|« Prev||Lecture XXVII. Preached April 21, 1694.||Next »|
And there are many things which it is obvious to us to take notice of, for our instruction and use, from hence. As,
1. We may see, hereupon, how altered a creature man is; how little he is himself; or what that one man, by whom sin and death entered, at first was. You have lately heard in what estate God did at first create man: “So God made man after his own image,” a Godlike creature. Such a thing was man at first; thence called the son of God. “Who was the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God.” Luke iii. 38. A glorious pedigree run up backward, in its assent, as high as heaven; “who was the son of God.” And it is not supposable that God should raise up a son immediately from himself, unlike himself. Therefore, it was very 397suitable unto the state of things, that it should be so expressly told us, “God made man in his own image,” which you have heard was to be understood not only of his natural image, as man hath a spirit in him that was naturally, essentially vital, intelligent, free, and immortal; but it was also, and more principally, to be understood of the moral image, comprehending both sanctity and felicity, and, according to which, man was made a happy, and a holy creature, pure and blessed.
How unlike himself is he now become! Let none of us think that this concerns not us. Are we not also of the posterity of Adam, degenerate creatures, fallen from the original excellency of our own nature, and especially in respect of that conformity and inclination which were in our nature towards God, our great and common Parent? If any of you had a son that was newly gone forth from you, and you met him by and by, and he doth not know you; You tell him, “I am your father;” he replies, “No, it is no such thing, you are no father of mine;” would it not cut your heart? Who would not look upon it as a deplorable case? This is the common case; men are sunk into such deep ignorance and oblivion of God, the Author of their being, that now they retain no knowledge, no remembrance of him, no conformity to him, no inclination toward their ancient Original,
It is an amazing thing that it should be so! It is much more amazing that it should be so little considered, that this earth should be peopled with such inhabitants, every one having in him (that is, all that are of human race,) an intelligent, immortal spirit, a mind capable of thought, capable of just thought, capable of duty, and capable of blessedness. But so miserably sunk into carnality and earthliness, that this body in which it should but dwell, therein it rots, therein it putrifies. And that which (as hath been said) was designed to be its mansion, is become its dormitory, and its grave. A living soul carnalized! A most horrid creature I And, as it is said, Adam was at first a living soul: (“so God breathed into him the breath of life, (that pure, divine, and heavenly breath;) and he became a living soul,”) so, then to have asked the question, “What is man?” must have been to receive the answer, “He is a living soul: he is all soul, and that soul all life.” But now is this living soul buried in flesh, a lost thing to all the true, and great, and noble ends and purposes of that life which was at first given it.
It is true, indeed, that this is a thing much less than what is said of the second Adam, in that 1 Cor. xv. 45. “The first 398man Adam was made a living soul; the second man Adam was a quickening spirit.” This latter is a great deal more. A living soul signified him to live himself: but a quickening spirit signifies a power to make others live. That, the first Adam could not do: the more excellent kind of life which he had, (for there was a complication of lives in the first creation of this man,) he could not lose; but he could not give. He could not lose it from himself; but he could never have given it by any power or immediate efficiency of his own to another. Here, the second Adam, the constitution of the second Adam, was far above that of the first, in that he could quicken others; a quickening spirit, not only quickened passively, but quickened actively, such a spirit as could give spirit, and diffuse life.
