|« Prev||Lecture XXIX. Preached May 19, 1694.||Next »|
It remains now, in the next place, to shew,
Secondly: What those several evils and miseries are: and, so, what the spiritual death that is now upon the world, and hath passed over all, doth comprehend, and contain in it. It comprehends,
i. The loss of God. A mighty thing! the very thought whereof might set all our souls a trembling; and that, whether we consider it as our present case, or, as having been our case. The loss of God two ways: first, as men have lost all their interest in him; and, secondly, as they have lost all inclinations towards him. A loss, that stands at once in God’s aversion from them, and their aversion from God. A mutual aversion between God and them. But, because that, in every thing that belongs to our misery, we are first, as in every thing that belongs to our felicity, God is first, it is more proper to consider,
(i.) Our aversion from God, or, men’s having lost God, through their own disinclination towards him: this is represented as the common case of the unconverted, or yet apostate world of men, yet remaining in the state of apostasy, that they are atheists in the world. Ephes. ii. 12. “Without 419God in the world;” so we truly enough render it. “Alienated from the life of God:” Ephes. iv. 18. Alienated from the divine life, from a life of commerce with God they are strangers to God, as men of another country: that is the significancy of the expression; so they carry it to God, (as it is else where expressed,) like foreigners. He is none of our country; we are not of that country of which he is; we have nothing to do with him. At that rate men live, and bear themselves, generally, towards God.
And this aversion of the souls of men from God, is total, of the whole soul; the mind, the judgment, the will, the affections, they are all wholly off from God. So that, when he looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see who will inquire, who will seek after God; lo i they are all gone back; (all in a revolt, all flying away from him, to the utmost distance that they can;) there is none that doeth good, (not this good, it must be specially meant,) no, not one: as in the xiv., and liii. psalms, which are both to the same purpose; as divers passages quoted from them, in the iii. of Romans. They are without God, and very well pleased with themselves that they are so. They know him not, and they all affect not to know him. They are “alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, and the blindness of their hearts.” That blindness of heart is a voluntary blindness; they are blind towards God, because they will not be hold him, nor take notice of his majesty, though his hand be lifted up, though the appearance of him be never so bright and glorious. They forget him, he is not in all their thoughts. It is the usual character of a wicked, unconverted man, that he forgets God: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God;” the one expression being exigetical, or expository of the other. Psalm ix. 16. They refuse him, they are unwilling of him. If persons do remain in an unconverted state, though related to him as Israel was, (for yet, of them, it is said, “Israel would none of me.”) Psalm lxxxxi. 11. “My people would not hearken to my voice, Israel would none of me.”) they will not God. We will not have him to be our God. It is a disaffecting of him; the affections that should be placed on him are quite off: in the room of pious affections, there is nothing else but enmity: “The carnal mind is enmity against God.”
And, touching this aversion from God, it was formerly intimated, that, as love doth comprehend together, (as the radical virtual principle,) all our duty, and all our felicity; so doth this aversion from God, (which stands in opposition thereto,) 420all sin, and all misery. That this aversion is the radical principle of all sin; we spake to that formerly; and so we, must understand it now, as it is the radical principle of misery, God being to be considered by us, under a two fold notion—as he is to be obeyed, and as he is to be enjoyed; as the Sovereign Authority, and as he is the Sovereign Good. It is the aversion from God, as he is the Sovereign Good, that we are now to consider, having, under the former head, of the sinfulness of man, spoken of it as an aversion to him under the notion of the Supreme Ruler, and, as the Highest Authority. But, yet, we have also told you, that there is a complication of these things with one another: for men do really sin against God in their declining the enjoyment of him, in their declining him as their best and highest Good; the constitution of the divine laws being such, that there are obligations upon us to be happy. So that, a man cannot but be miserable, as he cannot be happy without obeying him, even in his very enjoying of the best and highest Good, because God hath made this our duty, to place our supreme delight in him.
