Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

loving God, and perhaps imagine they do; at least few will acknowledge Ihey do not love him: but the fact is too plain to be denied. No man loves God by nature, any more than he does a stone, or the earth he treads upon. What we love we delight in: but no man has naturally any delight in God. In our natural state we cannot conceive how any one should delight in him. We take no pleasure in him at all; he is utterly tasteless to us. To love God! It is far above, out of our sight. We cannot, naturally, attain unto it.

6. We have, by nature, not only no love, but no Fear of God, It is allowed, indeed, that most men have, sooner or later, a kind of senseless, irrational fear, properly called Superstition, though the blundering Epicureans gave it the name of Religion. Yet even this is not natural, but acquired; chiefly by conversation or from example. By nature " God is not in all our thoughts:" we leave him to manage his own affairs, to sit quietly, as we imagine, in heaven, and leave us on earth to manage ours; so that we have no more of the fear of God before our eyes, than of the love of God in our hearts.

7- Thus are all men " Atheists in the world." But Atheism itself does not screen us from Idolatry. In his natural state every man born into the world is a rank idolater. Perhaps, indeed, we may not be such in the vulgar sense of the word. We do not, like the idolatrous Heathens, worship molten or graven images. We do not bow down to the stock of a tree, to the work of our own hands. We do not pray to the angelsor saints in heaven, any more than to the saints that are upon the earth. But what then? We have set up our idols in our hearts; and to these we bow down, and worship them: we worship ourselves, when we pay that honour to ourselves, which is due to God only. Therefore all pride is idolatry; it is ascribing to ourselves what is due to God alone. And although pride was not made for man, yet where is the man that is bom without it? But hereby we rob God of his unalienable right, and idolatrously usurp his glory.

8. But pride is not the only sort of idolatry which we are all by nature guilty of. Satan has stamped his own image on our heart in Self-will also. "I will," said he, before he was cast out of heaven, " I will sit upon the sides of the North 5" I will do my own will and pleasure, independently on that of my Creator. The same does every man born into the world say, and that in a thousand instances; nay, and avow it too, without ever blushing upon the account, without either fear or shame. A^k the man, 'Why cliil you do this?' He answers, 'Because I had a mind to it.' What is this but, 'Because it was ray will ;' that is, in effect, because the Devil and I are agreed; because Satan and I govern our actions by one and the same principle. The will of God, mean time, is not in his thoughts, is not considered in the least degree; although it be the supreme rule of every intelligent creature, whether in heaven or earth, resulting from the essential, unalterable relation, which all creatures bear to their Creator.

9. So far we bear the image of the Devil,and tread in his steps. But at the next step we leave Satan behind; we run into an idolatry w hereof he is not guilty: I mean, Love of the World: which is now as natural to every man, as to love his own will. What is more natural to us than to seek happiness in the creature, instead of the Creator'.' To seek that satisfaction in the works of his hands, which can be found in God only? What more natural than "the desire of the flesh?" That is, of the pleasure of sense in every kind? Men indeed talk magnificently of despising these low pleasures, particularly men of learning and education. They affect to sit loose to the gratification of those appetites wherein they stand on a level with the beasts that, perish, liut it is mere affectation; for every man is conscious to himself, that in this respect he is, by nature, a very beast. Sensual appetites, even those of the lowest kind, have, more or less, the dominion over him. They lead him captive; they drag him to and fro, in spite of his boasted reason. The man, with all his good breeding and other accomplishments, has no pre-eminence over the goat: nay, it is much to be doubted, whether the beast has not the pre-eminence over him. Certainly he has, if we may hearken to one of their modern oracles, who very decently tells us,

"Once in a season, boasts too taste of love;
Only 11 it- boast of roason is its slave,
And in tint folly duulges all the year."

A considerable difference indeed, it must be allowed, there is between man and man, arising (beside that wrought by preventing grace) from difference of constitution and of education. But, notwithstanding this, who, that is not utterly ignorant of himself, can here cast the first stone at another? Who can abide the test of our blessed Lord's comment on the Seventh Commandment ?" He tli.it looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart?" So that one knows not which to wonder at most, the ignorance or the insolence of those men, who speak witll such disdain of them that are overcome by desires which every man has felt in his own breast; the desire of every pleasure of sense, innocent or not, being natural to every child of man.

10. And so is "the Desire of the Eye;" the desire of the pleasures of the imagination. These arise either from great, or beautiful, or uncommon objects;—if the two former do not coincide with the latter; for perhaps it would appear upon a diligent inquiry, that neither grand nor beautiful objects please, any longer than they are new; that when the novelty of them is over, the greatest part, at least, of the pleasure they give, is over; and in the same proportion as they become familiar, they become flat and insipid. But let us experience this ever so often, the same desire will remain still. The inbred thirst continues fixed in the soul; nay, the more it is indulged, the more it increases, and incites us to follow after another, and yet another object; although we leave every one with an abortive hope, and a deluded expectation. Yea,

"The hoary fool, who many days

Mas struggled with continued sorrow,
Renews his hope, and fondly lays
The desperate bet upon tomorrow!

