Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

the Fountain of all good with forgetfulness, and to treat Excellency itself with contempt. But wherever there should be impiety enough to maintain such a shocking assertion, there would also be a living demonstration of the truth that was contradicted. *

CHAPTER VI.

THE NATURAL ENMITY OF MAN AGAINST GOD.

The deplorable blindness of man in his natural condition, his neglect and contempt of God have been already stated ; but there is still, alas ! something worse chargeable upon us all, till created again in Christ Jesus. This I should carefully conceal, if it were my aim merely to please my reader instead of bringing him thoroughly acquainted with himself. I know that what I am going to prove upon fallen man, is extremely offensive to natural pride. I remember well the time, when my own selfcomplacency would have been provoked at such a charge as I now bring against the human race. Let me then intreat the candour of the reader to believe that I would most conscientiously avoid imputing to fallen man, more sinfulness than Scripture and experience fully warrant: let me also humbly request to be esteemed no less benevolent than if I maintained that man was born with perfect rectitude of soul. I should with the greatest pleasure embrace that opinion, if fact and the express testimony of God did not compel me to renounce it as a dangerous delusion.

Having thus endeavoured to procure an unprejudiced hearing of my arguments, I am bold to open to the bottom the deplorable corruption of human nature, and to maintain that there dwells in the heart of every man, till changed by grace, an aversion to the very Author of his being. This is an accusation of so detestable a kind, that even those, who are most visibly under the power of a dreadful depravity of mind, will ‘not allow its truth. But the proofs I shall bring are such as every one would allow

* See Prayer the 3rd.

of

[ocr errors]

sufficiently to demonstrate aversion in any other case. And after these proofs are laid before you, you shall then hear the infallible decisions of the word of God.

You will allow, then, that wherever the company of persons confessedly wise, excellent, and amiable, is distasteful and irksome, there is ground to conclude that it arises from some personal dislike. Now secret prayer, and reading the Scriptures with humility and attention, are the nearest approach to God, the most like being in his company any thing of which we are at present capable. By these therefore we are said in Scripture to o seek his face, and come into his presence.' If therefore an aversion to holding such intercourse as this with God, can be proved natural to fallen man, it evidently proves his aversion to him; for none can dispute the wisdom of God, or his glorious excellence.

By this test try the human race in every stage of life, and say, where are the young people, where are the old, who, before they are divinely renewed, have any delight in prayer and reading the Scripture? I do not say they totally neglect them; but do not they repeat their prayers in haste, without serious attention to their meaning? Is not the bible, that authentic account of God and his wonderful works, a dull tasteless book, and therefore neglected? If it is read, are not a few minutes thought time enough for such a task, whilst hours are every day consumed with delight in idle sauntering, in frivolous visits, or in frothy entertainments? If this conduct doth not, what can demonstrate the aversion of man to God? especially, since God, oh amazing condescension! offers to hold communion with us, invites our acquaintance, and would have us regard him as our exceeding joy? Why is this offer slighted? Surely because we naturally like not to retain him in our knowledge, nor to glorify him as God.

Again; it cannot be doubted that a great degree of hatred against a person prevails, when it extends even to those that are connected with him, and when attachment to him becomes a cause for breaking the closest bonds of friendship.

Tried by this rule, the natural aversion of man's heart to his glorious Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, appears as flagrant in its effects, as it is detestable in principle. A zealous spirit of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ may be considered as the expression of a sincere attachment to him; but this spirit is, in all ages of life, offensive to the generality of mankind. Does this uncommon but most excellent disposition discover itself in a child at schoolhis playmates, as from an instinctive enmity against it, will assault and persecute him with derision. In universities, which give the last polish to the education of the world, you may be lewd and intemperate, profane in speech and principle, without offence to your fellowstudents; but if, with a becoming fortitude, you refrain from all fashionable sins, and urge the authority of God's law against them, the most cutting ridicule and abusive insult will be heaped upon you.

