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its being from another, cannot be an end to itself; for the provision of the end in the mind of the Creator sets him a work, and is antecedent to the being of the creature. Therefore the wise man tells us, Prov. xvi. 4, that "God made all things for himself;" and the apostle, Rom. xi. 36, that “ of him, and through him are all things; to whom be glory for ever.” The lower rank of creatures objectively glorify God, as there is a visible demonstration of his excellent attributes in them: man only is qualified to know and love the Creator. As the benefit of all redounds to him, it is his duty to pay the tribute for all. By his mouth the worid makes its acknowledgment to God. He is the interpreter of the silent and uninterrupted praises, which the full choir of heaven and earth renders to him. “ All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord,” from the most noble to the least worthy, “and thy saints shall bless thee,” Psalm cxlv. 10. Thankfulness is the homage due from understanding creatures.
And from hence it follows, that man only was in a state of moral dependance, and capable of a law. For a law being the declaration of the superior's will, requiring obedience and threatening punishment on the failure thereof, there must be a principle of reason and choice in that nature that is governed by it, to discover the authority that enjoins it—to discern the matter of the law-to determine itself out of judgment and election to obedience, as most excellent in itself and advantageous to the performer.
Now all inferior creatures are moved by the secret force of natural inclinations; they are insensible of moral engagements, and are not wrought on in an illuminative way by the foresight of rewards and punishments: but man who is a reasonable creature, owes “a reasonable service.” And it is impossible that man should be exempt from a law; for as the notion of a God, that is, of a first supreme Being, excludes all possibility of obligation to another, “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again ?" Rom. xi. 35; and of subjection to a law; for supremacy and subjection are incompatible; so the quality of a creature includes the relation of dependance and natural subjection to the will of God. This is most evident from that common principle which governs the intelligent creation : it is a moral maxim to which the reasonable nature necessarily assents, that the dispensing of benefits acquires to the giver a right to command, and lays on the receiver an obligation to obey; and
these rights and duties are measured by the nature of the benefits as their just rule. This is visible in that dominion which is amongst men.
If we ascend to the first springs of human laws, we shall find the original right of power to arise either from generation in nature, or preservation in war, or some public good accruing to the society by the prudent care of the governor. Now the being and blessedness of the creature are the greatest and most valuable benefits that can be received; and in the bestowing of them is laid the most real foundation of power and authority. Upon this account man, who derives his life and felicity from God, is under a natural and strong obligation to comply with his will. From this right of creation God asserts his universal dominion: “I have made the earth, and created man upon it; I, even my hands have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded,” Isa. xlv. 12. And the Psalmist tells us, Psalm c. 3. “Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." His jurisdiction is grounded on his propriety in man; and that arises from his giving being to him. “Remember, O Israel, for thou art my servant, I have formed thee,” Isa. xliv. 21. From hence he hath a supreme right to impose any law, for the performance of which man had an original power.
Universal obedience is the just consequent of our obligations to the divine goodness.
Suppose that man were not the work of God's hands, yet the infinite excellency of his nature gives him a better title to command us, than man hath upon the account of his reason to govern those creatures that are inferior to him. Or suppose that God had not created the matter of which the body is composed, but only inspired it with a living soul, yet his right over us had been unquestionable. The civil law determines, that when an artificer works on rich materials, and the engraving be not of extraordinary value, that the whole belongs to him who is the owner of the materials; but if the matter be mean and the workmanship excellent, in which the price wholly lies; as if a painter should draw an admirable picture on a piece of canvass, the picture of right belongs to him that drew it ; Instit. Justin. So if, according to the error of some philosophers, (Plato,) the matter of which the world was made had been eternal, yet God having infused a reasonable soul into a piece of clay, which is the prin
ciple of its life, and gives it a transcendant value above all other beings which were made of the same element, it is most just he should have a property in him and dominion over him.
The law of nature, to which man was subject upon his creation, contains those moral principles concerning good and evil, which have an essential equity in them, and are the measures of his duty to God, to himself, and to his fellow creatures. This was published by the voice of reason, and is “holy, just, and good ;"—holy, as it enjoins those things wherein there is a confs Anity to those attributes and actions of God, which are the pattern of our imitation : so the general rule is,“ be ye holy,” as God is holy, “in all manner of conversation,” 1 Pet. i. 15: and this is most honourable to the human nature.—It is just, that is exactly agreeable to the frame of man's faculties, and most suitable to his condition in the world.—And good, that is beneficial to the observer of it; “ in keeping of it, there is great reward,” Psalm xix. 11. And the obligation to it is eternal ; it being the unchangeable will of God, grounded on the natural and unvariable relations between God and man, and between man and the creatures.
Besides the particular directions of the law of nature, this general principle was planted in the reasonable soul, to obey God in any instance wherein he did prescribe his pleasure.