But take this matter as it was—“The first man Adam was a living soul.” with all that life in him in all the kinds thereof, which was the highest and most noble that could belong to a reasonable, intelligent soul: such a one he was; and now we have this living soul entombed. It is naturally a living soul, and naturally immortal still; but as unapt to serve and answer the proper purposes of that life which was at first given it, as if it were quite dead, dead towards God. It was principally alive towards him: that holy life which did belong to Adam’s soul at first, could have none but God as its highest and noblest term: upon him it was terminated. Therefore, where there is a restitution and recovery, this is the immediate effect, persons do “become dead to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ.” Rom. vi. 11. And here is now a living soul alive to sin, but dead towards God; dead towards the prime and most glorious Object; and dead to all the noble operations, for which it was originally and first made a living soul. And this is the state of man: like the living God in this respect he was; but now, towards him he is become a dead thing, putrid, and noisome, and offensive, even as a carcass. He is dead in that respect, wherein a soul may be said to be dead, which cannot be in a natural sense, as you have heard, and as is plain in itself; but only in a moral sense. In that sense wherein it can be said to be dead, in that sense, it must be the most fearful alteration which hath passed upon it, that could he passed upon a creature: that is, it was alive towards God; and is become dead towards him, cut off from him by a self-separation. Therein lies the sinfulness of this death that we are considering, and which belongs to the present subject we have in hand to consider. That God hath hereupon retired from him; that is the punitive notion of this death. But the sinful notion of it lies in its severing, 399retiring, and withdrawing itself from God; plucking itself away from him, as it hath done in the apostasy; and as it every where doth as long as the state of apostasy is continued in.
Now it is become a most unlike creature to God, and most unlike unto its original self, that could be thought. It was a knowing, intelligent creature; and especially knowing God. This image of God, that was at first impressed upon it, stood in knowledge; now it is become ignorant of God, “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in it, and the blindness of the heart.” Ephes. iv. 18. It was like him in knowledge; but now it is become most stupidly ignorant of what it is most concerned in. Is this Godlike? It was a holy, pure creature; but now delighting to wallow in the impurest sensualities. Is this like God? It was a most orderly, regular creature; but now all confusion; its powers engaged in war against one another; the whole frame of man disorganized, the whole dependance of will and affections upon, what should lead them, an intelligent mind and judgment; but these shattered all to pieces. The whole frame is discomposed. Is this like the God of order? O! how unlike to God is man now become! And therein unlike himself, and unlike what he at first was. But,
2. We may further learn, hence, that this world cannot, hereupon, but lie under divine displeasure. And it is most just and righteous that it should do so. This, the law gives sufficient intimation of, wheresoever it comes: That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Romans iii. 19. Impleadable at law, that is the import of the word there used, to signify God’s having a just and legal controversy with all this world. He hath in point of law, that to be said against it, which can never be answered; which admits of no apology, no defence. But again,
3. We may yet further learn, hence, that the sinfulness which hath spread itself among men in this world, cannot but be in a true sense natural, such as hath poisoned the very nature of man with an enmity and malignity against God: for you see it is universal. Nothing can be supposed to be common, but what must be understood to have some common cause, a cause that is common. But the text tells us, that “all have sinned.” And whereas, (as was noted to you formerly,) it is said in the iii. chapter of this epistle, ver. 9, “We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles to be all under sin;” (which Jews and Gentiles did divide the world;) and “There is 400none righteous, no not one,” as the same apostle quotes from psalm the xiv.th and liii. This plainly speaks this contagion to have infected the nature of man, and to run with his propagated nature every where, from age to age, and from generation to generation.
It appears to be so, for that when, upon the general defection and revolt of this world from God, he was pleased yet, (in order to his asserting and preserving some interest therein,) to select to himself one people, one people to be peculiar to him; all the endearing favours of providence, all the peculiar manifestations of light from heaven, all the intercourse that, in a more external way, God vouchsafed to hold with this people, (unless he did here and there powerfully transform their hearts,) still left them evidently as full of malignity, and of the enmity of wickedness against God, as if they had been the merest strangers to him in all the world. And, therefore, is he some times represented as calling heaven and earth as astonished witnesses against them: “Hear O heavens, and give ear O earth, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” Isaiah i. 2. “My people would not hearken to my voice, Israel would have none of me.” Psalm lxxxi. 11. “He came to his own, but they received him not;” John i. 11. What can this signify, but a deep depravedness of nature? Sin hath inwrought itself even into the very nature of man.
