« Prev Lecture XXXI. Preached June 9, 1694. Next »

LECTURE XXXI.4646   Preached June 9, 1694.

x. The consequent discomposure of the whole frame of man, I mean of the inward man, as the apostle distinguisheth of man, making him double, a man, and a man; an outward man, and an inward man; 2 Cor. iv. 16. Now for this inward man, there is a universal discomposure of the whole frame. They that will look upon what we insisted on before, but as a reputative evil; to wit, ignominy, must reckon this a most real one; that is, that that noble piece of workmanship, the inward man, is so marred, and spoiled, and discomposed throughout, and become a far more monstrous thing than any dislocations, or transpositions of the parts of these bodies of ours, can make them, though it would be easy to suppose it possible that men might be, as to the outward man, a most monstrous sort of creature, by the mere transposition of parts, yet, let any, the most horrid metamorphosis of that kind you can think of be supposed, and, it is nothing to that discomposure of the frame of the inward man, that is to be found and observed in every, yet apostate son of Adam, not converted, not returned to God, out of that state of apostasy.

For, as to what we have insisted on already, (that infatuation that is upon the minds of men every where,) consider, what must hereupon be consequent; that conductive governing light, that should lead men in the whole of their course, it is extinct, it is darkness, as our Saviour speaks in Matt. vi. 23. “If the light, that is in thee, be darkness, how great is that darkness.” It is not said, concerning an unregenerate man, that he hath darkness in him; but, that he himself is darkness. Eph. v. 8. “Ye were sometimes darkness:” their governing light was lost and gone, and then, what must become of the man? What is the state and frame of the inward man hereupon? Why you are to consider, (that light being supposed,) what was to be under its direction and government, in man, to wit, the inward man. There was his will, which was to be guided by that directing principle, but it is gone. And, there were all the passions of the soul, that were to have been moderated thereby, but, that being gone, the will is under no such guidance, the passions under no such moderation. What 438a horrid creature is man, hereupon, become, in the complexion of his soul, and inward man?

For his will, that is naturally wont to be called caeca potentia, an unseeing faculty; why, admit that it were properly to be so called, according to the natural constitution and frame in man, it’ was yet to be guided by a faculty that could see, by a seeing mind: but now, when an unseeing will is to be guided also by an unseeing mind, the blind is to lead the blind, (to allude to that of our Saviour,) what will become of this, but a being plunged into the ditch? This is the common case with man: that will of his, which is the commanding faculty in the soul of man, comes to be itself under the conduct of no reason, an unreasonable will: O! what a fearful case is this, when, yet, it is most manifestly the common case.

For, do but ask, What is the object of that faculty, that we call the will, in man? It is primarily his end, that is the object of it: that is, good; for good and end are wont to be taken for convertible terms; the means are only good by the goodness of the end. Now, when a man wills his end unreasonably, without the ducture or guidance of any seeing, discerning principle; and, to think of a man acting accordingly, shaping his course accordingly, and, to think of all men doing so, what a monstrous deformity is this of that noble creature; though it be true, indeed, that many are found to act rationally; that is, indeed, wilily and subtilly enough in the pursuit of such and such ends that they do design; but, yet, it is plain, they do, universally, mistake their end itself, and so the whole life of man can be nothing else but a continual error: “They do always err in their hearts, not having known my ways.” What doth it signify, that a man can pursue such and such ends, with courage and dexterity; but these ends themselves, either he may gain them, or he may gain them not? Many times he never gains them; but, if he doth gain them, they are worth nothing. Why, here is a life lost, thrown away by the very complexion of the inward man; this he is inclined to do, to take such a course, as by which his whole life is lost, and thrown away.

A thing that that pagan moralist most aptly animadverts upon, when he saith, “Men are very shy of destroying their lives all at once, losing their lives altogether; but they make no difficulty of losing them all by parts:” that is, this day of my life I pursue an end, that is worth nothing; and I do so to morrow, and the next day, and so from year to year, as long as my life lasts. Here is a life quite thrown away; and a man is led to it by the inward complexion and temper of his 439soul, as he hath mis-made himself, misshaped himself; for he was made upright, but he would be trying inventions, and this it hath come to. This is plain and evident concerning all the world of apostate, unrenewed men; that whereas, their will is the commanding, governing principle of their lives, it doth command nulla ratione, it universally commands without reason, and so must signify as much of misery to a man, as if his eyes were out, and he among pits and precipices, where he cannot do so much as set a foot, without danger of perishing presently.