And so, God hath a just ground upon which to implead the ungodly, wicked world; for that, thereby, they make themselves miserable: “Why have you thus used my creatures, the souls that I have made? Why have you cut and torn them off from me, they which are the works of my hands? Why have you used and dealt with them so?” As was told you, he that is felo de se, is criminal by human constitution; for though he thereby doth afflict himself, destroy himself, yet he doth also injure the prince, and injure the community to which he belongs: for he destroys a subject and member of the commonwealth. And those who, by the law of their creation, should have joined with the rest of the creatures of their own order, in the eternal adoration and praises of God, have by sin, as much as in them lay, defrauded him, and maimed the community unto which they did originally and naturally appertain. But then, this misery, as it stands in the loss of God, includes, too,
(ii.) His just and righteous aversion from them. “God is not a God that takes pleasure in wickedness, neither can evil dwell with him.” There can be no fellowship between light and darkness, between righteousness and unrighteousness. He did owe it to himself, to retire from an apostate, rebellious world: it was but to do himself right, to express a just detestation of the wickedness of a lapsed, degenerate world; to hide himself, to withhold his light and grace, which were shut up from men by the bar of an everlasting curse, till 421such time as that should be counter-wrought, in reference to any; Christ having been made” a curse for us, upon that account, that the blessing might come upon us, even us, Gentiles, as it did before upon the Jews, those of them that did belong to the election of grace; thereupon it is called “the blessing of Abraham;” that that might become a more diffusive thing, to reach the Gentiles too; to wit, receiving the Spirit, the promised Spirit, through faith. Gal. iii. 13, 14. Therefore, where this curse is not removed, it still lies as a bar against all gracious communications of light and influence from God to men. And so he is righteously averse from them, as they were most unrighteously averse to him: and thus they have lost God.
O! the lamentations that this world would he filled with every where, if this case were but understood! What girding with sackcloth would there be all the world over! God is gone! God is departed! This would be the common cry in town and country, in all parts and places—God is departed: that is the amazing thing! Heaven would resound with shrieks and cries from the miserable inhabitants of this earth. But, I say, that is the amazing thing, (as there will be occasion to take notice hereafter,) that such a matter as this is so patiently borne, so little resented; that men can so quietly wear away their days here in this world, without God, and think themselves to stand in no need of him. They can rise in the morning without God; and walkabout all the day long without God; and lie down at night without God: and yet, all is well.
ii. This spiritual misery contains in it, too, a wretched conversion of soul to the creature. Where God is lost, they design to repair that loss. And O! the miserable case of the inhabitants of this world upon this account; that they can think or imagine, when they want God, that any thing can fill up his room, and be to them instead of him! that it doth not come into their minds to consider, “How shall we recover God again?” But, “How shall we repair our loss another way?” imagining that something or other can be found, and may serve them, and be to them, instead of God! that is, that he, (in comparison of whom the whole creation is but “as the drop of a bucket, and the dust of the balance, lighter than nothing, and vanity itself,”) that he can, (I say,) have his equivalent; that there may be somewhat found out of equivalent advantage and use to them. This is the highest reproach to the Deity, as it is the greatest misery to themselves, and both comprehended in one thought; to wit, that there may be an equivalent to make up the loss of God; that very thought, I say, carries in 422it the highest blasphemy against the Deity, to think that any thing can till up his room, and be as good as he is; as well as the greatest misery unto wretched souls themselves, that they should be under so fearful and pernicious a mistake.
But this is the common case when God is gone, and men are gone off from him, then they turn themselves to the creature: “Let us make the best of that we can.” So is the project laid all the world over. Not, Let us consider how we may regain Cod; how we may get God back again to us; but, How we may supply his absence out of inferior things: and this is the general posture of mankind. Look on them, and, in reference to God, they are in an averse posture; in reference to the creature, in a propense posture.
And what sort of creatures? That we may understand this to go somewhat towards the consummating of the state of misery man is fallen into, do but consider, I say, what is the kind of that good which they design for themselves, when God is no longer eyed by them as the Good that they should enjoy, and design for. And consider, too, in what circumstances they may expect to have what enjoyments they can have of that substituted good.
