Goodwin Banner

And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.-Ver 3.

These words are the general conclusion and winding up of what the Apostle had said concerning our state by nature which he had largely and punctually set forth in the words before. And unto all that he had said before, there is in these words the addition of three things:~
i. Of the cause, and the first cause, or at least the fundamental cause, of all the corruption that is in our hearts, and of all those lusts, and of all that flesh and corruption which he had spoken of immediately before; 'and were by nature.'
2. Of that punishment which is due to men in their natural state, and for their natures, and for all the sins committed in that state; ' the children of wrath.'
3. Of universality; it is every man's case, both Jew and Gentile; 'even as others,'
I opened formerly the phraseology of these words. As-
I. What was meant by 'nature' here. I told you by nature was meant our-
1. Natural dispositions. The inlet of sin, the ground and the root of it, was not custom and imitation, but it was our natural dispositions.
2. ' By nature-that is, by birth; so it is taken in Rom. ii. 14.
3. ' By nature :' it imports that whole estate of nature which while nmen live in, they live in the lusts of the flesh, they are dead in sins and trespasses, and they are children of wrath.
II. What was meant by ' children of wrath.' I showed you the phrase was taken both actively and passively. Actively, for what one is addicted to ; so they are called children of wisdom, children of obedience, and in the words before, children of disobedience. Passively, so it is taken here, children of wrath; or, as Peter hath it, cursed children ; or, as it is in the original, children of the curse.
III. What was meant by that phrase, 'even as others.' I told you it implied two things
1. That it is the common condition of all men.
2. That it is equally the condition of all men.
Answerable to these three phrases, I pitched upon three things to be explained.
Of the first I have spoken at large.
1 made entrance into the second, viz., that the corruption which is in us, we have it by birth and by the law of nature. But I finished it not. I shall give you a brief account of what I their delivered, and so I shall proceed.
I explained this unto you both by some generals, and also I began to enter into particulars. The generals are these
1. We have it by birth and not by mutation. For then we should have the fountain of our corruption ascribed unto the devil, for he was the first sinner; and unto Eve, for she was first in the transgression, 1 Tim. ii. 14. But you shall find in Scripture it is ascribed to the first man, namely, unto Adam, as I shall shew you afterwards.
2. It is not simply coming of Adam: for then, if you could suppose that God should have taken the rib out of Adam after that he had sinned, and have made Eve thereof, it is true she had been of Adam, but yet she had not been corrupted, she had not been sinful; because it is to be by nature, and so by birth and by generation. Therefore Christ, though he is called the son of Adam, Luke iii., and the seed of the woman, Gen. ii ,-that is, he was made of that matter which was propagated from Adam,.-yet he was not corrupted, because he had it not by the law of nature, he had it not by birth.
3. It is not the sin of the parents in the act of begetting that is conveyed. For marriage is honourable, as the Scripture hath it. Adam did not convey, when he first begat his son Cain, the sin of that act of begetting, for the action itself is lawful; but it was his first sin, his eating of the forbidden fruit.
These were the generals I gave you. For all these do but prepare a way for the opening of what it is by virtue of which sin is derived unto us. And I find it exceeding hard to speak distinctly to it, to find out that original seed of poison from whence it is diffused, and the weight of it.
I shall now therefore come to particulars whereby I desire to explain it, and in them I shall briefly give you my whole judgment in the thing; and when I have done, I shall resolve it into two or three propositions, which shall contain the sum of all, for your clearer understanding. It is evident, you see, by this text, that it is by nature; and therefore that it is by birth and by the law of nature.
Now to proceed- In the first place, our God did put this difference between angels and men, that angels were created single; and therefore when they fell, they did fall singly, each one for himself. They had their nature conveyed to them by God's immediate creation, and therefore they stood upon their own bottoms. But he ordained that men should all come of one man. Acts xvii. 26, 'he hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth.' Now then, the law of nature that doth convey blood- that is, manhood-to us, conveys also the natural properties that do accompany and are in that nature, in the fountain of it, whether they shall be good or evil. Now, good they were by creation, that is certain. And the reason is, because that law of nature that did fall upon the generation of all creatures else, falls upon man's generation also. Now you shall find that it is not only the law proper to man, but to all things begotten of another, that they all bring forth in their kind. If you look into Gen. i., you shall see that of the very herbs God saith, Let them bring forth in their kind; he saith it also of the beasts, and it holds of man too, that he is to bring forth in his kind. If there be a generation and a begetting, he is to bring forth in his kind. If his nature had remained holy and good, he had brought forth that which was holy and good. So the same providence of God that would have accompanied man to convey and propagate a holy nature had he remnained holy, doth also accompany him to convey a corrupt nature now he is corrupt and made evil. As the same acts of common providence which run on and assist us in doing good concur even in evil also, so is it here.-And that is the first thing.
Yet, in the second place, let me tell you this, that take our birth and generation simply, and that is not the cause, the physical cause, it is but the channel; and because it is the instrument of making men, therefore it is the instrument also of making sinful men. Now that generation is not the cause is evident by this : because if it were, then men should beget men sinful according to that degree of sinfulness they themselves have. And therefore parents more wicked should beget children more wicked; parents in their elder days, when they are more wicked, as wicked men are, for they grow worse and worse, should then have children more wicked than in their younger time; but so it is not. It is therefore to be resolved into the common law that lies upon generation, not simply into generation itself; or what it conveyeth. Generation is but the channel, the pipe, in which it runneth; it is therefore; I say, rather the law that is annexed unto generation. And the law of generation doth not reach to degrees of sinning, but only to the substantial image, not to the gradual.
