What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 19.

All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever. (emphasis added)

Ephesians 2:2,3 is cited in the Shorter Catechism to substantiate this teaching:

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind: and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Also quoted is Galatians 3:10:

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for 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.

One does not need to look far to notice the miseries of this life:

  • Natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes
  • Acts of terrorism in Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and other places
  • Wickedness in high places, such as in the Argentine military and police being prime movers in the cocaine trade
  • Dear children being murdered before birth by the express wishes of their mothers and fathers
  • Dear children being neglected or mistreated once they are born into this world
  • Sickness bringing suffering and finally death to loved ones
  • The sorrow of beholding injustice done to the righteous, or the wicked prospering in their sin
  • The sorrow of beholding the low, broken state of the Christian church in our lands

One could go on and on, naming the miseries of this life. However, it would be a sad mistake to focus one’s attention on these sorrows, without considering what we are admonished in Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if therebe any praise, think on these things.

The Lord is not instructing us to pretend that things are lovely, like Pollyanna, when they are not. Rather, He is instructing us as to what we should focus upon, what we should meditate upon.

  • The things that are true: God’s Word tells us what is true about ourselves, our condition, and how we may be right with God. God’s Word tells us the true or right way to live our lives.
  • The things that are honest: When we see honesty and honor in people, let us take note of it with thankfulness, meditate upon it, and thank God for it.
  • The things that are just: When true justice is done in a circumstance, likewise, let us praise God for it.
  • The things that are pure: Of course it is true that no person is totally pure, or without sin, in this life. However, God’s true children have been cleansed from sin by Him, and lead lives which are purposefully pure.
  • The things that are lovely: I thank God for the beauty of His creation, for the sweet dearness of family, for signs of graciousness in fellow Christians.
  • The things that are of good report: “As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25. When there is good news, let us take notice of it, and rejoice in it. When things go well for others, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice” Romans 15:15a.
  • If there be any virtue: This could be “morality”,” moral excellence”, “a commendable quality or trait”, or “chastity”, according to Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. Though virtue may be rare in our society, let us recognize, appreciate, commend and encourage virtue whenever we do see it displayed.
  • If there be any praise: Let us not be niggardly or stingy in giving deserved words of commendation, to our children, our spouses, our brethren, and to others we meet on life’s journey. Let us think about what is praiseworthy, and commend it specifically, meaningfully.

Yes, it is oh-so-true that we sinned in Adam and fell with him in his first transgression (Romans 5:12 “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”). As a result we are indeed made liable to all miseries in this life. Yet it is comforting, nonetheless, that our dear Heavenly Father (if we are indeed reconciled to Him through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:10,11) would have us to focus our attention, not on “the bad news” which is all too evident around us, but on the light, the lovely, the good, that which has been touched by His blessing.

Praise God, for teaching us what we should think about! Proverbs 23:7a:

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.

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