« AnteriorContinuar »
with the declaration of Paul, that “ the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned :" I Cor. ii, 14. On the other hand, although we may construct many plausible systems of morality, gratifying to our pride, yet the “ wisdom of this world” is “ foolishness with God :" 1 Cor. iii, 18--20. “ There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death :" Prov. xiv, 12. In short, unregenerate men are 6 darkness :" they are sitting “in darkness, and in the shadow of death :” (Luke i, 79 ;) they are under the “ power of darkness :" Col. i, 13. “ The rulers of the darkness of this world” (Eph. vi, 12) are their governors. Their king is the prince of the power of the air ;” (Eph. ii, 2 ;) and the god of this world has “blinded” their eyes, “lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them :" 2 Cor. iv, 4.
3. Being thus prone to evil, and destitute of a right apprehension of divine things, mankind in their fallen nature are « dead in trespasses and sins ;" (Eph. ii, 1 ;) they are universally sinners. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us :" 1 John i, 8. “ All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God :" Rom. ii, 23. “God made man upright,” says Solomon, “but they have sought out many inventions :" Eccles. vii, 29. And if we would understand the moral character of these inventions, we may consult the apostle Paul, who thus describes, in glowing and comprehensive language, “ the whole world," which “ lieth in wickedness:" 1 John v, 19. “What, then, are we (the Jews) better than they (the Gentiles) ? No, in no wise ; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin, as it is written : There 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 : and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and ALL THE WORLD may become GUILTY BEFORE GOD:" Rom. iii, 919.
The doctrine of Scripture respecting the wickedness of mankind is powerfully confirmed by the records contained in it of their history--a history which affords astonishing evidences of a strong, determined, natural, bent towards moral evil. What was the character of the antediluvians, to whom was communicated the original revelation of the divine will ? We read, that God beheld them, and “ saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,” and that 6 every imagination of the thoughts of his heart” was 66 only evil continually:" Gen. vi, 5. With the exception of a single family, the whole of one generation of mankind was destroyed by the deluge ; and the earth was again peopled by a new race, of which the sons of Noah were the progenitors. But the bias of human nature was unaltered. The descendants of Noah sunk by degrees into almost universal idolatry and sin. The Canaanitish nations, more especially, were so full of iniquity, that they became the conspicuous subjects of the divine vengeance; and God selected a peculiar people, to whom he had condescended to reveal his will, and to commit the keeping of his divine oracles, to be the instruments of his wrath. That people was favoured above all the nations of the earth by the Supreme Being, and instructed by the frequent miraculous displays of his love and power. Yet, even in them we perceive an almost unvarying propensity to rebellion and transgression. “ Ah! sinful nation, cried their prophet Isaiah, “a people laden with iniquity; a seed of evil doers ; children that are corrupters; they have forsaken the Lord; they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger; they are gone away backward”......“ From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in it: but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment:' Isa. i, 4–6. Thus degraded and corrupted, the Israelites were themselves chastised by severe temporal calamities, and were at length carried captive into the land of their enemies. At an appointed period, however, a certain proportion of them were permitted to re. turn into the country of their fathers, and to rebuild their city and temple, under the renewed and especial manifestations of divine love. Yet-a depraved nature soon again displayed itself in this favoured race. Although they abstained from idolatry, it is evident, from various passages in the New Testament, that they became exceedingly vicious, and at length they consummated their national criminality by crucifying their Messiah.
That modern history affords abundant lessons to the same
effect, and that the knowledge which we have of the lasciviousness, pride, covetousness, and cruelty, still so prevalent in the world—not to mention the secret “ plague” of our own hearts -amply confirms these lessons, will scarcely be denied by any person who reflects on the subject with calmness ; who takes a just view, on the one hand, of the requisitions of the divine law, and, on the other, of the innumerable iniquities by which it is iníringed.
True indeed it is, that, with the evil abounding in the world, there is still to be found, in almost every class of mankind, a considerable mixture of good. Ruined as man is by nature, it may readily be acknowledged, that he retains some few traces of his original excellence; and that, although ever prone to sin, he is not solely, entirely, exclusively sinful. Such an allowance, however, requires to be carefully guarded ; nor can I venture to make it, without observing, first, that much of the virtue sometimes apparent in persons who have little serious sense of religion ought probably to be attributed, not to their own diseased and degraded nature, but either to the indirect operation of Christianity, as it is outwardly revealed, or to the secret visitations of a divine influence; for we have surely strong reasons to believe, that such an influence is given to all men, to be their cure ; often strives with them from infancy to advanced age; is seldom, perhaps, during the course of their lives, entirely withdrawn from them; and, if fully submitted to, would extend and complete that work of righteousness which is now inadequate, partial, and defective. Secondly, the real virtue of actions, apparently good, depends upon the motives out of which they spring ; and God, who searches the heart, may frequently condemn in us those very works which satisfy our own self-righteousness, and which are warmly applauded by our fellow creatures. Thirdly, although the moral disease inherent in our fallen nature does not display itself in every individual of the species in the same particular form, there is, nevertheless, not a man upon earth in whom it has not been manifested in some form or other ; not one who is not guilty of sin ; not one who is free from a natural propensity to some besetting iniquity.
