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of it. "Come now," says he, "and let us reason together." Jesus commends the unjust steward for reasoning better upon his wrong than the children of light upon their right principles. Samuel desires the Israelites to "stand still, that he may reason with them before the Lord." St. Peter charges believers to "give an answer to every one that asketh them a reason of their hope:" and St. Paul, who reasoned so conclusively himself, intimates that wicked men are unreasonable, and declares that a total dedication of ourselves to God is our reasonable service. And while he challenges the vain disputers of this world, who would make jests pass for proofs, invectives for arguments, and sophistry for reason, he charges Titus to use not merely sound speech, but (as the original also means) sound reason, "that he who is of the contrary part may be ashamed."
Let us, then, following his advice and example, pay a due regard both to reason and revelation. So shall we, according to his candid direction, break the shackles of prejudice; "prove all things, and," by Divine grace, "hold fast that which is good."
AN APPEAL TO MATTER OF FACT, &c.
In every religion there is a principle of truth or error, which, like the first link of a chain, necessarily draws after it all the parts with which it is essentially connected. This leading principle in Christianity, distinguished from Deism, is the doctrine of our corrupt and lost estate. For if man is not at variance with his Creator, what need of a Mediator between God and him? If he is not a depraved, undone creature, what necessity of so wonderful a Restorer and Saviour as the Son of God? If he is not enslaved to sin, why is he redeemed by Jesus Christ? If he is not polluted, why must he be washed in the blood of the immaculate Lamb? If his soul is not disordered, what occasion is there for such a Divine Physician? If he is not helpless and miserable, why is he perpetually invited to secure the assistance and consolations of the Holy Spirit? And, in a word, if he is not "born in sin," why is a "new birth" so absolutely necessary, that Christ declares, with the most solemn asseverations, "without it no man can see the kingdom of God?"
This doctrine then being of such importance that genuine Christianity stands or falls with it, it may be proper to state it at large. And as this cannot be done in stronger and plainer words than those of the sacred writers and our pious reformers, I beg leave to collect them, and present the reader with a picture of our natural estate, drawn at full length by those ancient and masterly hands.
I. Moses, who informs us, that "God created man in his own image, and after his likeness," soon casts a shade upon his original dignity by giving us a sad account of his fall. He represents him, after his disobedience, as a criminal under sentence of death; a wretch filled with guilt, shame, dread, and horror; and a vagabond turned out of a lost paradise into a cursed wilderness, where all bears the stamp of desolation for his sake, Gen. iii, 17. In consequence of this apostasy he died, and "all die in him: for by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," 1 Cor. xv, 12; Rom. v, 12, in him who was all mankind seminally and federally collected in one individual.
The sacred historian, having informed us how the first man was corrupted, observes, that "he begat a son in his own image," sinful and mortal like himself: that his first born was a murderer: that Abel himself offered sacrifices to avert Divine wrath, and that the violent temper of Cain soon broke out in all the human species. "The earth," says he, "was filled with violence,—all flesh had corrupted its way,—and God saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth;" so great, 'that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil conlinually," Gen. vi, 5. Only evil, without any mixture of good; and continually, without any intermission of the evil.
When the deluge was over, the Lord himself gave the same account of his obstinately rebellious creature. "The imagination of man's heart," said he to Noah, "is evil from his youth," Gen. viii, 21. Job's friends paint us with the same colours. One of them observes, that "man is born like the wild ass's colt:" and another, that "he is abominable and filthy, and drinketh iniquity like water," Job xi, 12; xv, 16.
David doth not alter the hideous portrait. "The Lord," says he, "looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there was any that did understand and seek God." And the result of the Divine inspection is, "They are all gone aside; they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one," Psalm xiv, 3. Solomon gives a finishing stroke to his father's draught, by informing us, that " Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child :" and not of a child only; for he adds, "The heart of the sons of men is full of evil; and while they live, madness is in their heart," Prov. xxii, 15; Eccles. ix, 3.
Isaiah corroborates the assertions of the royal prophets in the following mournful confessions: "All we, like sheep, have gone astray. We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," Isa. liii, 6; Ixiv, 6.
Jeremiah confirms the deplorable truth where he says, "The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond; it is graven upon the tables of their hearts. O Jerusalem, wash thy heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved." For "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jer. iv, 14: xvii, 1, 9.
Thus the prophets delineate mankind in a natural, impenitent state. And do the apostles dip their pencil in brighter colours? Let them speak for themselves. The chief of them informs us, that "the natural," unrenewed " man receives not the things of the Spirit of God," and that "they are foolishness to him," 1 Cor. ii, 14. And he lays it down as a matter of fact, that " the carnal mind," the taste and disposition of every unregenerate person, is not only averse to goodness, but "enmity itself against God," the adorable fountain of all excellence. A blacker lme can hardly be drawn, to describe a fallen, diabolical nature, Rom. viii, 7.
Various are the names which the apostle of the Gentiles gives to our original corruption; which are all expressive of its pernicious nature and dreadful effects. He calls it emphatically sin; a sin so full of activity and energy, that it is the life and spring of all others. "Indwelling sin ;" a sin which is not like the leaves and fruits of a bad tree that appear for a time and then drop off; but like the sap that dwells and works within, always ready to break out at every bud. "The body of sin," because it is an assemblage of all possible sins in embryo, as our body is an assemblage of all the members which constitute the human frame. "The law of sin," and "the law in our members," because it hath a constraining force, and rules in our mortal bodies, as a mighty tyrant in the kingdom which he hath usurped. "The old man," because we have it from the first man, Adam; and because it is as old as the first stamina of our frame, with which it is most closely interwoven. "The flesh," as being propagated by carnal generation, and always opposing the Spirit, the gracious principle which we have from Adam the second. And "concupiscence," that mystic Jezebel, who brings forth the infinite variety of " fleshly, worldly," and " mental lusts which war against the soul."
