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Mystical Bedlam.2

The first entry on this sermon can be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/mystical-bedlam-1/

Puritan sermons typically follow a logical structure. The most common logical mechanism was to state a proposition and then break the proposition down into component parts. Adams’ structure follows that basic scheme.

The first major proposition: Man’s heart is a vessel. This proposition is developed in four subpoints:

I.          Man’s Heart is a Vessel.

            A.  The possessor: the sons of men.

            B.  The vessel is a heart.

            C.  The heart holds evil.

            D.  The vessel is full.


IA: The possessor: the sons of men.

            1. General discussion re: “sons of men”         

            2. Note on corruptibility

                        a. Spiritual corruption

                        b. Natural corruption

IA1: General discussion re: “sons of men”. 

Adams takes the proposition from Ecclesiastes 9:3, “The heart of the sons of men” and proceeds to define the term, “sons of men” by referencing Luke 3:38, “the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”  The movement from “sons man” to son of Adam may not be immediately apparent. The warrant for the move lies in the use of the word “adam” for man in Ecclesiastes 9:3: all the sons of adam (sons of Adam) possess hearts full of evil.

In making the move from Adam, the individual to adam the generic man, Thomas Adams has good exegetical grounds: Ecclesiastes as a whole concerns itself with the effects of the Fall which resulted from Adam’s sin. Thus, even though he speaks generically about “man” with the word “adam”, he has in view the unity and catastrophe of humanity in the first Adam.

Thomas Adams does not explain all the basis for his reference to Luke 3:38. This is a good model for a preacher: not exegetical decision can or should be laid bare before a congregation. While showing the point from the text is necessary, it is not necessary to explain the basis of every cross-reference.

From the reference to Adam, Thomas Adams draws the following point: “All his posterity [Adam’s posterity] [being] the sons of men; we receiving from him both flesh and the corruption of flesh, yea, and of the soul too”( 255).

Thomas Adams draws out two elements of corruption: spiritual and physical.

IA1a: The Spiritual Corruption we Inherited From Our Parents [Adam and Eve].[1]

i. The problem:

A. Our corruption begins at the very first moment of conception: Psalm 51:5. “I was born a sinner, saith a saint” (255).

B. Gen. 5:3: Adam begat Seth in his own likeness. “Adam could not propagate that which he did not have in himself; virtues are not given by birth, nor doth grace follow generation but regeneration….[the image of Adam means] that corruption which descended to Adam’s posterity by natural propagation” (255.). Further proof, Rom. 5:12.

C. “This title, then, ‘the sons of men,’ puts us in mind of our original contamination, whereby we stand guilty before God, and liable to present and eternal judgments” (255).

ii. The solution: From this flow of thought, Adams runs straight to the Gospel: If this is so, if I have necessarily inherited corruption, then we must ask “Who can be saved?” Note that Adams does not force the movement to the Cross (as is done too often by lesser preachers). Rather, merely by telling the story inherent in the text (because it lies in the overarching stream of the Bible’s narrative), Adams presents the problem which compels the response. The Bible tells the story for which only Christ is the answer.

A. “I answer, we derive from the first Adam sin and death; but from the second Adam, grace and life” (256).

1. The question is then whether we live after the flesh or afte the Spirit? Adams works with both 1 Cor. 15:50 and Romans 8:1, 13-14: “if we are led by the Spirit … with love and delight, we are the sons of men made into the sons of God” (256). Note that Thomas Adams uses the original phrase “sons of men” in contrast to the new status, “sons of God”. By referring back to his original topic, “sons men”, Thomas Adams keeps the hearer oriented. The similarity of sound between the phrases makes it easy for hearer to understand and remember the movement from first to second birth.

B.  “It is our happiness, not to be born, but to be new-born, John 3:3. The first birth kills, the second gives life”( 256). Adams returns to the general theme of his answer, this time working it in a slightly different manner. The repetition helps to drive home the point. The variation makes it interesting and helps to expand the understanding. Note the clever balanced sentences he uses to make the point clear and memorable, “Generation lost us; it must be regeneration that recovers us” (256).

C. He then considers a possible objection: But certainly not everything about our first birth is worthless. To this he answers, “Merely to be a son of man is to be corrupt and polluted” (256).

D. “There is no ambition good in the sons of men, but to be adopted the sons of God: under which degree there is no happiness; above which, no cause of aspiring” (256).

[1] Incidentally, the question of whether “Adam” was a symbol or a man plainly played no part in Thomas Adams’ theology – nor the theology of those in church.