In the third place, the cause and the ground why we are made sinful is not simply that we are born of immediate parents that are sinful, that is not the whole cause neither: but as generation is but as the channel, so the immediate parents are but the instruments of conveying it. My meaning is this : the ground why a man is born sinful is not simply because his next parents, father and mother, are such. They are causes of sin; that is, if it could be supposed they are not sinful, the child would not be sinful; they are but instruments of conveying it. And that they are instruments of conveying it, is clear by what David saith, Ps. li. 5, 'in sin did my mother conceive me.' But yet they are causes without which sin would not be.
There are two great evidences to me of this truth. The one is a negative one, the other a positive.
The negative one is this: the Lord hath expressly said- he hath a whole chapter about it, Ezek. xviii. -that the child shall not bear the iniquity of the father. And our Saviour Christ saith, John ix. 3, that it was not for the sin of the parents that the man was born blind. So that it is not put upon the sin of the ordinary parents. Nay, I shall give you a further instance of it, why it is not to be put simply upon the immediate parents. For although we come of Eve, yet, notwithstanding, the corruption that we have and the sin which we have by nature is not put upon Eve now, it is put upon Adam, and that throughout the whole Scripture. Though Eve did first corrupt our nature, for she was first in the transgression ; though we all come of her as well as of Adam, and have a share as from her and that by generation also; yet notwithstanding, read Rom. v. 12, 'By one man sin entered into the world:' which was the type of Christ's conveying obedience and righteousness.
I will not dispute that nice question which some divines have, Whether, if that Eve had not fallen, though Adam had fallen, we should have been corrupted or no? No, for we must all acknowledge that she was cause. Had not her nature been corrupted, we had not had sin derived to us. All divines do attribute a secondary cause to her, but still the primary to the man.
The positive ground is this : that the Scripture doth ascribe it to our coming of Adam, and that by birth, coming of that first man; and therefore what is here said in the text to be 'by nature,' if you consult other scriptures, you shall find it to be because we come of Adam, that one man, because we come by generation from him. Mark it, so I put it; though parents are the instrumental cause of conveying it, generation is the channel, yet it is because we fetch our nature from that fountain. I shall give you Scripture express for it. Not only that in Rom. v. 12, which yet is very clear for otherwise Eve had been made the type of Christ as well as Adam: but the text there you see doth only put it upon Adam, as being the type or figure of him that was to come, so ver. 14. And, ver. 18, 'by the offence of one,' and, 'by one man's disobedience,' ver. 19. It is not only for ' one offence,' as some of those texts have it, but other texts run, 'of one man;' so ver. 12, 'Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world.' But besides this scripture, look into I Cor. xv. 47, 48, and there you shall see this truth clear. The Apostle there puts it upon the first man. ' The first man,' saith he, 'is of the earth, earthy. As is the earthy, such are they that are earthy. As we have borne the image of the earthy,'-namely, of this first man, as he had called him,-' so we shall bear the image of the heavenly.'
And as the New Testament affirms this, so the Old too. I shall give you but that one scripture in Isa. xliii. 27, 'Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers,' or, thy intercessors, ' have transgressed against me,' speaking to the nation of the Jews. Thy first father hath sinned, and thy interventores, as Junius translates it,- that is, those that come between me and thee,-they have all sinned. What is the reason God objecteth this? Why, in the words before he stands upon the confounding of them against all their carnal pleas and justifications of themselves, and he rips up their sin from the first. Come, saith ha, ver. 26, 'let us plead together declare thou, that thou mayest be justified,' if thou hast anything to say. Besides all the wickedness that is in thyself; whatsoever thou canst trust in, I can easily answer it. Thou dust trust in thy father Abraham, and thou thinkest because thou art of the seed of Abraham thou shalt be saved. I tell thee thou hast an older father than Abraham, thy first father Adam hath sinned. But thou wilt say unto me that thou hast priests that do daily offer sacrifice, and do come between me and thee; I tell thee that those that are thy teachers, and thy interpreters, as it is translated by others, that come between me and thee, they have transgressed against me. The Lord takes both away; they boasted that they had Abrabam to their father. Ay, but, saith he, there is an older father, thy first father.
And though some would interpret it of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and make it in the plural, yet there is an emphasis upon this, it is father, and it is thy first father. And it agrees clearly with what the New Testament saith, in that 1 Cor. xv. 45, die., where you shall find that the Apostle doth put the conveying of the image upon our depending upon that first father, and that therefore we bear the image of the earthy. So as that now generation and immediate parents are indeed the channel and instruments of conveying; but the original cause, as the Scripture makes it, is the first father. Our generation then, or our birth, had a curse laid upon it, and by the law of nature, by reason and by virtue of that first man. And because all men did depend upon him by generation,-that is, are propagated from him by generation,-therefore by the law of generation, by virtue of something that he did and that he was, it is that we are corrupted to the end of the world. I take it to be one great reason why corrupt nature is called in Scripture the 'old man,' because it is derived for so many generations from that old first man Adam. We ourselves usually, when we see a thing that is evil or corrupt in children, say, This is old Adam. It is not what is in other parents so much, though their corruption is the cause without which it would not be conveyed to us, - but it is Adam's image, the image of that first man; so it is called in 1 Cor. xv. Therefore Adam is said to beget in his likeness, Gen. iv.
