Misery of fallen man-from a Jewish perspective.


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Letter 13. Misery of Fallen Man
Dear Brother,

Sensible that the importance of the last three letters would require more time than usual for reading, meditation, and prayer, I have delayed the present longer than otherwise I should have done. I will now give you a very brief statement of the inexpressible and indescribable misery of man in his fallen state. But before I enter on that subject I would observe,

1. a. That the guilt of original sin is greatly increased by numberless actual transgressions, which will sink us into an abyss of everlasting misery, unless pardoned through the blood of the Messiah.

We are "transgressors from the womb"; have been adding sin to sin, and iniquity to iniquity; so that, if we could reckon them all up, O how vast the sum! they may fitly be compared to the sand upon the sea-shore for multitude. Who can draw up the catalogue of his sins, and enumerate every instance of guilt? Who can reckon his sins of omission and sins of commission—sins of thought, word, and deed—secret and public sins—sins attended with peculiar aggravations, committed against light and knowledge, against conviction and love—sins in every character and relation in life, who can reckon them up?

2. b. We observe, next, that it is not more certain that we have sinned, than that they will be punished. Sin and misery are inseparable. God cannot but hate sin, which offers the vilest indignity to all the perfections of his nature, dishonors him in all his relations, breaks the order which he had established in the universe, and throws contempt on his wise and righteous constitution.

And as God cannot but hate sin, so his justice requires that he should punish it. As the perfection of his nature requires that he should have an implacable aversion for, sin, so the same perfection requires that justice be not appeased without punishment. The certainty of punishment is further evident from the declaration of Jehovah, "that the soul that sinneth shall die," and many others of the same nature. Now as God hath passed his word that death should be the punishment of sin, his veracity stands engaged to make his word good. The sentence was immutable, and the word that went out of God's mouth must stand. Should sin go without the threatened and merited punishment, the faithfulness and righteousness of God in regard to his word could not be justified; "for God cannot lie, or deny himself." Speaking on this subject, pious Mr. Charnock observes,

"Since God in his wisdom had settled this law, and the threatening had passed his royal and immutable word, it was no longer arbitrary, but necessary, by the sovereign authority, that either the sinner himself, or some surety in his stead, should suffer the death the sinner had incurred by the violation of the precept; we must either pay ourselves, or some other pay for us, what we stand bound in to the justice of God. Impunity had been an invasion of God's veracity, which is as immutable as his nature; since, therefore, the inflicting of death upon transgression was the real intent of God, upon the commission of sin death must enter upon man, otherwise God would be a disregarder of himself, and his threatenings a mere scare-crow."
3. But I will now proceed to describe the misery of fallen man, which cannot be expressed in a better manner than in the words of the Assembly's Catechism, viz.

"That all men by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever."

On each of these particulars I will detain my dear Benjamin only for a few moments.

4. a. By sin we have lost communion with God. "For can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). Sin is so dishonorable to God that it provokes him to withhold the light of his countenance from the soul, and stop all comfortable communion. Hence when God did not save our fathers or hear their cries, it was not because he was incapable of doing it, but because "their iniquities had separated between them and their God, and their sins hid his face from them, that he would not hear" (Isa 59:2). Thus man lost God (Eph 2:12), the greatest of all losses. He is the cause and fountain of all good; and the loss of him must be the loss of every thing that is good and excellent. "In his favor is life," "and his loving kindness is better than life" (Psa 30:5, 63:3).

5. b. Sin brings us under the wrath and curse of God Almighty.

The apostle Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, saith of himself as well as of them, "We were by nature children of wrath, even as others" (Eph 2:3). He also informs us "that Christ came to deliver us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess 1:10). God was once a friend, but sin has broken the bond of friendship, and turned God's smile into a frown. "He that believeth not on the Son of God," saith the Savior, "shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).

Wrath in God is not a passion, as in us, but it is an act of God's holy will, whereby he abhors sin.

The greatness of this misery none can tell. "For," saith the Psalmist, "who knows the power of God's wrath?" (Psa 90:11). "The wrath of a king," saith Solomon, " is as the roaring of a lion" (Pro 19:12).

How did Haman's heart tremble when the king rose up from the banquet in wrath? (Esth 7:7). But God's wrath is infinite; all other is but as a spark to a flame.

With the wrath of God is connected the curse of the law. "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked" (Pro 3:33). Again, it is written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Deut 27:26; Gal 3:10).

God's curse is the binding over of the sinner to all the direful effects of his wrath.

When Shimei cursed David, David replied, "Let him curse me." And such would be our duty; for we are taught by our blessed Savior, both by precept and example, saying, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt 5:44); and when nailed to the cross he prayed for his murderers, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Besides, the curse imprecated by our fellow-creatures can do us no harm as long as we have the approbation of heaven. Hence when king Balak would have raised Balaam to the highest honor, and rewarded him with the half of his kingdom, if he would but "curse Jacob and defy Israel"; the prophet, however willing to earn the wages of sin, was compelled to say, "How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed? and how shall I defy whom God hath not defied?" (Num 23:8).

But when Jehovah curses a creature, he is cursed indeed. As "the blessing of the Lord makes rich, and addeth no sorrow unto it"; so the curse of God makes miserable, and leaves no comfort.

Of these curses the following are only a few: "Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shalt be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shalt be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do" (Deut 28:15-20).