Moreover God was pleased to enter into a covenant with Adam, and with all his posterity naturally descending from him. And this was the effect—of admirable goodness; for by his supremacy over man, he might have signified his will merely by the way of empire, and required obedience; but he was pleased to condescend so far as to deal with man in a sweeter manner, as with a creature capable of his love, and to work upon him by rewards and punishments, congruously to the reasonable nature.—Of wisdom, to secure man's obedience; for the covenant being a mutual engagement between God and man, as it gave him infallible assurance of the reward to strengthen his faith, so it was the surest bond to preserve his fidelity. It is true, the precept alone binds by virtue of the authority that imposes it, but the consent of the creature increases the obligation; it twists the cords of the law, and binds more strongly to obedience. Thus Adam was God's servant, as by the condition of his nature, so by his choice, accepting the covenant, from which he could not recede without the guilt and infamy of the worst perfidiousness.
The terms of the covenant were becoming the parties concerned, God and man; it established an inseparable connexion between duty and felicity. This appears by the sanction, Gen. ii. 17; “In the day that thou eatest” of the forbidden fruit, “thou shalt surely die :" in that particular species of sin the whole genus is included ; according to the apostle's exposition, Gal. iii. 10; “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. The threatening of death was expressed, it being more difficult to be conceived; the promise of life upon his obedience was implied, and easily suggested itself to the rational mind. These were the most proper and powerful motives to excite his reason and affect his will; for death primarily signifies the dissolution of the vital union between the soul and body, and consequently all the preparatory dispositions thereunto, diseases, pains, and all the affections of mortality which terminate in death as their centre. This is the extremest of temporal evils, which innocent nature shrunk from, it being a deprivation of that excellent state which' man enjoyed. But principally it signified the separation of the soul from God's reviving presence, who is the only fountain of felicity. Thus the law is interpreted by the Lawgiver, the soul that sinneth, it shall die,” Ezek. xviii. 4. Briefly, death in the threatening is comprehensive of all kinds and degrees of evils, from the least pain to the completeness of damnation. Now it is an inviolable principle deeply set in the human nature, to preserve its being and blessedness; so that nothing could be a more powerful restraint from sin, than the fear of death, which is destructive to both.
This constitution of the covenant was founded not only in the will of God, but in the nature of things themselves; and this appears by considering,—that holiness is more excellent in itself and separately considered, than the reward that attends it. It is the peculiar glory of the divine nature; God is glorious in holiness.” And as he prefers the infinite purity of his nature before the immortal felicity of his state; so he values in the reasonable creature the virtues by which they represent his holiness, more than their perfect contentment by which they are like him in blessedness. Now God is the most just esteemer of things, his judgment is the infallible measure of their real worth; it is therefore according to natural order, that the happiness of man should depend upon his integrity, and the reward be the fruit of his obedience
And though it is impossible that a mere creature, in what state soever, should obtain any thing from God by any other title but his voluntary promise, the effect of his goodness, yet it was such goodness as God was invited to exercise by the consideration of man's obedience. And as the neglect of his duty had discharged the obligation on God's part, so the performance gave him a claim by right of the promise to everlasting life.—As the first part of the alliance was most reasonable, so was the second, that death should be the wages of sin. It is not conceivable that God should continue his favour to man, if he turned rebel against him; for this were to disarm the law, and expose the authority of the Lawgiver to contempt, and would reflect upon the wisdom of God. Besides, if the reasonable creature violates the law, it necessarily contracts an obligation to punishment. So that if the sinner who deserves death, should enjoy life, without satisfaction for the offence, or repentance to qualify him for pardon, (both which were without the compass of the first covenant) this would infringe the unchangeable rights of justice, and disparage the divine purity.
In the first covenant there was a special clause, which respected man as the inhabitant of paradise, that he should “not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil” upon pain of death. And this prohibition was upon the most wise and just reasons:—to declare God's sovereign right in all things. In the quality of Creator he is supreme Lord. Man enjoyed nothing but by a derived title from his bounty and allowance, and with an obligation to render to him the homage of all.
As princes, when they give estates to their subjects, still retain the royalty, and receive a small rent, which, though inconsiderable in its value, is an acknowledgment of dependence upon them; so when God placed Adam in paradise, he received this mark of his sovereignty, that in the free use of all other things, man should abstain from the forbidden tree.—To make trial of man's obedience in a matter very congruous to discover it. If the prohibition had been grounded on any moral internal evil in the nature of the thing itself, there had not been so clear a testimony of God's dominion, nor of Adam's subjection to it. But when that which in itself was indifferent, became unlawful merely by the will of God, and when the command had no other excellency but to make his authority more sacred, this was a confining of man's liberty, and to abstain was pure obdience.