obedience to a superior principle, and to deny themselves and take up their crosses against the propensities of that nature which they have received from their parents, are justly entitled to eat of the tree of life and live forever.
5. Disobedience to the positive command of God, was evidently the cause of mans fall; and his fall was the inevitable consequence of the act which he committed, of which he was forewarned at the time he was forbidden to commit it. As if a father who had a son residing in the neighborhood of an enemy, should warn his son of the danger of listening to the insinuations of that enemy, and command him not to do it at his peril. The son disobeys, and the consequences of which he was forewarned follow of course. Here the blame and loss falls upon the son, while the father stands justified, having done his duty in warning his son of the danger. It is impossible that there should be injustice with God. A holy and righteous Being cannot tempt any of his creatures to their own destruction: it is inconsistent with his nature. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.
6. The very command of God to the man was an evidence of his danger, and showed that there was an opposite influence, against which it was necessary to be guarded. The temptation to disobedience proceeded from the prince of darkness, the great enemy of souls, who found an entrance into Gods creation through the serpent, the very emblem of subtlety and deception. Through the insinuations of his deceitful spirit, he infused into the animal sensations of the woman the lust of concupiscence, which she communicated to the man, and by which they were both overshadowed with darkness, and unseasonably led into the act of sexual coition; and thus they partook of the forbidden fruit. Hence the curse which followed was denounced, and actually laid upon that nature which they had thus received from the serpent, and mutually indulged in themselves, and the same nature and the same curse, have both been continued down, in the line of natural generation, to this day. And this curse can never be taken off without a full and final cross against the indulgence of that same fleshly lust, and the final destruction of that nature which leads to it.
7. Many objections have been urged against this doctrine, as well as against the doctrine of celibacy and continence in general, which are well known to be among the principal articles of our faith. To enter fully into the discussion of this subject, and answer in a satisfactory manner, all the objections that may be raised against this doctrine, will require great plainness of speech. But as this appears to be the most darling principle of the world, and as the greatest opposition against our faith is levelled at this particular principle; therefore, in conformity to the strict demands of light and truth, revealed in this day, it appears necessary that the covering which has so long been spread over all nations, should be taken away, and the veil removed from the face of all people.
8. This veil was prefigured by the veil of the temple, which separated the entrance into the most holy place. The veil of the temple was rent in twain at the crucifixion of Jesus, which signified the rending of the veil of the flesh by his sufferings for sin. After that, those who faithfully followed his footsteps through mortification, and lived a spiritual life, were able to look within the veil, and to discover, in some measure, what it was which separated those who lived in the works of generation from having access to the most holy place. Yet the veil remained untaken away. Nevertheless, says the apostle, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away, And this never could be done till the second appearing of Christ, when it was taken away by that chosen female in whom the second appearing of Christ first commenced. As the veil of darkness which hid the face of God from man, was first caused by the transgression of the first woman; so it could not be removed until it was removed by that distinguished woman, in whom was revealed the Bride of the Lamb, the first Mother of the children of the Kingdom, in the new creation.
9. That Adam and Eve were unseasonably led into the act of sexual coition by the lust of concupiscence, through the insinuations of the serpent, and (whatever may have been done in a figure) that this lust was, in reality, the forbidden fruit of which they partook, appears evident from the following considerations.
1. The sentence denounced upon the woman. I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband; or, (more properly, according to the original,) thy desire shall be subject to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
10. Here it may be asked, Why was the sentence directed against her conception? Why was she to be punished with sorrow in bringing forth children? And why was her desire (or more properly, her lust) to be subject to the will of her husband? Why this rigorous sentence? Is not God just and righteous? Most certainly; and therefore he dispenses punishments according to the nature of the offence; or rather, he forsakes those who forsake him, and leaves them to reap the reward of their own doings. Whatever a man sows, the same he must reap; and whatever he eats, that he must digest, however painful it may feel. He who, after being faithfully warned by his friend, foolishly swallows a poisonous fruit, because of its fair appearance and peculiar flavor, must feel its effects; but he ought by no means to charge his sufferings upon his friend.
