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The World’s Famous Orations.
Great Britain: I. (710–1777). 1906.

John Wesley

God’s Love to Fallen Man

HOW exceedingly common and how bitter is the outcry against our first parent for the mischief which he not only brought upon himself, but entailed upon his latest posterity! It was by his wilful rebellion against God “that sin entered into the world.” “By one man’s disobedience,” as the Apostle observes, the many, as many as were then in the loins of their forefathers, were made, or constituted sinners: not only deprived of the favor of God, but also of His image, of all virtue, righteousness, and true holiness, and sunk partly into the image of the devil, in pride, malice, and all other diabolical tempers; partly into the image of the brute, being fallen under the dominion of brutal passions and groveling appetites. Hence also death entered into the world with all its forerunners and attendants—pain, sickness, and a whole train of uneasy as well as unholy passions and tempers. “For all this we may thank Adam” has been echoed down from generation to generation.

It were well if the charge rested here: but it is certain it does not. It can not be denied that it frequently glances from Adam to his Creator. Have not thousands, even of those that are called Christians, taken the liberty to call His mercy, if not His justice also, into question, on this very account? Some indeed have done this a little more modestly, in an oblique and indirect manner, but others have thrown aside the mask and asked, “Did not God foresee that Adam would abuse his liberty? And did He not know the baneful consequences which this must naturally have on all his posterity? And why then did He permit that disobedience? Was it not easy for the Almighty to have prevented it?” He certainly did foresee the whole. This can not be denied.

Mankind in general have gained by the fall of Adam a capacity of attaining more holiness and happiness on earth than it would have been possible for them to attain if Adam had not fallen. For if Adam had not fallen Christ had not died. Nothing can be more clear than this: nothing more undeniable: the more thoroughly we consider the point, the more deeply shall we be convinced of it. Unless all the partakers of human nature had received that deadly wound in Adam it would not have been needful for the Son of God to take our nature upon Him. Do you not see that this was the very ground of His coming into the world? “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. And thus death passed upon all” through him “in whom all men sinned.” Was it not to remedy this very thing that “the Word was made flesh?” that “as in Adam all died, so in Christ all might be made alive?”

Unless, then, many had been made sinners by the disobedience of one, by the obedience of one many would not have been made righteous. So there would have been no room for that amazing display of the Son of God’s love to mankind. There would have been no occasion for His “being obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” It could not then have been said, to the astonishment of all the hosts of heaven, “God so loved the world,” yea, the ungodly world, which had no thought or desire of returning to Him, “that He gave His Son” out of His bosom, His only-begotten Son, “to the end that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

What is the necessary consequence of this? It is this: There could then have been no such thing as faith in God, thus loving the world, giving His only Son for us men and for our salvation. There could have been no such thing as faith in the Son of God “as loving us and giving Himself for us.” There could have been no faith in the Spirit of God as renewing the image of God in our hearts, as raising us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness. Indeed, the whole privilege of justification by faith could have no existence; there could have been no redemption in the blood of Christ: neither could Christ have been made of God unto us, either “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, or redemption.”

And the same grand blank which was in our faith must likewise have been in our love. We might have loved the Author of our being, the Father of angels and men, as our Creator and Preserver: we might have said, “O Lord, our Governor, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!” But we could not have loved Him under the nearest and dearest relation “as delivering up His Son for us all.” We might have loved the Son of God as being the “brightness of His Father’s glory, the express image of His person” (altho this ground seems to belong rather to the inhabitants of heaven than earth). But we could not have loved Him as “bearing our sins in His own body on the tree,” and “by that one oblation of Himself once offered, making a full oblation, sacrifice, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” We could not have been “made conformable to His death,” not “have known the power of His resurrection.”

And as our faith, both in God the Father and the Son, receives an unspeakable increase, if not its very being, from this grand event, as does also our love both of the Father and the Son; so does also our love of our neighbor also, our benevolence to all mankind, which can not but increase in the same proportion with our faith and love of God. For who does not apprehend the force of that inference drawn by the loving Apostle, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

Such gainers may we be by Adam’s fall, with regard both to the love of God and of our neighbor. But there is another grand point, which, tho little adverted to, deserves our deepest consideration. By that one act of our first parent, not only “sin entered the world,” but pain also, and was alike entailed on his whole posterity. And herein appeared, not only the justice, but the unspeakable goodness of God. For how much good does He continually bring out of this evil! How much holiness and happiness out of pain!