We have the same instances multiplied in the days of the gospel. God hath shewn more peculiar favours, vouchsafed distinguishing privileges of the highest external kind, unto sundry nations into which the light of the gospel hath spread itself. But where is there greater wickedness in all the world, than in the Christian world? where greater, than in reformed Christendom, as it is called? Where is there more avowed atheism? where is there higher insolency against heaven? more direct and open rebellion, tearing all the constitutions and laws, which they themselves pretend to own for divine und Christian? A deep depravedness this must argue.
You may see in the continual springing up of one generation after another, that even from infancy, sin still springs up with reason, and the improvements of the natural faculties. So that as soon as any do begin to act rationally, they begin to act wickedly. Heathens have observed it, and speak of it with regret, and take notice how a child neglected, grows monstrously vicious: common experience tells us this. Education, indeed, (which therefore ought to be practised with a great deal more care and diligence than it is,) doth somewhat 401repress, but it doth not change and alter nature. You see that the corruption of it proceeds, even with the nature itself, from the immediate fountain. “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;” so the penitent Psalmist confesseth concerning himself; Psalm li. 5. And it is generally spoken concerning the wicked, (as all the world doth naturally appear to be,) that “they are estranged from the womb, and go astray as soon as they are born.” Psalm lviii. 3.
This was a notion that did obtain so much among the Jews, that you see with what severity some of the worst of them fall upon the blind man: (John ix. 34.) “Thou wast altogether born in sin, and dost thou teach us?” implying, that he who would take upon him, in an extraordinary way, (not being called,) to be a teacher and instructor to others, must be some very extraordinary person, must be born a sinless man. A testimony that they give against themselves unawares: for they had such a Teacher among them, but regarded him not; a Teacher that came forth from God, and that was not born in sin. “Thou art altogether born in sin, no better than any other man, and dost thou take upon thee to teach us?” And again,
4. We may further learn, hence, how little reason men have to think it strange, that the state of things in the world is not so constantly favourable, or so benign to them, as they could wish, or are apt to expect; that they meet with many things so ungrateful; that men find themselves subject to pain, sicknesses, crosses, in the course of providence; that they meet with disappointments so often; that so many are reduced to straits, and wants, and distresses; pinching poverty and the like; that there is so much of confusion and disorder and violence in the world, the inhabitants of it ready to tear one another and the world in pieces. Why, all have sinned. This gives an easy, ready account. O! how little is it considered when people are so full of complaints of their own particular ails and evils. “Nobody’s case is like mine. How am I injured and wronged by some or other that are stronger and mightier than I? My right is withheld from me,” and the like. Alas! poor creature, dost thou so little consider how thou hast wronged God, and withheld from him his right in thyself, in thy life and soul, and all thy powers? Saith another, “I have a child sprung up in my family, I have a son that is undutiful and rebellious, a perpetual vexation to me.” How little is it considered that thou hast carried it with much more undutifulness towards God, who was the original Author and Parent of thy very life and being. You think, when you are sick, you suffer a very great hardship; 402you do not consider what it is to have been a sinner, to have torn the constitutions and laws of heaven, and violated the government of the Supreme and Rightful Lord of all. “Why doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sin?” Lam. iii. 39. “Let us search and try our ways;” let us once but take a clear view of our own ways, and that will stop the complaint. Consider what a vile creature I have been; so many years of my time gone, and I have never minded God; never paid him a duty; never thought of him with any reverence; never designed him any service; never resolved on living to him, but to myself. And yet, now, a little affliction that grates upon the flesh, makes us cry out “O! how hardly are we dealt with.” Again,
5. Have all sinned? Then instead of complaining, wonder at the divine patience, that things are no worse with the inhabitants of this world than they are; that men are allowed a being in it; that this world is not turned into flames over the offender’s cars; that they are not continually pursued with divine terrors; that he is not, with more dreadful severity, exacting his right from his own creatures whom he made, (as their own under standings can tell them,) not for themselves, but for himself: and nobody minds him, when they so generally behave themselves with such insolency in this world, as if they had been the creators of it, as if they had made the heavens and the earth; sun, moon, and stars, and all things, the help and influence whereof they any way enjoy.
