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watch every moment over each individual of the faithful for good, and careth for every one of that character at all times, as a wise father doth for the son that serveth him? Do you believe it as a most certain truth, that God doth indeed dwell with men; and that he giveth to all that are living according to his will, such peace and consolation as the world knoweth not. Finally, try yourself, whether you have affecting views of the love of God, as it manifests itself in the person and offices of the Redeemer, in the influences of the Spirit, and in that communion which God thus holds with all his faithful people ?

By such enquiries as these, honestly made, your real knowledge or your ignorance of the God of whom the bible speaks, will be discovered to yourself. It is in these important points that God has made that revelation of himself, and of his conduct towards us, which the world by wisdom could never have discovered. And in the same proportion as God's own representation of himself and of his designs is believed, you will really be enriched by the knowledge of him. Such a knowledge is inestimable: it possesses virtue to heal the corrupted mind of man, and energy to support it amidst numerous trials, and to keep it firm in the exercise of duty; it is this knowledge, in a word, which is emphatically pronounced by our Saviour to be eternal life.*

CHAPTER V.

THE NATURAL CONDITION OF MAN WITH RESPECT TO GOD.

No science can be thoroughly known till its first principles are well understood. This observation is never more true than when applied to religion, the science in which every man is most deeply interested. One of the first and most necessary principles of religion is, a knowledge of our own condition and character, especially as we stand related to the Author of our being.

Now, experience and Scripture, those incontestible wit

* Prayer the 2nd, for the right Knowledge of God, is adapted to this subject.

nesses, jointly declare the deplorable blindness of man in spiritual things, while in a state of nature ; and his forgetfulness, contempt, nay, even hatred of his Creator.

His blindness is manifested by his practical denial of his absolute dependance upon God for all good.

He jooks upon the endowments of person, mind, or station, as if they were, in the proper sense of the word, his own; he trusts in his own wisdom and strength to procure them; and when procured, he glories in them as his own acquirement. In words indeed he acknowledges one supreme universal Creator ; but he considers not the consequence necessarily flowing from his truth to the glory of God, that “of him, and through him, and to him are all things.” Hence beauty is intoxicated with the admiration of its own pleasing form; hence the rich, proud of their wealth, look with contempt on the poor; and those who have acquired knowledge by intense application, or who shine distinguished by their superior genius, spurn the ignorant vulgar; nay, even the spiritual man is much too ready to exalt himself in the flattering survey of his own gifts and grace. The universal prevalence of this spirit of self-sufficiency loudly proclaims the blindness of the human mind to that fundamental truth, that “no man can receive any thing except it be given him from above." With respect then to every advantage on which we place a value, it is God only that maketh men to differ. . But so gross is this blindness, and so truly is it a property of our nature, that it is difficult even with all the aids of supernatural light and divine grace, to obtain deliverance from it. Some symptoms of it may be found (where you least suspect them) even in the most enlightened of the earth.

The natural blindness of man with respect to God, may be proved also by the preference he gives to a life of selfindulgence, over a life of obedience. Compare these together, and you would not even believe it possible to make a wrong choice. For what is a life of obedience to God ? It is paying our allegiance to the wisest, the best of Kings, and duly discharging our filial duty to the most affectionate of Fathers. It is freedom to the fettered soul, and deliverance from passions as base as they are hurtful. It ensures a peaceful enjoyment of mind, which affords no

ground for sharp self-upbraidings. It makes a man a blessing to all in close connection with him, effectually restraining him even from the intention to do evil. In prosperity it keeps the mind humble; in adversity, calm and patient: nor can the prospect of death disturb its tranquillity, for its hope is full of immortality.-Survey now its contrast, a life of self-indulgence. How depraved how monstrous is every feature! The whole appears no other than a hideous compound of ignorance, obstinately contradicting infinite wisdom ;-of contempt, shewn by a sinful worm to eternal majesty ;—of ingratitude, to bounty the most undeserved ;-—of rebellion, aiming its blow against sovereign mercy. A life of self indulgence makes a man afraid to look into himself, or forwards to approaching eternity: It is infectious and full of mischief to others; it is wholly without excuse, and in every view altogether odious.

What light then can there be left in the human mind, if a life of obedience is not always, without hesitation, preferred, infinitely preferred, to a life of self-indulgence? For beauty, in its loveliest bloom, doth not so evidently excel pale loathsome disease, as a life of faithful obedience surpasses one of self-gratification.