11. From the very nature of the curse denounced upon the woman, the discerning mind will readily perceive what the nature of the offence was. This same curse has been more or less felt by the fallen daughters of Eve to this day. This remark will apply, with peculiar force, to all those who have been decoyed by the same insinuating allurements to pleasure, who have yielded to the same desires of an animal nature, who have been ensnared by the same deceitful influences of concupiscence, and have conceived and brought forth children in obedience to the inordinate demands of lust. Thus the woman is not only subjected to the pains and sorrows of childbirth, but even in her conception, she becomes subject to the libidinous passions of her husband; and in this sense, her desire is subject to the will of her husband. This slavish subjection is often carried to such a shocking extent, that many females have suffered an unnatural and premature death, in consequence of the unseasonable and excessive indulgence of this passion in the man. Thousands there are, no doubt, who are able to bear a sorrowful testimony to the truth of this remark.
12. The libidinous debauchee may sneer at this unseemly picture, and the squeamish prude may frown at it; but the candid and reflecting mind will readily acknowledge and deplore its painful and melancholy truth. Some, convinced of its truth by sorrowful experience, will doubtless be ready to exclaim, This is surely a heavy curse upon the woman; but is the man spared? By no means: but his curse appears more obvious in another point of view. Though the ground was cursed for his sake, at the time of his first transgression; yet it is evident that he has greatly increased the curse of the land, by his own corruptions, and degraded himself far below the state in which the primitive curse left him; as will appear in the sequel.
13. 2. The evident violation of the order of nature, in a total disregard to times and seasons, in the work of generation. That source from which man derives his earthly existence, from which his very being springs, ought to have been preserved pure and uncorrupted. The order of his generation was never designed to be polluted by disorderly passions, nor perverted by untimely seasons. Yet what is the fact in this respect, when contrasted with the inferior part of the creation? As before stated, the various orders of the animal and vegetable creation are governed by the established laws of nature, and generate and bring forth fruit according to the regular order of times and seasons. But man is a most marvelous exception in this respect. He who alone was created and appointed the lord of all this lower world, although in many other respects, he displays a mind capable of a far superior degree of perfection; and although, in the ordinary transactions of life, he often observes a good degree of order; yet in the generation of his species he regards none.
14. Notwithstanding his dignified station as lord of the earth; notwithstanding his rational soul, with all its noble faculties; notwithstanding his light and knowledge, his instruction, experience and observation; notwithstanding the law of his Creator, which was given to regulate in him the times and seasons of generation (as well as all other things pertaining to his work) to a greater degree of perfection than could be expected in the brutal creation; yet in this important point, man has shamefully degraded himself below all the inferior creation. Regardless of the regular order of nature, he consults it not; blind to the times and seasons of conception, he sees them not; deaf to the law of Moses, he listens not to it; an enemy to the pure and perfect law of Christ, he banishes it from his thoughts. He is eagerly bent upon the acts of generation, but seeks none of its fruits; the desire of offspring is not his motive; his rule of action is dictated only by his inordinate passions. The insatiable nature of his lust knows no bounds, submits to no order and cares for no times nor seasons; except it be the time and season of darkness, which is so congenial to his lawless and shameful works.
15. Such is the lost state of man, and such the subverted order of nature in the works of generation. To the truth of these remarks let the world itself bear witness. And herein we have a striking proof of that carnal mind in man, which the apostle says, is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be.