Hence we perceive that sin imbitters our common mercies, sharpens our afflictions, turns our very table into a snare unto us, and brings down the curse of God upon our persons and upon all we do. You know, my brother, how our people dread even to hear these curses read out of the law; for when the section of the law is read in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, whilst it is considered a high privilege to be called up to stand at the right hand of the reader to pronounce a certain blessing, yet on the Sabbath in which the section is read which contains the curses, none is willing to go up, and a person is generally paid for standing at the reader's side whilst he pronounces those curses.

Now, although this savors much of superstition, for the reader's pronouncing these curses will no more make us cursed than our not going up will deliver us from the curse of the law due to our transgressions, yet it shows their ideas of the awful misery contained in those maledictions. Nor indeed is it possible for any finite mind to conceive of the wretched condition of a sinner cursed of God, whose favor is life, and whose loving-kindness is better than life, but whose wrath none can bear. Dear reader, remember it is written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal 3:10). O flee to Jesus, "who hath redeemed us from the curse of the law" (Gal 3:13).

O "escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape" "to Jesus for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us," "lest thou be consumed" (Gen 19:17; Heb 6:18). But the purport of the maledictory sentence of the broken law, and the nature as well as the extent of the punishment to which it dooms guilty sinners, will appear from the remaining part of the answer, viz. "that we are liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever."

6. "The miseries of this life." The moment man sinned he began to suffer both in soul and body. Affecting, indeed, is the account which the sacred history gives us of the consequences of the fall, "Jehovah said unto the woman, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception: in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be toward thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field: in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground: for out of it wast thou taken, for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen 3:16-19).

7. A full enumeration and detail of the temporal miseries and maladies to which sin has exposed fallen man, would far exceed the limits of this letter. They attend man in all the stages of life, from his birth to his death. It has justly been observed, that "man is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed from the world." These miseries attend men also in all stations and conditions of life, from the monarch on the throne to the beggar that sits on the dunghill. Who can enumerate the maladies and distempers to which we are liable? The following are but a few of them: "The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew. The Lord shall smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerod, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart. The Lord shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head" (Deut chap. 28). To what reproach and shame, as well as bodily pain, are mankind exposed in the world! How frequently are they called to suffer poverty and want, hunger and thirst, as well as reproach.

8. There are internal as well as external miseries of this life. The soul, the principal part of man, the chief seat of corruption, must be the principal subject of misery. With all the powers and faculties of our souls have we sinned. No wonder, then, if we suffer in all the powers of our souls, as well as in all the parts of our bodies. Of these inward spiritual miseries, the larger Catechism mentions—"Blindness of mind"; Satan blinds men's eyes that they might not receive the light of the Gospel. "A reprobate sense," left of God, so as to have no sense of discerning1 betwixt good and evil, but taking bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. "Strong delusions"; forsaking the truth, they doat upon the fancies and imaginations of their own hearts, and embrace lies for solid truths. "Hardness of heart"; hardened against the fear of the Lord, and proof against conviction and means used for awakening them. "Vile affections"; eagerly desiring sin and vanity, and all manner of filthiness, without regard to the dictates of reason and a natural conscience. To these may be added, slavery to Satan; fear, sorrow, and horror of conscience, which torment men, embitter life, and often bring death in their train. This leads me to notice the next particular mentioned in the Assembly's Caetchism, viz.

9. "Death itself." In explaining the threatening of the Covenant, it was observed that death was natural, spiritual, and eternal. But as death, in the answer, is distinguished both from the miseries of this life, on the one hand, and from the pains of hell on the other hand, it must denote natural death. By natural death, as has been mentioned in a former letter, we mean the actual dissolution of the mysterious union between the soul and the body, and the temporary separation of these two constituents of our nature. Sooner or later all the living must die. The soul leaves the body, the man falls into the hands of the king of terrors, and goes down to the house appointed for all living. Thus end the miseries of this life, but not the miseries of the sinner. For the answer mentions in the last place, that sin exposes us to,

10. The misery or "the pains of hell for ever." Sin not only renders life uncomfortable, but, if not pardoned, death and eternity too; nay, it gives death a sting which will be destructive of our everlasting peace, and will pierce our souls through with everlasting sorrow. O my dear Benjamin, think of the punishment of sin! the everlasting separation from all outward enjoyments; "the everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power"; "the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in outer darkness." A gnawing "worm that dieth not." "A fire that can never be quenched." "Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish." The society of the "devil and his angels." "A lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." See, amongst others, the following passages: Job 7:10; 2 Thess 1:9; Matt 25:30, 41; Mark 9:44; Rom 2:5,9; Rev 20:10. The words of the apostle, generally applied to the future happiness of the righteous, are equally true concerning the future misery of the wicked: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that" hate "him" (1 Cor 2:9). A celebrated Latin poet, speaking of the wicked in the infernal world, saith,

"that if he had an hundred mouths, and an hundred tongues, he could not express the one half of their misery."
The misery of hell is greatly increased by its duration. It is without end. As long as the righteous enjoy felicity in heaven, so long will the wicked suffer misery in hell. The same word is used, in the original, by our Lord himself, to express the one and the other (Matt 25:46). Blessed be God, who sent his only "Son to deliver us from the wrath to come." One or two letters more, my dear Benjamin, and we shall leave the first Adam, and consider "the second Adam from heaven, who gave himself a ransom to deliver us from going down into the pit of destruction." Farewell.
Letter 13. Misery of Fallen Man
God's curse is the binding over of the sinner to all the direful effects of his wrath.

When Shimei cursed David, David replied, "Let him curse me." And such would be our duty; for we are taught by our blessed Savior, both by precept and example, saying, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt 5:44); and when nailed to the cross he prayed for his murderers, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
Classic, Christ revealed. (y)

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