So that, in a word, this is the sum of these three things. It is not generation simply that physically conveys it, but rather the law that falleth upon generation it is not the immediate parents so much as it is that first man, Adam; because we depend upon him by nature and by generation, hence it is we have been and are all corrupted.
Now we will go on further, and more particularly still, to search into it, and to see whether it was by nature or no. And I shall do it by answering these queries
Query 1.-What it was in that man, which we by generation have from him, that polluteth?
Ans.-If you would have the great and the principal cause, I answer you fully, according to the Scriptures, it was an act of sinning of his, and the first act of sinning that he committed. Generation, as I have said, is but the mere channel, and immediate parents are but mere instruments; as they beget men, they beget men sinful: but if you ask what it is that is conveyed, and which to the end of the world polluteth and defileth by generation, as the instrument and channel; it is the first sin of that first man. Will you give me leave, by this supposition, to make my meaning plain, and then I shall make it good by proofs? As I told you before that simply generation doth not do it; so if you could have supposed corruption of nature had been derived by birth, physically, as a leprosy is from parent to child, or by virtue of that law of generation that like shall beget like, yet let me tell you, that unless he that had this corruption conveyed to him by nature had been guilty of some act which did first corrupt that nature, that corruption had not been sin in him. I shall express it thus. Adam, you know, lost all righteousness, and had his nature corrupt, as ours is; if we could suppose this righteousness to have been taken from him, without being guilty of an act that was the cause of it, that corruption indeed had been a punishment, it had not been his sin; that which makes it to be sinful is, because that it was lost and he was deprived of it justly by an act of sin.
Take Adam himself; if you could have supposed him deprived of it any other way, without a precedent act, pr the guilt of an act that caused it; I say, it had not been sin to him, it might have been a punishment, but not a sin. And therefore now it must be the guilt of an act that doth defile us, and make the corruption of nature in us, and that which we have by birth to be sinful But then all the question will be by and by, Whether by nature we are guilty of that act or no? Now here is all the difference between us and Adam, that he was personally guilty of that act, but we are guilty of it by a just law of nature, as I shall endeavour to explain it to you by and by. But as he became a dead man, dead in sins and trespasses, by eating of the forbidden fruit; so must we be supposed to be also. Therefore we shall find, the New Testament,-which speaks more accurately in this point than the Old,-though it mentions generation as the instrumental cause, which the Old Testament only did run upon, yet it puts it upon that one act. So Rom. v. 12, 'By one man sin entered into the world, in whom,' mark the expression, 'all have sinned.' It is not only, 'in whom all are made sinful,' as it follows in the 19th verse; but it is, 'in whom all have sinned.' It is plain he speaks not only of inherent corruption in our natures, but of an act of sin; for he saith 'all have sinned.'
Now, mark it, in the 14th verse, he speaks of children that never actually sinned personally, as Adam did; and yet he saith that death reigned over them. 'Death reigned,' saith he, 'from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression;' that is, they did not personally in themselves sin, as Adam himself did, and yet death did pass upon them; therefore they must be guilty of that act of his. Now I take it, these words, 'death reigned over all,' are the interpretation of the first curse, 'In the day thou eatest thou shalt die the death,' in which Adam was considered as a common person. Now by virtue of this law and rule given, death reigneth according to the threatening. And the next words, which are those I pitch upon, do give the reason of it clearly and plainly, which are otherwise very obscure. 'For,' saith he, ver. 13, 'until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed where there is no law.' This is brought in as a reason, by virtue of what it was, that children are made sinful, or accounted to have sinned. Why this, saith he, cannot be by Moses' law; you cannot find it that children are guilty of sin, of whom he speaks, ver. 14, and that all have sinned, so he saith, ver. 12, in the ten commandments. And yet it must be by some law or other; for if there had not been a law, God would never have charged children and all the world with this sin; therefore clearly it must be that law which God gave peculiarly to that first man.
This is plainly the Apostle's meaning, and the coherence of those words. You shall not find this, saith he, in Moses' law; it is therefore to be resolved into that first law that was given to Adam, 'In the day thou eatest thou shalt die;' thou, and all thy posterity; for it must be some older law than that of Moses which this must be put upon; for, saith he, there was sin in the world before the law of Moses came, or else God could not have charged it, and children should not have died: but they did all die, death reigned over all; therefore it must be resolved into a higher law than that of Moses; and what was that? I say, that law that God gave to Adam, 'In the day thou eatest thou shalt die.' And that is clearly interpreted in 1 Cor. xv. 22, 'In Adam all died;' that is, by reason of the transgression of that first law, which is a law older than Moses, by virtue of which children are said to have sinned in Adam, and so also to have died in him.
Now then, to conclude this first query. If you ask, what it is that in strict terms is the cause that doth pollute us to the end of the world; I say, it is not generation, it is not the immediate parents, they are the channels through which it is conveyed; but it is plainly and clearly that first act of Adam's, which as it corrupted his nature, corrupteth ours to the end of the world. The text is so clear for this, as nothing more. Rom. v. 19, 'By one man's disobedience many were made sinners.' If you ask what it is that makes many sinners, the Apostle himself resolves you,- it is that one man's disobedience. Even as Christ's obedience doth make us holy to the end of the world; though God use the word and use ministers to con-vert us, yet it is not the word nor the ministers that make us holy, but it is that one man's obedience. 'By the obedience of one,' saith he in the same verse, 'many are made righteous.' So is it here. It is not generation simply doth pollute us; neither is it our immediate parents; these are instruments and ways of conveying it, they are channels through which it runs: but it is that one man's disobedience, it is the guilt of that act that seizeth upon us all, which makes us sinners. And so much now for that first query. I come now to a second, and that is this
Query 2.-Why should the guilt of that act which infects our nature be conveyed to us by generation, as the channel, and by nature, rather than the sin of other parents?
