Page images
PDF
EPUB

have so much verity, as they hold of conformity unto that intellect, in whose idea they had their first determinations. And, therefore, being the rule, He cannot be irregular; nor, being truth itself, conceivably admit the impossible society of error.

CHAPTER II.

66

A further Illustration of the same. BEING thus deluded before the fall, it is no wonder if their conceptions were deceitful, and could scarce speak without an error after. For, what is very remarkable (and no man that I know hath yet observed) in the relations of Scripture before the flood, there is but one speech delivered by man, wherein there is not an erroneous conception ;8 and, strictly examined, most heinously injurious unto truth. The pen of Moses is brief in the account before the flood, and the speeches recorded are but six. The first is that of Adam, when, upon the expostulation of God, he replied, " I heard thy voice in the garden, and, because I was naked, I hid myself.” In which reply there was included a very gross mistake, and, if with pertinacity maintained, a high and capital error. For, thinking by this retirement to obscure himself from God, he infringed the omnisciency and essential ubiquity of his Maker: who, as he created all things, so is he beyond and in them all ; not only in power, as under his subjection, or in his presence, as being in his cognition ; but in his very essence, as being the soul of their causalities, and the essential cause of their existencies. Certainly, his posterity at this distance, and after so perpetuated an impairment, cannot but condemn the poverty of his conception, that thought to obscure himself from his Creator in the shade of the garden, who had beheld him before in the darkness of his chaos, and the great obscurity of nothing; that thought to fly from God, which could not fly himself ; seeth all things as they are ; and maketh their physical constitution to be what it is: and knoweth the moral relations thereunto belonging according to eternal rectitude, which is his nature.Capel Loft.

8 There is but one speech, dc.] Adverting probably to the speech of Lamech at the birth of Noah.

[ocr errors]

or imagined that one tree should conceal his nakedness

from God's eye, as another had revealed it unto his own. Those tormented spirits that wish the mountains to cover them, have fallen upon desires of minor absurdity, and chosen ways of less improbable concealment. Though this be also as ridiculous unto reason, as fruitless unto their desires ; for he that laid the foundations of the earth cannot be excluded the secrecy

of the mountains; nor can there anything escape the perspicacity of those eyes which were before light, and in whose optics there is no opacity. This is the consolation of all good men, unto whom his ubiquity affordeth continual comfort and security : and this is the infliction of hell, unto whom it affordeth despair and remediless calamity. For those restless spirits that fly the face of the Almighty, being deprived the fruition of his eye, would also avoid the extent of his hand; which, being impossible, their sufferings are desperate, and their afflictions without evasion; until they can get out of Trismegistus his circle, that is, to extend their wings above the universe, and pitch beyond ubiquity.

The second is that speech of Adam unto God, “The woman whom thou gavest me to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” This indeed was an unsatisfactory reply, and therein was involved a very impious error, as implying God the author of sin, and accusing his maker of his transgression. As if he had said, “If thou hadst not given me a woman, I had not been deceived ; thou promisedst to make her a help, but she hath proved destruction unto me: had I remained alone, I had not sinned; but thou gavest me a consort, and so I became seduced.” This was a bold and open accusation of God, making the fountain of good the contriver of evil; and the forbidder of the crime, an abettor of the fact prohibited. Surely his mercy was great, that did not revenge the impeachment of his justice; and his goodness to be admired, that it refuted not his argument in the punishment of his excusation, and only pursued the first transgression, without a penalty of this the second.

The third was that of Eve, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." In which reply there was not only a very feeble

o his goodness to be admired, &c.] Meaning that God's goodness withheld him from proving himself just, by punishing Adam for his implied charge of injustice.

9

a

excuse, but an erroneous translating her own offence upoi another; extenuating her sin from that which was an ag gravation, that is, to excuse the fact at all, much more upor the suggestion of a beast, which was before, in the strictest terms, prohibited by her God. For although we now do hope the mercies of God will consider our degenerated integrities unto some minoration of our offences; yet, had not the sincerity of our first parents so colourable expectations, unto whom the commandment was but single, and their integrities best able to resist the motions of its transgression. And therefore so heinous conceptions have risen hereof, that some have seemed more angry therewith than God himself: being so exasperated with the offence, as to call in question their salvation, and to dispute the eternal punishment of their maker. Assuredly with better reason may posterity accuse them, than they the serpent, or one another; and the displeasure of the Pelagians must needs be irreconcilable, who, peremptorily maintaining they can fulfil the whole law, will insatisfactorilya condemn the nonobservation of one.