How admirable, I say, is the divine patience, that bears with offending creatures, lets them propagate and transmit their like from age to age, and from generation to generation, through that vast tract of time as hath hitherto past, since the apostasy? With what wonderment should we consider this power of divine patience! Who that hath it in his hands to right himself for such indignities and wrongs, would refrain? When we think how quickly, how easily he can do himself right; can frown or wink such a world as this into distraction in a moment; that as it sprung up by his fiat, “Let it be,” how easily could he frown it into nothing! Yet he lets men live, lets them live neglecting him, when they have natures capable of adoration. But again we have,
6. Much more reason to admire the divine bounty towards such creatures: not only that he spares and lets them live, but that he maintains them, and keeps them in life and being, each one for his measured time, and so, provided that there should be a transmission of life from age to age, in so continued a course. How admirable should the divine bounty and munificence 403be in our eyes, upon this account! He doth good to the unthankful and evil; to those that never thank him for it. If you did but feed a brute creature, it would be brought by degrees, and in time, to take some kind of notice of you, with gratitude. “The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but Israel doth not know, my people will not consider.” Men will not know their Owner, though the ox knows his. It is your Owner that cares for you; as who provides for the ox and the ass, but the owner? So God, as the Owner of you and of all the inhabitants of this world, all the children of men, (for I speak of these inhabitants,) he doth his part towards you and them. He provides for them, he maintains them, and affords them all that is suitable and needful for their support; but they will not take that notice of their Owner, which an ox or an ass takes of his. How wonderful a thing is this on God’s part! how horrid a thing on man’s!
I have thought of it many times, and it would be a thing not unworthy of your thoughts and serious contemplations, that we should, in so continued a course, find the earth so productive as it is of all things, not only necessary for the support of the life of man, but so grateful too; such pleasant, delicious fruits in their season: and for whom is all this entertainment? For a world of rebels, offending creatures; those that never look up; we enjoy all, as if it were our own, and never consider, W have a Lord over us, the free Donor of all. Again,
7. Since there are so many sinners in this world, (all have sinned,) it is very strange there are so few self-accusers; when the same light, and the same rational powers, by which men are capable of sinning, they are also capable of understanding themselves to be sinners. There is, indeed, a natural conscience in men, and it hath its exercise sometimes, and a very impartial exercise, in reference to some cases, but how little is there of conscience towards God! “Herein,” saith the apostle, “do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards man.” So it is, where once regenerating grace comes to restore an entire divine Image in the soul again, to do an entire work, to produce a general rectitude in the soul, there will be conscience towards God, as well as towards men. Towards men: there is among men some conscience, though too often violated when interest sways: many do not care whom they injure, to advantage themselves; but yet, while they do wrong, they cannot be altogether without reflection that they do wrong: and upon such accounts, chiefly, they have consciences “accusing, or excusing by turns.” Rom. ii. 15. But towards God, generally, no conscience at all; they live in the world as 404without him, and their hearts never smite them; spend days, and months, and years in vanity; throw away their lifetime, so as they are useful for nothing, they were made for; and never say—“God have mercy upon us;” never think a serious, reflecting thought. So it is with the most; they live at that rate, till in a moment they go down into the grave, and never consider what they have thrown away; a lifetime in the world, without ever minding the proper business of life. But,