For the kind of it, we are to consider in the vast universe of creatures, what it is that the apostate world do seek to repair this loss of God to themselves out of. It is not out of the nobler parts of the creation; they do not look as high as the heavens, they are too remote: they are not the angelic beings, that their thoughts fly upon, with any design of repairing the loss from among them. But the whole bent of their soul is directed towards this lower world, and sensible things, things meaner than themselves, meaner than their own minds. They think an intelligent, immortal mind must have its enjoyments, even unto felicity, in things of so vastly inferior dignity to a mind and spirit; that these minds are to be fed upon earth, upon ashes, upon the basest and most despicable things within the creation of God! What a misery is that! Unto such things it is that all this world is turned, being turned off from God, sensible things, earthly things, things that can please appetite, things common to them with the beasts that perish, only they have ways and arts to refine them, but they are of the same nature. As clay will be but clay still, be it figured never so curiously. “They mind earthly things;” this is the character of the insincere, those that are afar off from God, not turned to him; they mind earthly things; their whole souls are let out upon that which is, in itself, vain, and a lie; that is, which promiseth fair, but never makes good, and so lies to them.423
And consider, under what circumstances men apply themselves to enjoy the things by which they would repair to themselves the loss of God: especially consider these two most important circumstances: that is, that they are things that lie, first, under an interdict; and, secondly, under a curse, in reference to them, and, in reference to what they design, and seek to themselves by them; to wit, a felicity; or with respect to the notion under which they do covet and would enjoy them; that is, as their best good, so they lie under an interdict and under a curse.
(i.) Under an interdict: “Love not the world, nor the things of the world; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John ii. 5. What a misery is this, that the poor souls, revolted and gone off from God, are now universally seeking a felicity for themselves in things that, under that notion, lie under an interdict, are forbidden to them, and cannot but be forbidden, under that notion; because, under that notion, they are made rivals unto the Deity. In subordination to God, men might comfortably have enjoyed the things of this world; not in competition, nor in opposition: for now this world is made his rival, and, therefore, is the love of it idolatry, and is the setting up of another God, in opposition to the true and living God; and by taking this licence, men think to repair themselves for their having lost God. And,
(ii.) They are things that He, not only under an interdict, but under a curse, a malediction,—apostate souls, gone from God, they can have no enjoyment of this world, but under a curse, nothing is blest to them; they can have no blessed enjoyment of them, or any thing they enjoy;—for sin turns all into gall and wormwood, bitterness and death. How dismal is the case with fallen man, upon this account! “Cursed in the basket, and cursed in the store; cursed in the city, and cursed in the field; cursed in the coming in, and cursed in the going out;” as the matter is largely and most emphatically represented in the xxviii.th of Deut. A people, though related to God, when they go off from him; and so put themselves into the common state with the rest of the pagan world; a curse lies upon them, in every thing that they do, in every thing that they enjoy, they perpetually live under a curse. It is with strange rhetoric that this matter is represented in the cix. psalm: a curse that they are girt with perpetually, and that is as a garment that they are clothed with, and that flows or insinuates itself as oil into their bones, and as water into their bowels. So, they are under a divine curse, in reference to every thing that they enjoy. And that is a second part of this misery 424which fallen man lies under, even in reference to his spirit; to wit, that that is off from God, and is turned to a vain world, which is to him an interdicted and an accursed thing.
iii. This misery further includes in it, a continual unsatisfactoriness with whatsoever they do or can enjoy. And, as the essence of blessedness and felicity doth lie in satisfaction; so, on the other hand, must misery consist in continual unsatisfiedness, which results from these two things together; first, perpetual craving desires, and secondly, the want of any suitable and adequate object by which they may be satisfied.
(i.) In continual craving desires. And that is the common case with all men in the fallen state. Why, they have put themselves into an utter impossibility, whilst things are just with them as they are, to be happy; and yet they have a desire to be happy all this while, nothing being more deeply natural, than these two opposite things; a dread of misery, and a desire of felicity: and by how much the larger men’s desires are, so much the greater is their misery in this case. Desires enlarged even as hell, and that could even swallow up a creation and more; for a creation was never to satisfy them. It was not a created, but an uncreated Good, that was the object designed for the satisfaction of the souls of men: “Who will shew us any good?” There is the character of an unrenewed mind and spirit, in that psalm, iv. 6. But it never comes into their minds to think, what that Good is that could be adequate to them. “Lord lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us:” they never think of that, but still cry out, “Who will shew us any good?” Roving, uncertain desires, which, with all, find that they can meet with nothing that is suitable and adequate for the satisfaction of them: these desires must turn to torment, when there is not an object for such desires to feed upon; they prey upon their subject, turn inward; and, so men’s desires are their tormentors, and make them miserable, in that they continually desire and crave that which they cannot reach. For,
(ii.) The other thing that concerns, and falls in, to make this a miserable case, or to render it a real misery, is, the want of a correspondent good for so vast and large an appetite; and that, upon a double account: to wit, that what would satisfy them they cannot desire; and, that which they do desire, can not satisfy them. That which would satisfy, they cannot desire: God would satisfy them, he were an adequate, correspondent Good, to the most enlarged desire of the soul. Aye, but him they care not for; towards him they have no motion: towards him there is nothing but aversion and disinclination 425and disaffection, as you have heard before: so that, as the carnal mind cannot please him, so it cannot be pleased with him. And, that which they most of all desire, that cannot please them, as you have likewise heard.