Nor are St. James and St. John less severe than St. Paul upon the unconverted man. The one observes that his wisdom, the best property naturally belonging to him, "descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, and devilish;" and the other positively declares, that "the whole world lieth in wickedness," James iii, 15; 1 John v, 19.
Our Lord, whose Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles, confirms their lamentable testimony. To make us seriously consider sin, our mortal disease, he reminds us that "the whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick," Luke v, 31. He declares, that "men love darkness rather than light:" that "the world hates them," and that "its works are evil," John iii, 19; xv, 18; vii, 7. He directs all to pray for the " pardon of sin," as "being evil," and " owing ten thousand talents" to their heavenly creditor, Matt, vi, 12; vii, 11; xviii, 24. And he assures us, that " the things which defile the man, come from within;" and that "out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness," Mark vii, 21; Matt, xv, 19; and, in a word, all moral evil.
Some, indeed, confine what the Scriptures say of the depravity of human hearts to the abandoned heathens and persecuting Jews; as if the professors of morality and Christianity were not concerned in the dreadful charge. But if the apostolic writings affirm that Christ "came not to call the righteous, but sinners;" that "he died for the ungodly," and that "he suffered, the just for the unjust;" it is plain that, unless he did not suffer and die for moral men and Christians, they are by nature sinners, ungodly, and unjust, as the rest of mankind, Romans v, 5; 1 Peter iii, 18.
If this assertion seems severe, let some of the best men that ever lived decide the point; not by the experience of immoral persons, but by their own. "I abhor myself," says Job, "and repent in dust and ashes," Job xliii, 6. "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity," says David, "and in sin did my mother conceive me," Psalm li, 5. "Wo is me, for 1 am undone," says Isaiah, "because I am a man of unclean lips," Isa. vi, 5. "1 know," says St. Paul, "that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing," Rom. vii, 18. "We ourselves," says he to Titus, "were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another," Tit. iii, 3. And speaking of himself and the Christians at Ephesus, he leaves upon record this memorable sentence, "We were, by nature, the children of wrath even as others," Eph. ii, 3. Such humbling thoughts have the best men entertained both of their natural estate, and of themselves!
But as no one is a more proper person to appeal to in this matter than this learned apostle, who, by continually conversing with Jews, heathens, and Christians in his travels, had such an opportunity of knowing mankind, let us hear him sum up the suffrages of his inspired brethren. "What then," says he, "are we better than they?" Better than tho immoral Pagans and hypocritical Jews described in the two preceding chapters ?" No, in no wise." And he proves it by observing, (1.) The universality of human corruption: "All are under sin, as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one." (2.) The extent of it in individuals, as it affects the whole man, especially his mind: "There is none that understandeth" the things of God. His affections: "There is none that seeketh after God:" and his actions: "They are all gone out of the way" of duty: "There is none that doeth good, no, not one;" for "all have their conversation in the lusts of the flesh and of the mind." (3.) The outbreaking* of this corruption through all the parts of the body: "Their throat, their lips, their mouth, their feet, their eyes, and all their members, are together become unprofitable, and instruments of unrighteousness." As for their tongue, says St. James, it "is a world of iniquity, it defileth the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire of hell." And lastly, its malignity and virulence; It is loathsome as "an open sepulchre," terrible as one who "runs to shed blood," and mortal as "the poison of asps."
From the whole, speaking of all mankind in their unregenerate state, he justly infers, that "destruction and misery are in their ways." And, lest the self righteous should flatter themselves that this alarming declaration doth not regard them, he adds, that "the Scripture concludes all under sin;" that "there is no difference, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" and that "the moral law" denounces a general curse against its violators, "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God," Rom. iii, 9-23; vi, 19; Eph. ii, 2.
If man is thus corrupt and guilty, he must be liable to condign punishment. Therefore, as the prophets and apostles agree with our Lord in their dismal descriptions of this depravity, so they harmonize with him in the alarming accounts of his danger. Till he flees to the Redeemer as a condemned malefactor, and secures an interest in the salvation provided for the lost, they represent him as on the brink of ruin.
They inform us "that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven," not only against some atrocious crimes, but "against all unrighteousness of men," Rom. i, 18. "That every transgression and disobedience shall receive a just recompense of reward," Heb. ii, 2. That " the soul that sinneth shall die," because "the wages of sin is death," Ezek. xviii, 4; Rom. vi, 23. They declare, that "they are cursed who do err from God's commandments:" that "cursed is the man whose heart departeth from the Lord:" that "cursed is every one who continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them:" that " whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all:" and that " as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law," Psalm exix, 21; Jer. xvii, 5; Gal. iii, 10; James ii, 10; It.I'i. ii, 12.
They entreat us to turn, lest we should be found with "the many," in the " broad way to destruction," Ezek. xviii, 23; Matt . vii, 13. They affectionately inform us, " that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God:" that "our God is a consuming fire" to the unregenerair: that "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, hang over every soul of man who doeth evil:" that "the Lord shall be revealed