8. We may also learn, hence, to take notice, with wonder, that there is so much self-complacency in the world, as one of the most incongruous things, the most monstrous incongruity in all the world, that men should generally be so well pleased with themselves, If things, in external respects especially, be well with them; if they rind themselves to be in health; if they have any thing of natural strength and vigour about them; especially if they can take notice, they have wit above the common rate: if they have wealth; if they have reputation and esteem among men: if they have any thing of human dignity or grandeur; O! how well pleased are they with themselves, what self-admirers are men generally upon such accounts, without even considering, (and what a dash would one such thought be to all this,) “I am a fallen creature, an apostate creature, a sinner, one with whom heaven hath a controversy, a rebel still, if not yet reconciled.” Strange! that men should be pleased with themselves, and their little external circumstances, and forget this, “I am a lapsed creature, and under the displeasure of heaven.” But again,
9. We may take notice, hence, of the reason, whence it is, that there is so much displeasure and wrath against any, in this world, who look towards God and heaven. All have sinned, all are generally in a state of sin. It is by wonderful and peculiar grace if there be so much as an inclining thought Godward, a thought of returning, if any frame their doings (as the prophet’s expression is) “to turn to the Lord,” this presently comes under observation: if men’s doings be framed that way, if a man’s way and course be shaped, so as to look Godward and heavenward again, then all that behold it, (and with whom there is not the same disposition of mind and spirit,) they are under a judgment, under a doom. Noah condemned the world. And as the righteous soul of Lot was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, among whom he lived; so, no doubt, he also vexed them only by their observation of his better ways. And yet, further,
10. We have great reason, hereupon, to admire a divine hand and power in it, that there hath been any thing of 405religion preserved and kept alive in the world, through the several successions of time, unto this day. A world where all have sinned, all have been in apostasy and revolt from God, and war against heaven; it is from a mighty divine hand that there is any such thing as serious religion. Natural religion there is, and an ineffectual thing it is, every where, al most. But for serious religion, vital religion, such as shall speak itself to be such by a self-demonstrative evidence, that such religion hath been kept alive in such a world as this, from age to age, is one of the greatest miracles that hath been, wrought in the world since there was one! And further,
11. This serves to let us see how mighty a work regeneration is, or which the regenerating grace and Spirit, the Spirit of. repentance, have to effect and work upon the soul. It cannot be a slight, superficial change that is to be made, where the depravation is so universal, and so total. The corruption of human nature, it hath not reached so little a way as the surface of the man only; it hath gone deep into the penetralia, into the inmost centre, into the very spirit of the mind: even that needs a renovation too. “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Rom. xii. 2. And the like expression in Ephes. iv. 22, 23. “Put off the old man that is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be ye renewed in the spirit of your minds.” O! do not think slightly of regeneration and repentance! think that they must have a mighty work to do; and that it must be a very deep change which is to be effected thereby, which must reach through a man, into the very inwards of his soul, and go as deep as corrupt nature hath done. And, in the last place,
12. How solicitous, hereupon, should we be, whether any such change hath been wrought in us, yea or no? Thus stating our case to ourselves: “Once, for certain, I was in apostasy from God, an accomplice of hell, with infernal powers, against the Sovereign, Rightful Lord of heaven and earth. Do I feel myself under a recovering influence? Am I upon a return? Is there anything done, or doing in me, towards a renovation and effectual change?” If I be not changed, I am the same apostate creature still; that is the state wherein I persist, it carries this import with it; as if I should put it into these plain express words: “I have apostatised from God, and I will stand by it.” This is the sense of many a soul, and that which words would truly express, if they were used to that effect. But many have the sense in their hearts, and yet do not consider that such horrid words as these would only serve to express that sense of theirs. “I am an apostate creature, and I 406will stand by it:” this is your sense while you do not turn, all the while you have no aim at turning, no design of turning. “I have rebelled from God, I have rebelled against him, and this is that which I will abide by; I will live and die by it.” O! what a horrid thing is an impenitent soul! especially under a gospel that makes so many overtures to men, of reducing apostates, and of reconciling afresh to God.
|« Prev||Lecture XXVII. Preached April 21, 1694.||Next »|