16. 3. The shame which is generally found to be inseparable from the act of sexual coition. This is not only a powerful evidence that the act itself is under a curse, but an undeniable proof of its impurity and unholiness. If this be not so, why did the shame which was the consequence of Adams and Eves transgression, fall upon the parts which they covered? Does not this plainly point out the very act which they had committed? Does it not evidently show what the real forbidden fruit was? If by the forbidden fruit, we are to understand literally the fruit of some natural tree, which Eve plucked with her hands, and which they both ate with their mouths, why did not the shame fall upon the hand that plucked and the mouth that ate it? As before observed, God always dispenses his judgments according to the nature of the offence. But in this case there does not appear to be any punishment inflicted upon the hand or the mouth; but the parts to which pertain the power of generation, are now, for the first time condemned to feel shame; and their first object was to conceal those parts from the view of each other; accordingly, they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. And even to this day, it is justly accounted a shame, both in the male and female, to expose the nakedness of those parts; and more especially in the female, who it seems is doomed to share the greatest portion of the curse in this respect, as being the first in the transgression.
17. This guilty passion of shame seems to be peculiarly connected with that libidinous act which first produced it; so that it naturally shuns the light, and seeks to cover itself in the shades of darkness, secluded even from the eyes of the most intimate friends. Is not this fact, of itself, a most striking evidence that there is something, either in the act itself, or which is inseparably connected with it, which never came from God? And yet there are many, very many, among modern Christians, who, setting aside that which Jesus Christ declared to be the first and great command, have set up this lascivious act in its place. And do they not, instead of loving the Lord God with all their hearts and souls, verily love their lusts with all their hearts and souls, and devote all the mind and strength to support and maintain it?
18. Corrupted and abused, and shamefully debased, as the work of generation is, by the lust of concupiscence, it is still supported and maintained by the professors of Christianity, who profess to sanction it by a legal ceremony, under the name of a divine institution. But where is the evidence that the nature of the act is purified, or the shame taken away, by the means? For although the most reverend and pious divines may exert all their piety; and all their divinity, to gospelize it in their sermons, legalize it in their marriage ceremonies, and sanctify it by their fervent prayers; yet they can neither take away the shame of the act, nor purify the nature of it; nor can they ever induce the pious devotees of this holy ordinance to show forth their obedient zeal, by fulfilling this great command before the eyes of their Reverend teachers, who have done so much to sanctify the deed to them.
19. Nor can even these pious divines themselves, with all their zeal in its favor, be induced to set them a public example of this sort of worship, however faithful they may be to perform it in private. So closely is shame attached to that action which claims for its authority the first great command of God! What! Does an action which is authorized by the command of the Almighty, and sanctioned by a divine ceremony, require to be performed in the shades of darkness? Can darkness preserve the sanctity of an action which would be profaned by the light of the sun? Is it a shame for Christians to obey a divine command in the presence of their Christian brethren and sisters? If so the command must surely be a very shameful one.
20. Probably these remarks may feel offensive to some of our professedly good christian advocates for this great command, and perhaps, they will be ready to cry out, by way of exclamation, Shameful! shameful! We freely acknowledge that the subject is a shameful one, and deeply lament the shameful cause which has excited such remarks. We can truly say, in the language of Paul, We have no fellowship with these unfruitful works of darkness, but reprove them. And we also acknowledge with him, that, it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But if it be a shame to speak of such shameful conduct among a people professing the Christian religion, surely it must be a greater shame to practice it.
21. It will doubtless be readily acknowledged, that he who lives in the practice of stealing, acts a far more shameful and dishonorable part, than he who takes up a full cross against every thievish propensity, and bears an open and decided testimony against it. Nor can it be disputed that such a testimony would be much more offensive to a thief than to an honest man, especially if it should expose any of his own thievish conduct. The truly honest and virtuous, whether male or female, will never be offended at a testimony against any evil conduct of which they themselves are really innocent. Nor indeed can they feel unwilling to be enlightened respecting the evil nature and tendency of any act, concerning which they have hitherto been ignorantly guilty.
22. We would now seriously ask, Whence proceeds all this shame? It must have some foundation; and there can be no cause of shame in virtuous actions. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth. Sexual coition claims for its sanction, an ordinance of God. But if it be an ordinance of God, it must have fellowship with God. The action, however, requires it to be performed in the dark; therefore those who practice it, must necessarily walk in darkness. If, then, they say it hath any fellowship with God, they lie, and do not the truth. If there is no darkness in God, then nothing which proceeds from God, can require to be veiled in darkness. That shame which seeks to conceal its lascivious actions in the shades of darkness, and blushes to have them brought to the light, is the notorious concomitant of guilt; why else should it seek the abodes of darkness?
