« AnteriorContinuar »
dissention in himself, but he who, being regenerated by the Divine Spirit, carries about with him the relics of his flesh? Therefore Augustine, though he had at one time supposed that discourse to relate to the natural state of man, retracted his interpretation, as false and inconsistent. And indeed, if we allow that men destitute of grace have some motions towards true goodness, though ever so feeble, what answer shall we give to the Apostle, who denies that we are sufficient of ourselves to entertain even a good thought? (/) What reply shall we make to the Lord, who pronounces, by the mouth of Moses, that every imagination of the human heart is only evil? (m) Since they have stumbled on a false interpretation of one passage, therefore, there is no reason why we should dwell on their opinion. Rather let us receive this declaration of Christ, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." (n) We are all sinners by nature; therefore we are all held under the yoke of sin. Now if the whole man be subject to the dominion of sin, the will, which is the principal seat of it, must necessarily be bound with the firmest bonds. Nor would there otherwise be any consistency in the assertion of Paul, that "it is God that worketh in us to will," (o) if any will preceded the grace of the Spirit. Farewell, then, all the idle observations of many writers concerning preparation: for although the faithful sometimes petition that their hearts may be conformed to the divine law, as David does in many places; (p) yet it should be remarked that even this desire of praying originates from God. This we may gather from the language of David; for when he wishes a clean heart to be created within him, (y) he certainly does not arrogate to himself the beginning of such a creation. Let us rather therefore attend to. this advice of \Augustine: "God will prevent you in all things: do you also sometimes prevent his wrath." How? "Confess that you have all those things from God: that whatever good you have, it is from him: but whatever evil, from yourself." And a little after: "Nothing is ours, but sin."
(/) 2 Cor. iii. 5. (m) Gen. viii. 21. (g) John viii. 34.
0) Phil. ii. 13. (/>) Ps«lm cxix. <q) Ptalm Ii. 10.
Every thing that proceeds from the corrupt Nature of Man,
worthy of Condemnation. BUT man cannot be better known in either faculty of his soul, than when he is represented in those characters by which the Scripture has distinguished him. If he be completely described in these words of Christ, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," (r) as it is easy to prove, it is evident that he is a very miserable creature. For according to the testimony of the Apostle, " to be carnally.minded is death: because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (*) Is the flesh so perverse, that with all its affections it entertains a secret hatred against God? that it cannot consent to the righteousness of the Divine law? in a word, that it can produce nothing but what tends to death? Now grant, that in the nature of man there is nothing but flesh, and elicit any thing good from it, if you can. But the name of flesh, it will be said, pertains only to the sensual, and not to the superior faculties of the soul. This is abundantly refuted by the words of Christ and of the Apostle. For the argument of our Lord is, that man must be born again, because he is flesh. He does not teach a new birth in regard to the body. Now a new birth of the soul requires not a correction of some portion of it, but an entire renovation. And this is confirmed by the antithesis in both places: for there is such a comparison between the flesh and the spirit, that there is no medium left. Therefore every thing in man that is not spiritual, is, according to this mode of reasoning, denominated carnal. But we have nothing of the Spirit, except by regeneration. Whatever therefore we have from nature is carnal. But if on that point there could otherwise be any doubt, we have it removed by Paul; when, after a description of the old man, which he had asserted to be "corrupt according to the deceitful lusts," (f) he directs us to "be renewed
(r) John iii. 6. (,) Rom. viii. 6, 7. (t) Eph. iv. 22, 23.
in the spirit of our mind." You see that he places unlawful and corrupt affections not only in the sensitive part, but also in the mind itself; and therefore requires a renovation of it. And indeed he had just before drawn such a picture of human nature, as shewed us to be in every part corrupted and depraved. For his description of all the Gentiles, as "walking in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart," (v) is undoubtedly applicable to all those whom the Lord hath not yet renewed to the rectitude of his wisdom and of his justice. This is still more evident from the comparison soon after introduced, where he reminds the faithful, that they " have not so learned Christ." For from these words we conclude, that the grace of Christ is the only remedy, by which we can be liberated from that blindness, and from the evils consequent upon it. And this is what Isaiah had prophesied concerning the kingdom of Christ, when he predicted that the Lord would be " an everlasting light" to his Church, whilst at the same time "darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people." (w) When he declares, that the light of God will only arise upon the Church, beyond the limits of the Church he certainly leaves nothing but darkness and blindness. I will not particularly recite all the passages which are to be found, especially in the Psalms and in the Prophets, concerning the vanity of man. It is a striking observation of David, that "to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity." (*) It is a severe condemnation of his understanding, when all the thoughts which proceed from it are derided as foolish, frivolous, mad, and perverse.