And so, in reference thereunto, they lie always in the same restless posture. As, I remember, a heathen saith, concerning a soul loose from God: (it is the saying of Hierocles:) “That such a soul being loose from God, is like a cylinder upon a plain, that can never lie still; it is always in perpetual motion.” The state of a soul that is off from God, is just such, circled all within itself, capable of setting upon no basis. There is nothing that can give a firm posture, or a posture of rest to it; for all things, beneath it, and beside it, are unsuitable, inadequate; and, therefore, nothing can ensue but perpetual unsatisfiedness. A miserable case! To have so capacious a thing, as the soul of a man is, capable of so high and great enjoyments, and to be under continual dissatisfaction, because that which would satisfy, it cannot desire; and that which it doth desire, cannot satisfy. And,
iv. This misery hath this further in it, a continual delusion, which the souls of men lie under, in reference to the objects of their enjoyment; a being continually imposed upon by the false and delusive appearances of things, so as, hereupon, they meet with disappointments, both in reference to what they attain, and in reference to what they attain not. Herein stands their perpetual delusion; that is, they are cheated into the expectation of meeting with that rest and satisfaction for themselves, which they can never find, and that, whether they do attain the things they seek, or attain them not.
The case is generally with men, in this respect, as with some weak, half-witted persons, who, looking about them here and there, they see some rising ground, such or such a hill, or mountain, and they think, if they were on the top of that mountain, they should reach heaven, for heaven seems to touch that; when, if they should be at the pains to travel to the top of that mountain, they should find themselves at the same distance they were before. So it is with the men of this world, with reference to what they expect from it, of good and rest to themselves: “O! I should be in a very heaven, if I were in a condition so high.” Some men’s states and conditions carry their appearance with them of very high lofty mountains, that do even over-top heaven, or touch heaven. “If I were but so high as such a man, or such a man, I were a happy man.” Alas! they are deluded and disappointed, both these ways: first, that the most can never reach that which they do expect and design, 426in point of worldly advantage; and, secondly, that if they do, they are much what they were, as far from felicity as before: nay, it may be, sunk by that very means, by which they thought to be raised, into deeper misery than before. This is a very dismal, yet, it is the common case! Men spend their days, wear away a wretched life-time, here, in this world, in pursuit of such an outward good state, or condition; and most of them al ways die short of what they designed, of what they projected in any such kind. And, if any have compassed this, or that great design, or project, for this world; why, they are still, when they have compassed it, nothing the nearer. In a like case with that great prince, of whom we read, who, discoursing with one of his courtiers, about several great designs that he had for this world, told him, He would move his arms, against such a country, and such a country; and take in such a town, and such a city; “Then,” saith the courtier, “what will you do after that?” “Why, then I will carry my arms such and such a way.” “And what then?” “Why, then I will labour to accomplish such a thing, after that.” “And what then, after that?” “Then I will sit still, and be quiet.” “Why, sir,” saith he, (( you may as well do so now.” Men might as well now sit still, and be quiet; when God hath given them some tolerable competency. And now, let me be thinking of, and caring for a soul, and providing for an eternal wellbeing. But, men think not of this, but let their lives run to waste, in a continual pursuit of shadows, and are in a continual delusion, with reference to what they attain, and what they attain not. In reference to what they do not attain; for that it would not satisfy; and, then, with reference to what they do attain; for they thought they should be much better for it, when, it may be, they are much the worse.
|« Prev||Lecture XXIX. Preached May 19, 1694.||Next »|