23. This guilt-denoting passion is not connected with the sexual intercourse of all other part of Gods creation. The beasts of the field, the fowls of the air and the fishes of the sea, are total strangers to it. It is found no where but in the fallen race of Adam and Eve; and its very source is in that which many modern Christians esteem as the greatest and most important of all their works on earth; that of generating their own species, and propagating immortal beings for the eternal world! The sense of shame connected with this act, is a most powerful evidence of its entire opposition to gospel light, purity and holiness; and therefore it can have no part in the work of regeneration. The idea of sanctifying these works of darkness, and of being regenerated souls, and born of God, while living in the gratification of them, is a grand deception of the enemy of souls, calculated to conceal from man the true nature and origin of his loss. Truly this is the veil which is spread over all nations, and which God has promised to destroy in his holy mountain.
24. 4. The vile use and shameful abuse of this lawless propensity. This is an evidence of mans loss which one might naturally suppose could not escape observation. But as a blind man who is wandering in darkness and wallowing in the mire, cannot discover the darkness which surrounds him, nor the filth which covers him; so those who are spiritually blind cannot discover their own dark and lost situation, nor the filthiness of that lascivious nature which overspreads the world around them. If those professed moralists (not to say Christians) who so strenuously advocate the works of generation, had no other motive in it, but to fulfil the primitive design of the marriage institution, and generate offspring in obedience to the will of God, they might, as natural people, have a plausible, if not a reasonable plea for so doing, provided they kept themselves within due bounds, and observed the order of nature, and the regular times and seasons of generation. But still it would be a natural, and not a spiritual work, and therefore could have no part in the work of Christ, which is spiritual.
25. But the lawless passion of lust has no respect to the will of God; the generation of offspring is not its object; nor does it regard the order of nature, nor the times and seasons of generation, even in the marriage state; its only motive is the gratification of its own lawless propensities. In the pursuit of these gratifications, how often is the law of nature violated! How often is this insatiable passion indulged when the state of pregnancy, or the courses of nature forbid the indulgence; or when the advanced age of the female denies all prospect of issue! How often is the marriage covenant violated, and the legitimate offspring intermixed with an adulterous issue! and what is still more shocking, how often are abortions procured to prevent issue!
26. Is not the bare mention of these abominations shocking to the moral feelings of humanity? And are not such things shamefully debasing to the fallen race of man? Then how offensive and odious in the sight of a holy and righteous God, must be the shameful and abominable crimes which are here exposed to view! Yet these are but a few of the numerous and shocking violations of the law of nature, the law of decency, the law of humanity, the law of purity and the law of God, which are committed, even in that state which is legalized by the laws of man, and sanctioned by a religious ceremony.
27. But this is not all. How often is that insatiable propensity indulged alone and in secret! And how many are the schemes and inventions to indulge it! And that too, even among those who make a great profession of Christianity! Let the appeal be made to the consciences of those who plead the great command to justify their criminal indulgences. Is not the secret indulgence of that filthy passion, in the act of self-pollution, much more frequent with many modern Christians, than secret prayer? Are there not very many, of both sexes, who can publicly seat themselves at the sacramental board, and professedly partake of the consecrated memorials of the body and blood of a dying Savior; and yet in their secret chambers, indulge their concupiscence, and shamefully pollute their bodies with acts which they would blush to commit in the presence of a child?
28. Are not these the unfruitful works of darkness with which the apostle commands us to have no fellowship. And shall Christians indulge themselves in these things? Can God be honored thus? Is this fulfilling his commands? Is this living in obedience to the apostles precept, which requires us to mortify the flesh with all its affections and lusts? Is this the secret devotion which God requires of Christians? And will God accept of such devotions from such Christians? Or can they with confidence enter a temple, professedly dedicated to the worship of a pure and holy God, and presumptuously attempt to lift their defiled hands and deceitful hearts to Him whose All-seeing eye is able to search the heart and try the reins of every creature?