II. Equally severe is the condemnation of the heart, when it is called "deceitful above ^all things, and desperately wicked." (y) But as I study brevity, I shall be content with citing a single passage, which, however, will resemble a very lucid mirror, in which we may behold at full length the image of our nature. For the Apostle, when he wishes to demolish the arrogance of mankind, does it by these testimonies: " There
(.■) Ephes. iv. 17, 18. (w) Isaiah lx. 1, &c
(x) Psalm lxii. 9. (/) Jer. xvii. 9..
Vox.. I. 2 Q
is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: there is no fear of God before their eyes." (z) In.this terrible manner he inveighs, not against particular individuals, but against all the posterity of Adam. He does not declaim against the depraved manners of one or another age, but accuses the perpetual corruption of our nature. For his design in that passage is not simply to rebuke men, in order that they may repent; but rather to teach us that all men are overwhelmed with an inevitable calamity, from which they can never emerge, unless they are extricated by the mercy of God. As this could not be proved unless it were evinced by the ruin and destruction of our nature, he has adduced these testimonies, which demonstrate our nature to be totally ruined.. Let this then be admitted, that men are such as they are here described, not only by corrupt habits, but also by a depravity of nature: for otherwise the reasoning of the Apostle could not be supported, "that there is no salvation for man but from the mercy of God; since in himself he is in a ruined and desperate condition." Here I shall not attempt to establish the application of the testimonies, to preclude the suspicion of their being improperly introduced. I shall treat them just as if they had been originally uttered by Paul, and not quoted from the Prophets. He divests man first of righteousness, that is, integrity and purity, and then of understanding. Defect of understanding is proved by apostacy from God, the seeking of whom is the first step in the path of wisdom: but this loss must necessarily befal those who have revolted from God. He adds, that all have gone out of the way, and are become altogether corrupt, that there is not one that doeth good. Then he subjoins the flagitious crimes, with which they, who are once abandoned tr>
(*) Rom. iii. 10—18..
iniquity, contaminate all the members of their bodies. Lastly, he declares them to be destitute of the fear of God, the rule by which all our steps ought to be directed. If these are the hereditary characters of mankind, in vain do we seek in our nature for any thing that is good. I grant, indeed, that all these crimes are not exhibited in every individual; yet it cannot be denied that this monster lurks in the hearts of all. For as the body, which already contains within itself the cause and matter of a disease, although it has yet no sensation of pain, cannot be said to enjoy good health; neither can the soul be esteemed healthy, while it is full of such moral maladies. Although this similitude will not correspond in every particular: For in the body, however diseased, there remains the vigour of life; but the soul, immersed in this gulf of iniquity, is not only the subject of vices, but totally destitute of every thing that is good.
III. A question, nearly the same as we have already answered, here presents itself to us again. For in all ages there have been some persons, who from the mere dictates of nature, have devoted their whole lives to the pursuit of virtue. And though many errors might perhaps be discovered in their conduct, yet by their pursuit of virtue they afforded a proof, that there was some degree of purity in their nature. The value attached to virtues of such a description before God, we shall more fully discuss when we come to treat of the merits of works, yet it must be stated also in this place, so far as is necessary for the elucidation of the present subject. These examples then seem to teach us that we should not consider human nature to be totally corrupted; since from its instinctive bias, some men have not only been eminent for noble actions, but have uniformly conducted themselves in a most virtuous manner through the whole course of their lives. But here we ought to remember, that amidst this corruption of nature there is some room for divine grace, not to purify it, but internally to restrain its operations. For should the Lord permit the minds of all men to give up the reins to every lawless passion, there certainly would not be an individual in the world, whose actions would not evince all the crimes, for which Paul condemns human nature in general, to be most