Ans.-All divines do answer that clearly thus: that Adam was a public person, and he was therein Christ's type, which no other parent is. Eve was not: for though she was first in the transgression, yet it is not said, by the disobedience of' that one woman, or, by the disobedience of those first parents, we are made sinners; but it is clearly put upon the 'disobedience of that one man.'Why?' Because he was made a public person, and stood as a public person, which Eve in that respect did not. Indeed, without her, and her corruption and fall, we had not been sinful; but if you resolve it into its original primary cause, it is the sin of that one man, because, I say, he was a public common person, representing all his posterity, which other parents are not, which Eve herself was not: and therefore he was Christ's type, which Eve was not. I will not stand to shew you the equity of that, that those that stand as common persons convey the guilt of their act to their posterity and those they represent,- it hath been cleared enough,- but rather come to a third question; for by answering questions, I hope I shall clear the thing.
Query 3.-Whether was Adam a common person by the law of nature, yea or no? Whether by the law of generation? that is more. For we must bring it to birth and generation at last.
Ans.-There are three ways by which you may suppose one to be a common person. Either- 1. By choice of the parties themselves, as you choose the burgesses in Parliament. It is clear, Adam was not so a common person, we never chose him, our wills did never go to make him one. Or else- 2. A common person is chosen for us by another. So Christ; we did not choose him to be our Head, but God chose him for us. But- 3. There is a third way, and that is, that it shall not only be founded upon a mere act of choice, but upon a law of nature; and so, I take it, Adam was a common person. He was so by God's appointment, yet by God's appointment founded upon a law of nature. And therefore, both by generation as the channel, and by the law of nature as the foundation, are we made sinful to the end of the world. This I shall endeavour to make clear to you. I take it, it was mixed of both; that is, both that God made him so, and yet God's choice of him was not merely an act of his prerogative, or a mere act of his will; but it was an act of his will founded upon the law of nature, and the law of nature required it, and it was necessary it should be so, and that therefore we come to inherit the guilt of that act of his. It is clear that God did pronounce Adam a common person; for, before ever Eve was made, it is said, Gen. i. 28, 'God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.' And in 1 Cor. xv. 4.5, it is said that the first man Adam was made, that is, appointed,- as in Heb. iii. it is said that Christ was faithful to him that made him, so it is in the Greek; to him that 'appointed him,' so we translate it,-he was made to be a living soul; unto others, namely, as well as in himself, as I have elsewhere opened. But yet it was not by a mere act of prerogative, but upon a natural and necessary ground that it should be so.
You shall observe this difference between conveying Adam's disobedience and Christ's obedience. The one, speaking of Adam's, is expressed thus, 'By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.' But speaking of Christ's obedience, he calls it 'the free gift of righteousness;' for it was a mere voluntary act. So you have it in Rom. v. 18. But how is this made out'? Thus: Adam being the first man, he was the receptacle of man's nature, the whole cistern of it; he had all the blood of mankind in him; they must all fetch it from that fountain, at that well-head, and generation or birth was the way by which he should propagate. Now the law of generation was, that he should beget in his own image, whatever it should be; and that, as I said before, is the common law of all creatures else. Now add that to it, this nature could not have been conveyed as sinful - that is, that it should be a sinful, corrupt nature such as it was in him - unless we had been guilty of that act which he committed, of that act which first in him did infect our nature. Therefore now, if he should propagate his like,-and if he did not, the law of nature should not be fulfilled, for that law was to take place in him as in other creatures, namely, that he was to beget in his own image,-of necessity he must be constituted by a law a common person, that that act that corrupted his nature, his posterity must be guilty of. I say, the law of nature could not else have taken place, and it would not otherwise have been a sinful image, but in relation to the guilt of such an act which was the cause of it. Hence therefore, if you will suppose him to convey by the law of nature his corrupt sinful image, of necessity the same law must and doth constitute him to be a common person, as in relation to that act that did first defile him. So far, and in order to propagation of his like, if he fall, in respect of that act that defiled him, it was necessary he should be constituted, for that first act, to be a common person.
You shall see that his being a common person was only upon this necessary ground, to be exceeding clear by this one instance. For as soon as ever he had eaten the forbidden fruit, as soon as he had committed that same one sin, be ceaseth to he a common person, he is then but as any ordinary parent. And that is clear by this. For otherwise all the sins he committed before he begat Cain should have been imputed to Cain, as well as the first sin of all. And otherwise likewise, had he continued a common person after he committed that first sin, we had not been made sinners by that one disobedience, as the text hath it in that ibm, and by that first act of disobedience, but we must have inherited all the sins that he committed. No, only that first act; and the reason is this: because when that was once done, when that sin was committed, that first act did cast our nature out of the road of holiness into the road of sin, corrupted our nature. So that it is clear he was a common person by virtue of that law that he should beget in his own likeness; for as soon as the corrupt image was stamped upon his heart by that first sin, he ceased to be a common person. So that now it was not a mere act of prerogative in God, as some think, that Adam should be made a public person in that act of disobedience; but it is resolved into that principle of the law of nature, that he must beget his like; and it would not have been a sinful likeness that he should beget, if he had not been a public person in that first act that should make his nature so. It is not by any positive law, as that of Moses was; for that law came after, and yet it was charged upon us, as I have before shewed, and therefore it must be founded upon, and resolved into a law of nature.