29. This lawless passion is not only the most corrupt, but also the most unbounded propensity of mans fallen nature, and its actions are the least subject to restraint. All other evil propensities have some limitations to their actions. Profane swearing, drunkenness, gambling, frauds, thefts, robberies and murders, are chiefly confined to the more licentious and abandoned classes of society, and are under some restraint of the laws of the land. But the lawless passion of lust knows no bounds, is confined to no limits, and subject to no laws. Although its shame is not hid, nor can it be confined within the limits of darkness, its most natural and congenial element; yet its practical advocates are numerous, and many of them highly honored and respected. All ranks and classes, from the prince to the beggar, from the sanctimonious professor of religion to the blaspheming infidel, all are anxious to support, and zealous to plead for this delusive passion, this deceptive enchantress, this heathen deity, this adored goddess of lust, under the deceitful mask of an ordinance of heaven, a great command of God!
30. How fascinating is the power, how extensive the dominion; how numerous the worshipers of this alluring goddess! Did the vast multitudes of heathen idolators who worshiped the Great Diana of Ephesus, bear any proportion to the countless thousands of those called Christians who honor the lascivious Venus with the offerings of concupiscence! Look at the numerous devotees who surround her amorous shrine; look at the numerous females shamefully abandoned to her amours; look at the libidinous herd of debauchees haunting their infamous dwellings; look at our large towns and cities, more especially our seaports; see these haunts of lawless lust and infamy; see their worshipers of all classes, the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the bond and free, flocking and mingling, under the cover of darkness, with infamous prostitutes, all promiscuously engaged in these obscene adorations!
31. It has been stated by a noted writer, that in the single city of London, there were no less than nine hundred bawdy houses, and fifty thousand women who procured their living at the expense of their chastity. Doubtless these receive their support from a far greater number out of all classes of dignified noblemen, professed gentlemen, merchants, clerks, tradesmen, mechanics, apprentices, sailors, officers, soldiers, and laborers of all sorts, who haunt these dwellings, and expend a considerable portion of their incomes in supporting these scenes of debauchery, while they indulge their concupiscence with the inmates. If this is the state of the city of London, what must be that of Paris, which, if not equally populous, is said to be more licentious? Yet these two cities contain but a small part of this description of people who inhabit the numerous towns and cities of Europe. Add to these the other three quarters of the globe, and what must be the numeral amount of the worshipers of Venus, both in and out of the bands of wedlock.
32. Are all the denominations of professing Christians in the United States, with all their professed worshipers of the true God; able to boast of half the number which constitute the multitude of devotees to Venus? We presume they are not. What then shall we think of the Christianity of America, and indeed of the whole world? Are not the worshipers of this licentious deity, in every country far more numerous than the worshipers of the true God? And is not a vast portion of those who profess to worship the true God, far more zealous in the worship of Venus? And shall the worship of the true God be divided with the adorations paid to the goddess of lust! Never! Never.
33. Did the sins of the antediluvian world bear any proportion to those of the present day? And will it not be far more tolerable for the unbelieving Jews, in the day of judgment, than for those of the present generation, who profess to be followers of Christ, and yet secretly indulge themselves in such filthy and shameful abominations?
34. Doubtless the more sober and considerate part of mankind will readily censure these abominations, as lamentable deviations from the path of virtue; and very dishonorable to the dignity of rational beings. But let us examine, impartially, the nature of these things. Human nature in its present lost state, is blind, partial and selfish; and very readily inclines mankind to justify in themselves, those practices which they condemn in others.