Yet, alas! to the shame of man, experience daily proves his choice to be fixed on what merits absolute contempt, and his preference to be given, where detestation alone is due. Innumerable are the slanders with which man asperses a life of strict obedience, and loud are the complaints he urges against it: he industriously employs all sis

powers of wit and reason to make an uniform subjection to the will of God appear irksome,-and opposition to it guiltless. In vain do all the children of obedience lift

up

their voice together, and cry, “ Great is the peace that they have who keep thy law, and nothing shall offend them." In vain does the all-sufficient Jehovah promise his indwelling presence and spirit; in vain does he promise pardon, power, peace, and salvation to the faithful and obedient; all is too weak to open the eyes of men in general, and to enable them to perceive such pleasure and such charms in the way of duty, as they fondly fancy they discover in the paths of self-will and transgression.

And to this gross mistake it is owing, that the number of real Christians is so small, the multitude of

open

sinners so great.

This observation leads us to a further discovery of the blindness natural to the human mind, with respect to what it esteems the true foundation of happiness. Were it a fact, that great possessions, titles, or appearances could satisfy the soul, it might then be no proof of human blindness to seek for happiness in what the world can give, to the neglect or disparagement of God: or were we, like the heathen, left in gross darkness about the perfections of God, and in ignorance of the notice he takes of his creatures; on either of these suppositions it would be no evidence of blindness in man to reject, as imaginary, the prospect of finding happiness in the knowledge of God, and in a lively consciousness of his favour: for then man might plead, that it was the height of arrogance and presumption to imagine there could be an intimacy and friendship between God and himself.

But when, on the contrary, the infallible Scriptures fully display to us the glorious perfections of our God, and when they assure us also of the high place man holds in his thoughts; when they declare that His heart is open to embrace him, as soon as he earnestly desires deliverance from sin, and to treat him with all the endearments a son can receive from the most loving father;—in such a case, must not the mind be deplorably blind, if it does not listen with delight to these declarations, place confidence in them, and instantly accept the rich offer made by them as a treasure of peace, of happiness and glory? Yet, alas! far from acting in this most reasonable manner, we are with great difficulty brought to believe that God does indeed dwell with man; and with still greater to desire any share in communion with him. After a thousand disappointments from the world, still with boundless credulity we depend upon every delusion for happiness. The meanest trifle, the most sordid pursuit, every thing, except the knowledge and love of God, we are blind enough to fancy worth our esteem and our labour to obtain.

Thus does gross ignorance cover the mind of fallen man. Every inferior creature, even the crawling worm or buzzing insect, perceives what is most beneficial for

itself, steadily pursues, and constantly adheres to it. But man is naturally blind to the Fountain of all good, and to the enjoyment he can possess through the knowledge and love of him. Even men of the finest abilities, whose penetration, in other respects, is piercing as the eagle's sight, are in this point miserably blind. Gross darkness covers the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the priest and the people, till God commands the light to shine out of darkness, and bestows from on high, a sound understanding and right judgment.

This blindness of the human mind is most strongly asserted in the following Scriptures, to which more of the same kind, were it necessary might be added: Job. xi. 12. “ Man is born like the wild ass's colt,” that is, not only destitute of heavenly light and wisdom, but stupid to apprehend it, and averse to receive it. Observe how keenly this is pointed: like the ass—an animal remarkable for its stupidity even to a proverb; like the ass's colt, which of course must be more egregiously stupid than the dam; like the wild ass's colt, which is not only blockish, but stubborn and refractory, neither by nature possessing valuable qualities, nor capable of receiving them through any discipline. The same blindness, natural to the human mind, is necessarily implied in those assertions of the Lord Jesus Christ, which describe all discernment of spiritual things to the influence of the Holy Ghost: which stile him the Spirit of Truth, whose office it is to lead us into all truth. Nay sufficiently decisive on this point, if there were no other testimony, is that remarkable one of St. Paul: “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.” 1 Cor. ii. 14.

But it is not blindness only that is chargeable on fallen man; his entire forgetfulness of God, even though the whole creation loudly attests his excellency and his presence, argues extreme depravity. Man can be a witness to the whole host of heaven moving in continual order around him; he can enjoy the grateful vicissitude of the seasons, and feast upon the various bounties of the earth; he can stand encircled with conveniences and comforts, and yet not advert to the infinitely wise and gracious hand

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