And that is the difference betwixt Christ and Adam. God did distinctly deal with Christ; he told him he must be a head, and undertake for these and these persons; but you do not find that God did propound it distinctly to Adam. He never said to him, Look to yourself, what you do it is for your posterity; and if you eat of the forbidden fruit, not only you, but all that come of you shall die the death. No, it needed not; for all men being to come of him, he being to convey his sinful image,- and that image could not be conveyed except he became guilty of a sinful act,-he must needs know that his posterity must be guilty of it if his image were conveyed. So that it was necessarily resolved into the law of nature; although it was mixed, it was by God's appointment also that it should he so.
So that now, to sum up this business: still, we see, we are children of wrath by nature. Whether we respect the corrupt sinful habit which we have inherent in us, conveyed to us by birth, or whether we respect the guilt of that act, it is still resolved into the law of nature, and generation or birth is but the channel to convey it, and our immediate parents are but the instruments of conveying it, the causes indeed without which it would not be conveyed; but it is the guilt of that first act of Adam, upon whom by nature and generation we all depended, and it is that first act of his that to the end of the world makes us sinners. And so now I shall, in a word or two, gather up in a few propositions what I have said, and so pass over this point. The sum of all I shall resolve into these three propositions
Prop. 1.-First, That generation is not the physical cause of our being sinful,- that is, it is not because a man hath sin propagated in the matter that comes from his parents; that is not it. But it is the common law that lies upon all creatures, and that lies upon man also, that like shall beget like. Whether his soul be created by God, or whatever it be, yet notwithstanding, I say, it is the law of generation that doth it.
Prop. 2.-Secondly, Generation is but the channel; it is the act of Adam's sin, and the first act of Adam's sin, whilst he stood a common person, being imputed to us, charged upon us, that makes us sinful. Only, if you ask who they are that shall be made sinful; only those that come of Adam by generation, because it is by virtue of the law of generation that like shall beget like. So that it is not, I say, that the children have an impure nature from an impure nature of the next parents; this is not simply it. Whether the soul be from the parents, as some hold, or immediately from God, it is all one, because it is the act of Adam's sin seizing upon a man, he being made a son of Adam, that pollutes him. By one man's disobedience we are made sinful. If the soul be made immediately by God, yet it being at the same instant that it is made united to the body; hence the guilt of Adam's sin, by virtue of that law of nature, seizeth upon it; and the guilt of it seizing thus upon that soul in this body, which is now made a son of Adam, the Lord making of it, withdraws his Spirit from it, from giving grace. Not that God is the author of it, but that sin cometh in between, and cutteth off the influence which God would have upon it, according to the original law of nature, to make it holy. And as sin caused God to withdraw his Spirit out of Adam, so it preventeth that God should bestow holiness upon this soul, which is made a man as soon as made a soul. So that you need not trouble yourselves about those questions, whether the soul be ex traduce, &c. For all those questions suppose that the matter of our nature is corrupted from our parents, and so is derived unto us. But it doth not lie in that, but in the guilt of Adam's act, and that is it which makes sinners to the end of the world.
Prop. 3.-Thirdly, That Adam was by the law of nature a common person, and therefore we come to be guilty of that first act by which our nature was defiled. And so now I have explained this thing, as far as to me the Scripture doth give leave, as briefly as I could. Let me but add this: Hence it comes to pass that Jesus Christ comes not to be tainted with original sin. The matter of his body, he had it in the womb of the virgin; for he was in that respect the son of Adam, but he came not from Adam according to the law of nature, that is, by generation; and therefore Adam was not a common person to represent him. For the ground of Adam's being a common person was, that he was to beget his like, and his nature was to be propagated by generation. Now Christ was not to come of him by generation; hence therefore our Saviour Christ is separated from sinners, as Hub. vii. 26 hath it. He had a mother, and his mother conceived him; but she did not conceive him in sin, because it was not by the way of generation: for he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, the text saith so, Matt. i. 20. The Holy Ghost did articulate (whereas the spirits of the father do it in ordinary generation) that body of Christ. 'A body hast thou framed me,' saith he, Heb. x. 5. Therefore he is said to be 'made of a woman,' not begotten of a woman, in Gal. iv. 4. And therefore he came not under (and it was well for us he did not) the law of generation; hence he escapeth being defiled with original sin. And hence Adam is not a common person to him; no, he was ordained a common person before Adam was made one, for Adam was his type. And therefore things are ordered so that he should not come by generation, because he was to be a head of a second sort; and therefore he is called the second man, as Adam is the first.
And let me add this likewise for our comforts: That Christ, because he would take away original sin in us, he came as near as possibly could be, so as to escape pollution. He would be made of the same matter we were made off; he would be made in the womb of a virgin; he would be conceived; and he took upon him too the likeness of sinful flesh, with all the frailties of it, as like sinful flesh every way as could be. Nay, he would have his mother go and be purified, as if she had brought forth an unclean son; for the law in Leviticus was, to shew the impurity of our birth, that the mother was to be purified. Nay, and not only so, but he was circumcised, as if he had had original sin to be cut off as well as we. What was all this for? The Apostle tells us, Col. ii. 11, we were circumcised in Christ, that the body of sin might be cut off by the circumcision of Christ. It was that he might take away this original corruption, which we had from the first Adam. Now then, having explained this, I come to some observations.