It is plain, the minds of men, as they lie under the direction of such a misguided will, they are conducted by no rational principle at all, upon this ground, that it is the end which is the principal object of every one’s will. But they are universally out as to their end, running a quite counter-course to what they should, through the whole course of their time; so that, in this respect, the apostate, unregenerate man, is natus ad miseriam, he is wholly framed unto misery; and to nothing else but to misery. It is true, men have generally some practical notions of truth, that is, notions of truth about practical matters, that should be the principal things. They have gene rally some apprehensions of God, some apprehensions of a future state, some apprehensions of the immortality of their souls; but these notions are too weak and debile, to do the office of principles. They do not do the office of principles, in that nobody steers his course, (antecedently to regenerating grace,) pursuant to any such principles. And if you would reduce the determination of men’s wills to any principles at all, they can agree to no other principles than such as these; (though they should more generally disclaim and disavow them yet they are apt to be governed by them, and no other;) that is, that a man is made for himself; that he is his own end; that he that hath made him, hath no right to rule him; that from him, from whom he hath received his being, he is not to expect blessedness; but that he is to seek it in inferior things, things inferior to himself; that time is far more considerable and valuable than eternity, that mortal flesh is far more valuable than the immortal spirit. The actual resolutions and determinations of men’s wills which do govern their course, and according to which they lead their lives, do only square with such principles as these; though, when they are made explicit, they would be ashamed of them, and say they own no such principles; yet they own them most expressly as they can, as emphatically as they can. For a whole course of actions is a far more speaking thing, than words can be; words do only express 410a man’s present sense, the present sense of mind: but a series and course of actions do speak his constant and continued sense.

And, O! what a miserable creature is man, upon this account, when the habitual complexion of his soul leads him through his whole course, ail his days, all his lifetime, but to pursue shadows and lying vanities; and at length to lie down in sorrow, hopeless, endless, sorrow.

And as the will is the so misguided thing, so the principle is wanting, too, that should moderate the passions. And what a hell do they create in every man to himself, or make him to himself. Every one, if he would but consider and reflect might be so far a preacher to himself upon this theme, as to save me or any man the labour of representing this case—“What a miserable condition the soul of man must be in, being the seat of so many passions, all left destitute of the conduct and government of any rational principles that should conduct them aright.” Unreasonable desires, what a hell must they make! desires either after that which cannot be had, or which is not worth the having; either what is unattainable, or will do me no good; or I shall be never the better if I do attain them. To have any soul the continual seat and subject of such desires, and of no better, what a fearful case is this!

His delights, themselves, (though that may seem a paradox,) they are most fatal to him, and contribute as much (nay it may be more,) to his misery, as his desires; because they detain him, they put a stop to him; they divert his course. Delight is the quies appetitus in appetibili, it is that by which the soul takes up its end, and is at a stop: but in what? in the enjoyment of wind and vanity, that is unsatisfying, very unsatisfactory. It is detained and diverted, it is withheld, by these, from pursuing what would do it any good, or contribute to its true felicity: “The woman that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth.” Do you think it is not as true in the other sex? whoever lives immersed in sensual delights and pleasures, they are dead while they live. It is but a dying life that they live.

And their very hopes make them miserable: they are miserable by their own hopes, continually reaching out after that they can never compass; or if they do, still they do but fill themselves with the east wind. Hope is the spring of endeavours: for no man will endeavour for what he is hopeless of. But they do but labour for the wind in all that they endeavour, and possess and reap the east wind; that is all that they can reach to.

Their good things will often run cross to them; and then 441how doth that passion of anger corrode and tear them! what a rack is there in the soul upon this account, especially when it works up as high as malice against men: men that they do an injury to, if it arise to envy, that most unreasonable passion; that I would rather be miserable because another appears nearer to happiness, in my apprehension, than J he enjoyeth what is better, or he is better than myself, therefore I will be miserable; that is, I will be envious.