4. In conclusion, therefore, let us notice the comprehensive nature of that curse, which is declared in the Scriptures to be the consequence of sin. While they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham, 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 :" Gal. iii, 9, 10; comp. Deut. xxvii, 26. As these words were applied by Moses to the whole Jewish legal institution, so are they applicable, with an especial degree of force, to that moral law of God which formed its most essential feature. Accordingly, we are taught by the apostle James, that " whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all : for he that said, do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now,” adds the apostle, “ if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law :" James ii, 10, 11.
Whatsoever, therefore, may be our besetting iniquity-whatsoever the particular respect in which we have forsaken the path of duty—it is plain that we are justly exposed to divine condemnation both here and hereafter. Since all the world 6 lieth in wickedness ;” all the world is become “ guilty before God.” We have all infringed the law of God: therefore we are all exposed to the curse pronounced on its infringement. We are all 6 by nature the children of corruption ;' therefore we are all “ by nature, the children of wrath :" Eph. i, 3. - All have sinned ;" therefore (were the voice of the law alone to be heard) “ all” must DIE.
I may now proceed to recapitulate the principal truths which have formed the subject of the present essay. It may be recollected, FIRST, that man was formed, like other animals, out of the dust of the ground, to be a living creature : that he was created liable to mortality : that, after he had sinned, he received the sentence of natural death : “ Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return :” and further, that as he is himself mortal, so those earthly objects which here occupy his, attention, and engage his affections, are all of a transitory nature, and are invariably inscribed with the mark of s vanity of vanities."
SECONDLY, that man is nevertheless the child of eternity, because, being made in the image of God, he possesses a neverdying soul; that the existence of a soul as well as a body in man is plainly recognized by the inspired writers; and that there are many clear passages of Holy Writ, from which we learn that after death, and before the resurrection, the souls of the righteous are with Christ in blessedness, and the souls of the wicked reserved, in a condition of suffering, for judg. ment.
THIRDLY, that man is the child of eternity in another respect also, because, at an appointed time to come, there will be a resurrection from death, both of the just and of the unjust, when even our mortal part will be clothed with immortality : and that the resurrection of the righteous, more especially, will be attended with circumstances unspeakably joyful and glorious, and will constitute the victory of the Messiah over the last enemy-death.
FOURTHLY, that man is a moral agent, capable either of righteousness or of sin; the standard of the former being the will or law of a perfectly holy God-and the latter being the infraction of that will or law--that we are made free to choose either good or evil, either life or death--that we are, in every particular of our life and conversation, responsible to God, from whom alone we derive all things which we possess, and to whom we must individually, in a future world, render the account of our stewardship-and that, when this account has been given, we shall be judged by the Son of God, and punished or rewarded individually, after a rule of perfect justice and equity, according to our works.
FIFTHLY, that the future rewards and punishments of men are declared by the apostles, and by our Lord himself, to be everlasting ; and that, for many plain critical reasons, the term everlasting, as it is applied to future punishment, cannot be fairly construed otherwise than in its highest sense. That this conclusion is confirmed by a very plain consideration; namely, that the present life alone is the period of our probation; the world to come being ever represented in Scripture (conformnably with the dictates of natural religion) to be one of fixed and permanent retribution.
SIXTHLY, that Adam and Eve fell from their original righteousness and became sinners-that, 'in consequence of this mournful change, the whole race of their descendants inherit a sinful nature that the heart or inward disposition of the natural man is infected with sin, and ever prone to evil-that unregenerate men are in a condition of darkness, alienated from the life of God by the ignorance which is in them, and incapable of understanding Divine Truth by their own wisdom - that they are under the dominion of Satan--that they are dead in trespasses and sins, and universally sinners, as is amply proved by the historical, as well as the didactic, parts of Scripture—and finally, that, being sinners, they are all guilty before God, and justly liable to the CURSE OF THE LAW.
What, then, are the practical conclusions to which these premises are calculated to conduct the awakened sinner? He must surely be convinced, that, if he continues under the in: fluence of his fallen nature, misery and destruction are his certain allotment. He beholds his deep moral degradation : he confesses that his enemy has triumphed over him : he knows