Obs. 1.-The first is this, which is the Apostle's scope here: That we should get our hearts humbled for the sin of our nature, and for the sin of Adam which by generation corrupteth our nature to the end of the world, whereof we are guilty. This is that which is the great corrupter of us, it is the greatest cause of all the rest. You know, David, in Ps. li., hath recourse to it, as to the spring of all his actual defilements. 'In sin,' saith he, 'hath my mother conceived me;' and he puts a 'behold' upon it, because his soul was eminently humbled for it. It is the cause, and the greatest cause. Do but take a poisonous root, and you shall find more venom in the root than in all the branches that spring from it. There is a greater contrariety betwixt God and us in that our nature is defiled, than that our actions are sinful. For as holiness that is in the nature of God is greater and deeper, and a higher holiness, than that holiness that is in his actions, or in what is done by him,-for that is an essential holiness, the other is but a manifestative holiness,-so there is a greater sinfulness that is in our nature than is simply in our actions. You shall find, in Isa. lxiv. 6, that the church there, when they humbled themselves, they do not only say that their righteousness was as a menstruous cloth, but they themselves cry out of their persons. 'We are all,' say they, 'as an unclean thing;' and then follows, 'and our righteousness as a menstruous cloth.'
But, I say, the uncleanness of their persons, and that in respect of their natures, is that they chiefly complain of; and they do it in the very same terms that the leper complains in Lev. xiii. 45. It is our nature that is abominable to God; we are children of wrath by nature. Therefore God hateth it, and God is angry with nothing but what he hateth, and but for sin. Now in Job xv., saith he, filthy man, abominable, putrified man, as the word signifies, he speaks of what we are by nature: for he had discoursed of it in the 14th and 15th chapters. And the Psalmist useth that very same word when he speaks of the corruption of nature, Ps. xiv. 3, and liii. 3, both which psalms are psalms of the corruption of man by nature. He calls man 'stinking,' compares him to a rotten carcass; for so he is in the nostrils of God, in respect of his original pollution, and so be is to the regenerate part, and therefore Paul, in Rom. vii, calls it a body of death, as if there were twins, one whereof was dead, and the other that lived was forced to carry it about with him, which continually did stink and annoy him: such, saith he, is this corruption of nature that is in me, it is a body of death.
Obs. 2.-Secondly, you see the reason why death reigneth over infants for so the Apostle tells us in Rom. v. 13, 14. It is because they have sinned, and sin is conveyed to them by generation, as the channel and instrument. God, in 1 Sam. xv., commanded that the sucklings of the Amalekites should be destroyed, as well as men and women, and others. And of Edom it is said in Ps. cxxxvii. 9, 'Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.' This must needs be for the guilt of sin, for 'sin entered into the world, and death by sin,' so saith the text, Rom. v. 12. But you will say, Doth God inflict eternal death merely for the corruption of nature upon any infants? My brethren, it must be said, Yes; we are children of wrath by nature: and unless there come in election amongst them, for it is election saveth, and is the root of salvation, it must needs be so. Sodom and Gomorrah all suffered the vengeance of eternal fire, and surely there were multitudes of infants there; and if they had been righteous as well as others, they might have been put into Abraham's plea, but they were not. The flood swept away infants, and they are called, I mean those that were destroyed with the flood, in 2 Peter ii. 5, 'the world of the ungodly.' And God therefore, if you mark it, both in Gen. vi. S and viii. 21, did put the bringing of the flood upon the original corruption of man's heart; that not only the heart, but the formation, the very womb, the matrix,-so the word which we translate 'the imaginations of the heart' signifies,-in which all our thoughts are formed, the very frame in which they are cast and moulded, is evil, and only evil, and evil continually, yea, evil even from his infancy, (for what we translate 'youth up,' the same word in Exod. ii. 6 is used for Moses when he was an infant,) not only in respect of actual sin, but in respect of original sin.
Therefore, saith God, because man is thus flesh, and nothing but corruption, I will bring the flood; and the flood came upon the world of the ungodly, upon infants as well as upon others. But in Rom. v. it is more express. Death, saith the Apostle, reigned before Moses; it reigned over children, saith he. And there was that instance of it, for he alludeth especially to the instance of the flood, and it was a great instance, when God came and swept away all the world of the ungodly, with all their infants, even they that were in the very womb. But you will say, Do these perish? or, Doth God let those perish? Doth his wrath seize upon them? Not only what the text saith, but that in Rom. v. is clear for it. For having instanced in children in the 13th and 14th verses, he goes on, and shews that the death he intendeth is not only bodily death, but eternal; for, saith he, ver. 16, 'the judgment was by one to condemnation.' And as he had said, ver. 14, that death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, so at ver. 21 he saith, 'As sin hath reigned unto death, so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life.' Here you see eternal life is opposed to that death that is said to have reigned, and condemnation is said to come by one man's disobedience; and what is that condemnation opposed to? It is opposed plainly to justification; so it follows, 'but the free gift is of many offences to justification.' Therefore those that have a death opposite to eternal life, and have a condemnation by that one man's disobedience opposite to justification, must needs reach to eternal death as well as to temporal. It is true, election knows its own amongst infants, but it must be free grace, it must be by grace that you are saved, for clearly by nature ye are all children of wrath. Therefore the Lord, as he will have instances of all sorts that are in heaven, so he wifi have some that are in hell for their sin brought into the world. The Papists, suitable to their doctrine, as they hold that original sin hath nothing positive in it,-they say it is but a mere privation, a mere emptiness,-so answerably they put children into a state, not of positive pain, not of wrath, but they put them into a state called timbus infantum, where they do as it were eternally sleep; there is a privation, but no torment, no wrath. But you see that here we are said plainly to be children of wrath, and wrath implies more than a mere privation; it implies not only a punishment of loss, but a punishment of sense, and of the sense of that loss.