The fourth was that speech of Cain, upon the demand of God, “Where is thy brother?" and he said, "I know not." In which negation, beside the open impudence, there was implyed a notable error ; for, returning a lie unto his maker, and presuming in this manner to put off the searcher of hearts, he denied the omnisciency of God, whereunto there is nothing concealable. The answer of Satan, in the case of Job, had more of truth, wisdom, and reverence than this: "Whence comest thou, Satan?” and he said, “From compassing the earth.” For, though an enemy of God, and ħater of all truth, his wisdom will hardly permit him to falsifie with the Almighty. For, well understanding the omniscience of his nature, he is not so ready to deceive himself as to falsifie unto him, whose cognition is no way deludable. And, therefore, when in the tentation of Christ he played upon the fallacy, and thought to deceive the author of truth, the method of this proceeding arose from

1 to dispute the eternal punishment of their maker.] To dispute his jus. tice in inflicting for the offence of our first parents, eternal punishment on their posterity.

z insatisfactorily.] i. e. unappeasably.— Wr.

[ocr errors]

the uncertainty of his divinity; whereof had he remained assured, he had continued silent, nor would his discretion attempt so unsucceedable a temptation. And so again at the last day, when our offences shall be drawn into accompt, the subtilty of that inquisitor shall not present unto God a bundle of calumnies or confutable accusations, but will discreetly offer up unto his omnisciency a true and undenyable list of our transgressions.

The fifth is another reply of Cain, upon the denouncement of his curse : “My iniquity is greater than can be forgiven;" for so it is expressed in some translations. The assertion was not only desperate, but the conceit erroneous, overthrowing that glorious attribute of God, his mercy, and conceiving the sin of murder unpardonable. Which, how great soever, is not above the repentance of man, but far below the mercies of God, and was as some conceive) expiated in that punishment he suffered temporally for it. There are but two examples of this error4 in Holy Scripture, and they both for murder, and both as it were of the same person ; for Christ was mystically slain in Abel, and, therefore, Cain had some influence on his death, as well as Judas; but the sin had a different effect on Cain from that it had on Judas ; and most that since have fallen into it. For they, like Judas, desire death, and not unfrequently pursue it. Cain, on the contrary, grew afraid thereof, and obtained a securement from it. Assuredly, if his despair continued, there was punishment enough in life, and justice sufficient in the mercy of his protection. For the life of the desperate equalls the anxieties of death; who in uncessant inquietudes, but act the life of the damned, and anticipate the desolations of hell. 'Tis indeed a sin in man, but a punishment only in devils; who offend not God, but afflict themselves, in the appointed despair of his mercies. And, as to be without hope is the affliction of the damned, so is it the happiness of the blessed; who having all their expectations present, are not distracted with futurities. So is it also their felicity to have no faith ; for enjoying the beatifical vision, there is nothing unto them inevident: and in the fruition of the object of faith, they have received the full evacuation of it.

3 And so again at the last day, dc.] Here is an evident allusion to that singular passage in which Satan is spoken of as the accuser of the brethren, which accused them before God day and night. But surely it would be incorrect to conclude from thence, that he will stand up at the judgment day as the accuser of all men. On the contrary, we are expressly told that men will then be judged, “according to those things which were written in the books."

* this error.] Namely, despair of God's mercy.

The last speech was that of Lamech, “I have slain a man to my wound, and a young man to my hurt: If Cain be avenged seven fold, truly Lamech seventy and seven fold.” Now herein there seems to be a very erroneous illation: from the indulgence of God unto Cain concluding an immunity unto himself; that is, a regular protection from a single example, and an exemption from punishment in a fact that naturally deserved it. The error of this offender was contrary to that of Cain, whom the Rabbins conceive that Lamech at this time killed. He despaired of God's mercy

in the same fact, where this presuined of it; he by a decollation of all hope annihilated his mercy, this by an immoderancy thereof destroyed his justice. Though the sin were less, the error was as great: for, as it is untrue that his mercy will not forgive offenders, or his benignity co-operate to their conversions, so is it also of no less falsity to affirm His justice will not exact account of sinners, or punish such as continue in their transgressions.

Thus may we perceive how weakly our fathers did err before the flood; how continually, and upon common discourse, they fell upon errors after; it is therefore no wonder we have been erroneous ever since. And being now at greatest distance from the beginning of error, are almost lost in its dissemination, whose ways are boundless, and confess no circumscription.

CHAPTER III.

Of the second Cause of Common Errors ; the erroneous Disposition of the

People. HAVING thus declared the fallible nature of man, even from his first production, we have beheld the general cause

« PreviousContinue »