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The phrase, The number of a man ........
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The fall of our first parents was itself an apostasy: and, from that time, though the Seed of the woman was both originally promised and ultimately manifested to recover man from apostasy, his inveterate tendency to it has still been the same in every successive generation.
I. Before the deluge and after the fall, the earliest apostate, from that alone system of religion which could be suitable to the necessities and the condition of a lapsed creature, was the fratricide Cain : and his apostasy,
spreading far and wide as mankind increased upon the face of the earth, at length infected all save the family of Noah.
1. It consisted in a proud rejection of that mode of reconciliation, which the wisdom and goodness of God had appointed for the fallen.
Through the future sacrifice of the incarnate Word, atonement was at length to be made efficaciously : and, as a perpetual acknowledgment of man's sinfulness united with a perpetual prospective recognition of the appointed method of his recovery, atonement was again and again to be made, typically and figuratively, through a constant succession of bloody animal sacrifices.
2. By Cain, this mode of reconciliation was contemptuously rejected. Bringing a vegetable offering, instead of the divinely ordained animal offering ; that is to say, bringing a mere eucharistic oblation which expressed no necessity of an atonement, instead of an expiatory sacrifice for acknowledged sin and transgression : he denied, that he stood in any need of a propitiation; and thus, with a
high hand, he apostatised from the revealed doctrine of the atonement.
3. His children, and finally the whole world save the family of Noah, lapsed after his example: and so utterly hopeless in its very nature, was this peculiarly offensive and insulting apostasy (which, in truth, with reference to revealed religion, is no other than palpable infidelity), that it brought upon a systematically incurable race the necessary doom of utter excision '.
II. After the deluge, that scheme of religion, which alone is suitable to a fallen creature, was taught and upheld in the preserved family of Noah : and the recent tremendous punishment of inflexible apostasy was so far efficacious, that never again has there been an universal lapse into that infidel plan of self-sufficient theology, which is professedly based upon a rejection and a denial of the doctrine and the necessity of an atonement.
See this subject discussed at large, in my Treatise on the Three Dispensations, book i. chap. 1,7, and in my Treatise on the Origin of Expiatory Sacrifice, sect. iii. chap. 2,