This you shall see plainly in John iii. 36, 'He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God ahideth on him.' 'Shall not see life,' there is the privation; 'and the wrath of God abideth on him; there is the punishment of sense too; there is the wrath of God, as the text here hath it. I told you there is a third interpretation of these words, 'children of wrath by nature.' It implied a state,- their whole state as well as their birth. Now the observation from thence is this, That the great thing that should affect the hearts and spirits of men, is their being in a sinful state till such time as God doth engraft them into Jesus Christ and save them. It is plainly the Apostle's scope, for he opposeth here 'by nature' to 'by grace' in the 5th and 6th verses that follow. It is the great error of multitudes of carnal men; they say we are all born by nature children of wrath, never considering that till such time as they are tuned unto God and engrafted into Christ, they remain in that state. 'You were,' saith he, 'children of wrath;' he speaks in relation to the whole condition from the very first moment of their conception till God called them and turned them to him.
This is it which the Apostle would hold forth to these Ephesians, and the want of the right understanding of this truth undoes thousands of souls: for they put off the state of nature; they say it is but the condition of all men; and they are humbled for acts of sin, but never consider the state they are in, which while a man continues in, he is a child of wrath; after conversion, though he commit acts of sin, he is not a child of wrath. But what is this state of nature? A child of wrath; it is as if a man should be condemned to die, we say then he is a child of death; though he doth many acts of life and lives long afterwards, yet put him into what clothes you will, let him eat what meat ye will, let him have a thousand changes, he is still in a state of death. So, have what changes thou wilt in this condition; if thou growest rich, or noble, or honourable, thou mayest have a great many changes in thy spirit, even till thou growest good, yet till such time as this state is altered thou art a child of wrath. Therefore, when John would convince a carnal professor, and set upon him the consideration thereof, saith he in 1 John ii. 9, 'He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now;' that is, he is not only to take upon him the guilt of that sin, but even from the very first time of his birth to this day, he hath been in darkness, he hath been in his first condition. And as men should lay it to heart, that they have been first in the state of nature even until now, so it is a great argument that there is no falling from grace; for it is but until now; saith he. But, I say, it is the Apostle's scope to shew them the state wherein they were, the more to affect their hearts and spirits. The state of nature is the state in which all your sins come upon you. Therefore the Scripture puts much upon it. John doth the like; he calls conversion, therefore, a passing from death to life,-that is, from a state of death to a state of life. And in John iii. 36, 'He that believeth not is condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on him;' though the sentence is not executed, is not fallen upon him, yet it is above him, as the word is, hangs over his head.
And the word abideth, it noteth, as Austin well observeth, perpetuity. It hath been upon him from his birth, and remains to this day upon him; and though it hath not seized on him, yet the wrath of God cometh upon him; it sleepeth not, as Peter saith. Now therefore, this is that which men should lay to heart, not only actual sin, but a state of sin, in which whilst they remain unchanged, unjustified, unsanctified, and not united to the Lord Jesus Christ, till they enter into another state, all that while they are in their sins, they shall answer for every sin themselves, the wrath of God doth all that while abide upon them.. They were children of wrath by nature at first; but they are ten thousand times more the children of hell than they were at first. Every actual sin makes them afresh children of wrath by nature, addeth to their natural defilement, makes the tincture of that dye deeper, makes them worse the children of the devil and of hell than before; as the expression is, Matt. xxiii. 15. Therefore remember this, that if you will go to heaven, your state must be altered; you must not only seek for the pardon of this sin, and of that sin, but your very state must be changed. It must not be a physical change; you may have a hundred such changes, and yet continue in the state of nature still. No, it must be a moral change; a change from being a child of wrath to a child of light; from being a son of perdition to be a son of peace; a change that floweth, and argueth union with Jesus Christ.