35. But let those who condemn the promiscuous and lawless lust of the inmates and devotees of public brothels, and at the same time, indulge the same propensity under the sanction of the civil law, and the seal of a religious ceremony, examine with candor the nature of that propensity which is the leading principle of action in both cases. Is there any real difference between the married and unmarried, either as to the nature of that propensity, the sensations excited by it, the effect it produces, or the gratification experienced in it? Does the marriage ceremony alter the nature of either? If so, why is not the shame removed from the action? Why must it still be covered in the shades of darkness? Why do not its shameful abuses cease? And why is it not subject to the order of nature, and to the times and seasons of generation?
36. Doubtless the sanction of a legal ceremony gives a license which, assisted by the shades of darkness, removes all restraint from the feelings of those who do not look beyond it, especially where the mind has been previously polluted by lascivious gratifications; so that they can now indulge their concupiscence in the dark, without shame or remorse. But in the estimation of those who have been enlightened by the law of Christ, and who do not walk in darkness, this is no evidence of the purity or innocence of actions which require to be veiled in darkness to conceal their shame. So where a wrong education gives a bias to acts of violence, a declaration of war, and the ceremony of enlisting as a soldier, may remove all restraint to rob and plunder, murder and destroy, from the feelings of men who do not look beyond the authority which gives the license. But those who view all wars as unchristian, unmanly and unjust, consider these enormities in a very different light. The nature of robbery and murder cannot be altered by a war manifesto; nor can the law of Christ be repealed by it. Nor is the nature of lust altered, nor the sensations of gratification purified by the legal ceremony of marriage. Hence the shame of the action is not removed, nor do its abuses cease.
37. Another shameful and disgraceful effect of that lascivious nature is, that children are frequently led into its gratifications by their older companions, and greatly corrupted by it. We believe that parents are not only insensible of the corrupt tendency of these things in their children, but carelessly ignorant of the shameful and shocking extent to which they often run in such practices, even at a very early age. It is not uncommon for children to become the corruptors of each others morals in this way, by the opportunities afforded them in the season of attending school: and by their frequent intercourse with their more corrupt companions, they often become more apt scholars in these shameful practices, than in the elements of literary instruction, and by this means a foundation is laid for the future scenes of corruption and wickedness.
38. Nothing can have a more fatal tendency to weaken and destroy the force of virtue on the infant mind, and strengthen the power of evil propensities, than the early indulgence of this sordid passion. In boys it is the incipient road to a life of debauchery and prepares them to become, at the age of maturity, the shameless corrupters of female virtue. In girls, it leads them to become the easy yielding objects of artful insinuation; the early victims of seduction; and without the seasonable protection of parents and friends, exposes them to become confirmed harlots who in their turn will often prove the shameless corrupters of other heedless youth. Those who duly consider the natural tendency of these shameful indulgences in children, will be at no loss to understand the reason why that lascivious propensity is so much more powerful, at the age of maturity, in some people than in others.
39. The natural and direct tendency of these gratifications is to corrupt the mind, blunt the efforts of genius, debase the nobler feelings of humanity, deprave all the moral faculties of the soul, and swallow up the whole man in the filthy and ignoble passion of lust. In short, the indulgence of this passion in children, not only tends to sink them below the order of the brutal creation, as before observed, but it often leads to the horrid crime of bestiality itself; a crime which, however shocking to the feelings of uncorrupted nature, is not unfrequent among the human race.
40. 5. This alluring passion holds out promises of pleasure which never can be realized. The promises of God are true and faithful; but the allurements of lust are deceitful and fallacious. Of all the promises and invitations which God has ever held out to man, to allure his mind to the practice of virtue, whether by the spirit of prophecy or otherwise, when rightly understood, not one was ever known to fail or come short of the testimony given; but on the contrary, the reality of the promise has ever exceeded expectation, and often surpassed all imagination.