How innumerable are the benefits which God conveys to the children of men through the channel of sufferings, so that it might well be said, “What are termed afflictions in the language of men are in the language of God styled blessings.” Indeed, had there been no suffering in the world, a considerable part of religion, yea, and in some respects, the most excellent part, could have had no place therein: since the very existence of it depends on our suffering: so that had there been no pain it could have had no being. Upon this foundation, even our suffering, it is evident all our passive graces are built; yea, the noblest of all Christian graces, love enduring all things.

What room could there be for trust in God if there was no such thing as pain or danger? Who might not say then, “The cup which my Father had given me, shall I not drink it?” It is by sufferings that our faith is tried, and, therefore, made more acceptable to God. It is in the day of trouble that we have occasion to say, “Tho He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” This is well pleasing to God: that we own Him in the face of danger, in defiance of sorrow, sickness, pain, or death.

Again: Had there been neither natural nor moral evil in the world, what must have become of patience, meekness, gentleness, long-suffering? It is manifested they could have had no being, seeing all these have evil for their object. If therefore evil had never entered into the world, neither could these have had any place in it. For who could have returned good for evil, had there been no evil-doer in the universe? How had it been possible, on that supposition, to overcome evil with good?

It is then we shall be enabled fully to comprehend, not only the advantages which accrue at the present time to the sons of men by the fall of their first parent, but the infinitely greater advantages which they may reap from it in eternity. In order to form some conception of this we may remember the observation of the Apostle, “As one star differeth from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead.” The most glorious stars will undoubtedly be those who are the most holy; who bear most of that image of God wherein they were created. The next in glory to these will be those who have been most abundant in good works; and next to them, those that have suffered most, according to the will of God.

But what advantages in every one of these respects will the children of God receive in heaven by God’s permitting the introduction of pain upon earth in consequence of sin? By occasion of this they attained many holy tempers which otherwise could have had no being: resignation to God, confidence in Him in times of trouble and danger, patience, meekness, gentleness, long-suffering, and the whole train of passive virtues. And on account of this superior holiness they will then enjoy superior happiness.

There is one advantage more that we reap from Adam’s fall, which is not unworthy our attention. Unless in Adam all had died, being in the loins of their first parent, every descendant of Adam, every child of man, must have personally answered for himself to God: it seems to be a necessary consequence of this, that if he had once fallen, once violated any command of God, there would have been no possibility of his rising again; there was no help, but he must have perished without remedy. For that covenant knew not to show mercy: the word was, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Now who would not rather be on the footing he is now, under a covenant of mercy? Who would wish to hazard a whole eternity upon one stake? Is it not infinitely more desirable to be in a state wherein, tho encompassed with infirmities, yet we do not run such a desperate risk, but if we fall we may rise again?

See then, upon the whole, how little reason we have to repine at the fall of our first parent, since herefrom we may derive such unspeakable advantages both in time and eternity. See how small pretense there is for questioning the mercy of God in permitting that event to take place, since, therein, mercy, by infinite degrees, rejoices over judgment! Where, then, is the man that presumes to blame God for not preventing Adam’s sin? Should we not rather bless Him from the ground of the heart, for therein laying the grand scheme of man’s redemption and making way for that glorious manifestation of His wisdom, holiness, justice, and mercy? If, indeed, God had decreed, before the foundation of the world, that millions of men should dwell in everlasting burnings because Adam sinned hundreds or thousands of years before they had a being, I know not who could thank him for this, unless the devil and his angels: seeing, on this supposition, all those millions of unhappy spirits would be plunged into hell by Adam’s sin without any possible advantage from it. But, blessed be God, this is not the case. Such a decree never existed. On the contrary, every one, born of woman may be unspeakable gainer thereby: none ever was or can be loser but by choice.