Again, you see, when he expresseth the misery of man by nature, in respect of the punishment which he must undergo for ever, he calls him a child of wrath. Whose wrath is it? It is the wrath of God. Hence observe this-
Obs.-That the wrath of God is that which is the hottest torment and punishment in hell. It is being punished from his power, and from his presence; we are punished out of his presence, and from his power. What power? The power of his wrath. I will give you a scripture or two, that you may understand it rightly; for it is good to have notions of heaven and hell in a right manner: Rom. ii. 8, 9, 'Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doth evil.' 'Tribulation and anguish,' they are the effects; 'indignation and wrath,' they are the cause. And the tribulation and anguish that the souls have in hell, it is the indignation and wrath of God, it is the sparks of that wrath falling upon their sins. Therefore they are called, 'vessels of wrath,' Rom. ix. 22. In hell, God shews forth the power of his wrath. As the height and top of heaven is God immediately enjoyed in mercy and in love,-God is love, and in heaven all attributes appear in love,-so hell is nothing else but all attributes appearing in wrath; it is dwelling with everlasting burnings, as God is a consuming fire. There is not fire in hell, what torment soever it is; but a torment there is; how else shall the devils be tormented? And this is the wrath of God. Nothing can kill the soul but God. The devil himself can but kill the body; if he could kill the soul, he should be feared too; but, you know, we are bid not to fear the devil. But it is no creature, no elementary fire, can destroy the soul,- that is, bring the soul to a state of not being. It is only the wrath of God, that is the greatest torment and punishment in hell. Take a man that hath no outward pain, or misery, or affliction, or cross in his estate; let but a drop of the wrath of God from heaven fall into that man's conscience; why, that man is in hell. You may clearly see what is hell by that. Even just as when God fills the heart with joy unspeakable and glorious, it is the immediate participation of himself, and it is the beginning of heaven; you may know what heaven is by that, it is the enjoyment of that: for I have more joy in that enjoyment than if all the saints and angels were about me. So, on the other side, all those impressions of wrath which Judas and others had, are but the beginnings of hell; and in hell men are but thrown into that sea of wrath everlastingly whereof they feel some drops here. Hence those that sin against the Holy Ghost, that sin wilfully after they have received the knowledge of the truth, it is said of them, Heb. x. 26, that 'there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation,'-that is, the wrath of God working as fire, which shall devour the adversaries, shall swallow them up, as Nebuchadnezzar's furnace did, or as the fire that did consume Nadab and Abihu. It is an allusion unto them, for they sinned against Moses' law, which the comparison there runs upon. It is not an elementary fire, but fiery indignation, whereof they that sin against the Holy Ghost receive an earnest in this life; for it is said, 'there remaineth nothing but a certain fearful looking for of judgment.'
Now the word in the original is not looking, but receiving; they have received judgment: for whoever sins that sin, God makes an impression of wrath upon his spirit; he hath received the earnest of hell, which hath set his soul into opposition and enmity against God, as being already cast off from him. And so much now for that point. A word of the last clause- Even as others.-It noteth out two things, as I said at first
First, That it is the common condition even of all that are derived from Adam. They are all thus by nature children of wrath. That it is the common condition of all men, you have that in Rom. iii. It is the very scope of that chapter to shew that all are corrupted. First, that all in man was corrupted, his understanding, will, and affections. And then, that all men were corrupted; he instanceth first in the Jew, and in the Gentile. And then, ver. 10, he quoteth the 14th Psahn, and saith, 'There is none righteous, no, not one.' And, ver. 19, 'We know,' saith he, 'that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law.'
Now all men are under the law by nature; this is therefore the condition of all men. And the reason is this, because we all come from that first man. Had it been any other, this had not fallen out; but we all depend upon generation from that first man, hence it falleth upon all. Therefore it is said that Adam, when he begat Cain, begat him in his own image, and in that image we are begotten to the end of the world. It is well for us that Christ was ordained to be, and that he was, another common person, and was not by the law of generation found in the first Adam; no, he was ordained a second Adam, which takes that off. In the meantime, you see the difference betwixt Christ's kingdom and the devil's. The devil hath a law of generation that seizeth upon all mankind, that all that are born are his bond-slaves, and that by nature. But Christ's kingdom is made up of those that election gets out of the devil's kingdom, of those upon whom the Holy Ghost falleth, either in infancy, by virtue of election; or when they grow up, and are called. Christ's kingdom is but taken out of Satan's. However, it is the common condition of all, to be born in the devil's kingdom.
Secondly, It noteth, also, that it is equally the condition of all men. In Rom.. iii. he doth not only say, ver. 10, that 'none are righteous, no, not one,' but he afterwards tells us, ver. 22, that there is no difference, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. There is no difference, clearly and plainly none, not in respect of what we have from Adam. Therefore sometimes, when God speaks to the Jews, be saith, 'Thy father was an Amorite and a Hittite;' that is, If I look upon you simply, in respect of that original constitution and law, what you have by birth from Adam, your father Abraham was but an Amorite and a Hittite; though out of his loins otherwise I have a holy seed, yet take your natural condition, and there is no difference at all. Therefore in Prov. xxvii. 19, as in water, face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. As when a man looks in the water, be sees the same proportion, limb for limb; so one man's heart is made up of the same sins by nature that another's is: we are all begotten in the same image, and the whole image, which consists of all sins, and of all parts. And the reason is this, it is founded upon what I said before: because we have it from Adam by virtue of a natural covenant. He by the law of nature, I said, was a common person. Now nature, if it work as a natural agent, it doth always work to the uttermost of his power. But now take Jesus Christ, and it is otherwise. We have holiness and righteousness from him, not by a natural covenant, it is not founded upon a law of nature, but upon a covenant of grace, upon a gift. Hence therefore the Lord, when be calls a man and first works upon him, can give him more grace than another; though both born of the same second Adam, yet the one may be born a strong man the first day, as Paul was; the otber a poor creature, that is growing up many years to that degree of strength. Why? Because that Christ works freely; we are in him by virtue of a covenant of grace; and therefore the proportion, the degrees, how much grace be will bestow upon a man, and how little, it is by his own power and ordination. But now we are in Adam by a natural covenant: and as natural causes work as the sun sbines to the uttermost; hence now Adam conveys to his posterity one and the same corruption, equally to all.
Return to Ephesians Index

Home | Links | Literature | Webrings | Photos