Tomorrow comes! 'Tis noon! 'Tis night!

This day, like all the former, flies:
Yet, on he goes, to seek delight

Tomorrow, till to night he dies!"

11. A third symptom of this fatal disease, the love of the world, which is so deeply rooted in our nature, is " the Pride of Life; " the desire of praise, of the honour that cometh of men. This the greatest admirers of human nature allow to be strictly natural; as natural as the sight, or hearing, or any other of the external senses. And are they ashamed of it, even men of letters, men of refined and improved understanding? So far from it, that they glory therein! They applaud themselves for their love of applause! Yea, eminent Christians, so called, make no difficulty of adopting the saying of the old, vain Heathen, "shiimi dissoluti est et neqnam negligere quid de se homines sentiant:" "Not to regard what men think of us, is the mark of a wicked and abandoned mind." So that to go calm and unmoved through honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report, is with them a sign of one that is, indeed, not fit to live: "Away with such a fellow from the earth." But would one imagine that these men had ever

Vol. I. No. 12. 2 O

heard of Jesus Christ or his Apostles; or that they knew \v1k> it was that said, " How can ye believe who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of God only?" But if this be really so, if it be impossible to believe, and consequently to please God, so long as we receive or seek honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of God only; then in what a condition are all mankind! The Christians as well as Heathens! Since they all seek honour one of another! Since it is as natural for them so to do, themselves being the judges, as it is to see the light which strikes upon their eve, or to hear the sound which enters their ear; yea, since they account it a sign of a virtuous mind, to seek the praise of men, and of a vicious one, to be content with the honour that cometh of God only!

III. 1. I proceed to draw a few Inferences from what has been said. Andfirst, from hence we may learn one grand fundamental difference between Christianity, considered as a system of doctrines, and the most refined Heathenism. Many of the ancient Heathens have largely described the vices of particular men. They have spoken much against their covetousness, or cruelty; their luxury, or prodigality. Some have dared to say, that "no man is born without vices of one kind or another." But still, as none of them were apprised of the fall of man, so none of them knew of his total corruption. They knew not that all men were empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They were wholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born into the world, in every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices which reign in particular persons, as by the general Hood of atheism and idolatry, of pride, self-will, and love of the world. This, therefore, is the first, grand, distinguishing point between Heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges that many men arc infected with many vices, and even born with a proncness to them; hut supposes withal, that in some the natural good much over-balances the evil: the other declares that all men arc "conceived in sin," and " shape n in wickedness ; "—that hence there is in every man a "carnal mind, which is enmity against God, which is not, cannot be subject to [his] law;" and which so infects the whole soul, that "there dwclleth in [him,] in Ids flesh," in his natural state, "no good thing ;" but "every imagination of the thought fif his heart is evil,'' only evil, and that "continually."

2. Hence we may, secondly, learn, that all who deny this call it Original Sin, or by any other title, are but Heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences Heathenism from Christianity. They may, indeed, allow, that men have many vices; that some arc born with us; and that, consequently, we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be; there being few that will roundly affirm, 'We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation.' But here is the shibboleth: Is man by nature tilled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Or, to come back to the text, is " every imagination of the thoughts of his heart evil continually?" Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an Heathen still.

3. We may learn from hence, in the third place, what is the proper nature of Religion, of the Religion of Jesus Christ. It is Qtqzxeix Vvxn, God's method of healing a soul which is thus diseased. Hereby the great Physiciau of souls applies medicines to heal this sickness; to restore human nature, totally corrupted in all its faculties. God heals all our Atheism by the knowledge of Himself, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent; by giving us faith, a diviue evidence and conviction of God, and of the things of God; in particular, of this important truth, 'Christ loved me, and gave himself for me.' By repentance and lowliness of heart, the deadly disease of pride is healed; that of self-will by resignation, a meek and thankful submission to the will of God; anil for the love of the world in all its branches, the love of God is the sovereign remedy. Now this is properly Religion, " faith [thus] working by love;" working the genuine meek humility, entire deadncss to the world, with a loving, thankful acquiescence in, and conformity to, the whole will and word of God.

4. Indeed, if man were not thus fallen, there would be no need of all this. There would be no occasion for this work in the heart, this renewal in the spirit of our mind. The superfluity of godliness would then be a more proper expression than the " superfluity of naughtiness." For an outside religion, without any godliness at all, would suffice to all rational intents and purposes. It does accordingly suffice, in the judgment of those who deny this corruption of our nature. They make very little more of religion than the famous Mr. Hobbes did of reason. According to him, Reason is only " a well ordered train of words :" according to them, Religion is only

« AnteriorContinuar »