41. Not so with the promises of sensual pleasure: and here we would appeal to the experience of all who have ever listened to the alluring temptations of lust, and sought pleasure in its enjoyments. The youthful imagination, in listening to these temptations, is often wrought up to the highest pitch of expectation; but in the enjoyment does it not invariably find itself more or less disappointed? Ask of those who, from their infancy, have kept themselves pure and uncontaminated with any of these filthy gratifications, even till the nuptial ceremony had sanctioned the deed. What were the sensations which succeeded the loss of their purity? The candid and honest answer will, invariably, be found to be, disappointment, shame and disgust. Such is the effect of carnal indulgence on the virtuous minds of those who had before lived in virgin purity: a powerful and incontestable evidence of its filthy nature and deceitful influence; and another proof that the lust of concupiscence is, indeed, the forbidden fruit, and a proof too, which a thousand human ceremonies, both civil and religious, can never invalidate.
42. 6. It is the natural source and foundation of all other evil propensities in human nature. As the inordinate propensity of lust was, from the beginning, the corrupt source from whence all human depravity originated, the truth of which is plainly and abundantly taught in the scriptures, and candidly acknowledged by some of the most eminent theological writers; so it continues to this day to be, obviously, the prolific source of evil, which engenders and nourishes the vilest passions of a fallen nature. From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts, that war in your members? And again: When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Here lust is plainly represented as the source of evil and the cause of death. The more this passion is indulged, the more it benumbs the virtuous feelings of humanity, and prepares its subjects for the worst of crimes.
43. This will readily appear if we examine the lives of those deep-stained villains, and abandoned ruffians, who infest human society, and trace the progress of vice from infancy to manhood. We believe that scarce an instance will be found where anyone has run deeply into criminal practices, who has not first quaffed largely of libidinous indulgences. It generally happens that deceit, lying, petty frauds, profane and obscene language, and tippling, follow first in the train of vices which succeed to lechery. Nourished and strengthened by repeated prostitutions, and hardened by continued debaucheries, gambling, drunkenness, private thefts and high-handed frauds succeed; and lastly, burglary, highway robberies, murders and felonies of all sorts, swell the list of crimes and crown the villain. And here let it be remembered, that the foundation of these complicated villainies, is the inordinate indulgence of the sordid propensity of lust.
44. It is needless to adduce facts in proof of this position; they are too numerous and too well attested to be refuted. It may not be improper, however, to introduce here an extract from the representation of the Grand Jury, made at the Court of General Sessions in the city of Albany, in June 1821. From all the observations which the grand jury have been able to bestow upon this subject, and the best information acquired, they are induced to believe, that nearly all the criminals now confined in our jail, were first corrupted by frequenting houses kept up for prostitution.
45. Such is thus publicly acknowledged to be the contaminating influence of this shameful gratification. It requires little more light to convince the reflecting part of mankind that the lust of concupiscence is, in truth, the corrupt source whence flows all iniquity, even every evil work.
46. Perhaps it may be urged that these things proceed from the abuses of that propensity, rather than from the propensity itself, which is supposed to be innocent and useful, when kept within due bounds. But we would ask, Where shall we find the man or the woman, who indulges that propensity at all, that does keep it within due bounds? And where is the man or the woman who never indulges it, by day nor by night, in any way or manner, but purely to obey the command of God, and raise up seed to his honor and glory? If any such can be found, they are, indeed and in truth, an honor to human nature, and an example to the fallen race of man. But if no such can be found, then let not that propensity be deemed innocent or useful, which produces such horrid corruptions among the human race.
47. The faculty of generation, being created of God, was at the beginning, as simple and innocent, in itself, as the faculty of eating and drinking; and had it never been corrupted, it might, as to its natural order, still have remained so; but it was violated by transgression, and corrupted at the very fountain, and brought into subjection to the inordinate passion of lust; and that passion still maintains its power and influence. Hence all who yield to that passion, yield the power and strength of soul and body to gender and nourish evil propensities. Therefore it is no wonder if they are afterwards unable to deny themselves and refrain from those evil propensities which still continue to grow stronger by repeated indulgences; while every virtuous disposition (if they ever had any) continues to grow weaker, till at length they find themselves utterly unable to do good, or to refrain from evil.
~ End of Part IV, Chapter 1 ~
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