Now as this is the case, before the corrupt affections of the human heart are strengthened by age, or inflamed by indulgence, it must necessarily be much more so afterwards. It is accordingly a fact, that the real fear and love of God in Jesus Christ, become the cause of variance and separation, where the greatest intimacy and the closest friendship subsisted before. Those very persons who, whilst living in fashionable forgetfulness of God, were beloved as most amiable, and even proposed as patterns for imitation—no suoner are divinely changed to delight in the knowledge of God, and his gospel, than they perceive that their careless friends treat them at first with a civil reserve, then proceed to censures of their extravagant piety, and at length discard them entirely from their friendship. But could this be the case if there were no aversion in the heart to God? By no means; for though you may not like your friend's contracting an intimacy with a third person, yet you would not quarrel with him for it, unless you had a secret dislike of that person in

your heart.

It is a sure proof of aversion against a person, when the respectful mention of his name, and the just praise ascribed to him, is not borne without impatience and displeasure. The party-bigot, every man will allow, overAows with the gall of bitterness; and therefore, when the good qualities of those who are in opposition to his sect become the subject of discourse, he either sits in silent chagrin, or is evidently impatient till another topic of discourse is introduced.

And is it not then a proof of aversion to God, when amidst all the variety of subjects of discourse, objection is made only against such as are designed to magnify the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent? What but aversion to God would immediately brand such conversations with the odious names of cant and hypocrisy, and obstinately ascribe it to some hateful motive of ostentation or sinister design? Men are pleased with incessant prating about every

the meanest trifle, or most sordid vanity; but as soon as any attempt is made to turn the conversation on the great Lord of the world, his transactions, government, perfections, and love, the very mention of the subject is received in most companies with visible dislike, a disapproving silence ensues, and the subject drops as soon as introduced. Ah! what can demonstrate that the unrenewed heart of man is at enmity with God, if this fact does not, which proclaims so loudly that he is the only person of whom no one chooses to speak, and whose praises no one desires to hear? Could a circle of avowed atheists desire to have it otherwise ?

Again; Who can doubt whether enmity reigns in the heart against an earthly king, when the tongue is busy in abusing his professed friends, and in casting reproach upon his government, and the hand is active in opposing it?-Can it be doubted then what is the real temper of man's heart towards God the King of the whole earth, before a divine change is experienced, when it is common to hear ridicule poured upon the pious and devout, as creatures absurdly demure, pitiably weak in their judgment, or enthusiastic in their temper? What a malicious insinuation is this against the glory of God? Does it not imply that all who have any concern for his honour are actually under the power of delusion, and truly despicable in their choice and pursuits?

Add to this, that the disobedience of men to the law of God amounts to the strongest proof of aversion to him. Every wilful transgression is an act of controversy with him who forbids it, and of direct opposition to his will; it is expressly styled in Scripture, rebellion against God.

D

[ocr errors]

up.

case, be

For though we have no power to overcome our Maker, or to shake the everlasting pillars of his throne; though we cannot bring forth the weapons of our indignation against the invisible God, as rebellious subjects can do against their mortal sovereign, yet the bidding defiance to his law demonstrates our will to do this execrable deed. It is an evident declaration that our spirit is in a state of hostility against heaven. Every open presumptuous offender against God, calls aloud by his practice upon all who behold it, Come on,

rise with

me against the Lord; who is he, that he should reign over us?

Now from these instances, notorious in every place, make an estimate of the natural disposition of man's heart towards God, and then say if it is not evidently that of aversion. If you would allow these instances a sufficient demonstration of enmity every

ot ingenuous and honest enough to grant it to be such in the present.

To prevail with you to do this, attend further to the manner in which our natural state and condition is represented by the God of truth. He constantly speaks of the children of men, in their unregenerate state, as “ haters” of him, as his “ adversaries” and “ enemies." Christ, we are assured, died for“ the ungodly;" that is, for those who were enemies to God.

The same truth is positively affirmed, Rom. viii. 7. The carnal mind (which the context explains to be the mind of man in its natural state) is not only disinclined to God, but “enmity against him;" which enmity expresses itself in refusing to be subject to the law of God.

Indeed the gospel itself, even in one of its most lovely titles, emphatically implies the melancholy truth we are proving. For it is called the ministry of reconciliation," that is, a method contrived by consummate wisdom, and executed by almighty love, to reconcile us unto God, who

were enemies in our minds” to him “ by wicked works,” Col. i. 21. And let the man who would deny the necessity of reconciliation in his own case, descend into his breast, and take a full survey of his duty by the light of Scripture, and then say what hope he can have, but from an act of grace in God receiving him to favour, and

66

« PreviousContinue »