Add to this, the meditation and study of revenge, whether for real or apprehended wrong done to me. It is the most cut ting, wounding revenge, that every man takes upon himself. “Such a one I think hath hurt me, done me harm, I will revenge it upon myself:” for it is the person himself that feels it most of all; (if he have any sense left in him;) it makes him a continual hell in himself. It makes him a devil to himself, as he would be to another man. It may be he misseth that; but as to himself he doth not miss it.

And as to his griefs, unreasonable griefs, what a deluge of misery are they! when men lament and mourn about things unreasonably, beyond proportion, (as every unrenewed man is apt to do,) he doth deluge himself with those sorrows: and his fears, by which he is continually prophesying dismal things to himself, what a miserable creature do they make him!

And all now upon this one account, all the things of this kind, do meet in this one juncture, in this one point; to wit, that there is no right mind to lead a man: that principle that was originally to have been conductive of his course, is gone, and it can never be supplied but by the Spirit of wisdom and holiness from above: while that is yet withheld and wanting to him, what is it that doth govern in the man? It is the spirit of this world, as it is called: “we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God.” Every unregenerate man, he is in his spirit under the government of the spirit of this world, one common genius which adapts and attempers men in their habitual frame into this world, unto this lower sphere. “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” The contest lies between spirit and spirit; as to what part God hath in this world, and as to what part the devil hath in this world. If the spirit of this world doth govern in any one, and be the ruling principle in him, that unites him with this world; and upon that, all his appetitions, and all the various motions and passions of his soul, are determined, and confined to this present world, this sensible world; he is linked to that in spirit, he hath a spiritual, vital union only with this world, and so feels all the pangs, all the paroxysms, 442that, in this lower region, he is subject to: he is always shaken with this shaking world, and tossed and hurried, hither and thither, as that is.

What a miserable creature must apostate man be, upon this account! This world being become such a region of death and of misery, the spirit of this world plungeth and ingulfs him in all that misery, makes him a continual partaker in it, as that wherewith he only hath a vital union. That Spirit that is of God, would unite him with the other world, and attemper him to that which the power of that Spirit (when this world is grievous and troublesome to him,) might ascend and go up, and have his way above, (as the way of the wise is,) to depart from hell beneath; but, the spirit of this world entangles him, ensnares him, fixeth him in that gulf, that he can not ascend; can be carried out of this world by no thought, no vivid desire, no hopes upwards; his all lies here.

And, that which is yet more tremendous in this case, is, his continual unwillingness, and dread of leaving this world; that fear, to wit, the fear of death. What a miserable creature must that make him, to be under the continual expectation of what he knows is inevitable, and he cannot escape; so that his only remedy in this is not to think of it! His relief must be to unteach himself, his own nature; that is, whereas he is naturally a thinking thing, he is to stifle such thoughts as are proper and suitable to the state of his case. All his care must be to make himself not think of that, than which no thought can be more proper and suitable to him. For, when I do certainly know that I am, as to this present world, this present state, a mortal creature, I should, therefore, bethink myself, with all the seriousness and concern imaginable, What shall come next? I dwell in an earthly tabernacle, which I know must come down, but I do not know, when I shall dislodge, where to have another habitation. I cannot say, “I have a building with God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,”—no; the spirit that governs me is the spirit of this world, and that confines me only to this world.

A man, in this case, is miserable among all his enjoyments, when he thinks it goes never so well with him: “I have what heart can wish for,” as well as that fool in the gospel propounded to himself, to have it with him, “I will say to my soul, Take thine ease, thou hast goods laid up for many years;” upon this account he is pronounced a fool: “Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be taken from thee.” And whereas, that is spoken with peculiar reference to a rich man, yet you must not confine it so; for our Saviour saith in the next words, “So 443it is with every man that layeth up treasure for himself, (de signs treasures to himself on earth, as every man doth one way or other,) and is not rich towards God.” “This night shall thy soul he required of thee.” O! dreadful word, to a man that hath his all here! O the torture that such a man must be subjected to, (if he thinks, if he considers,) that hath his all lying in this world, and yet, he knows he cannot stay here long: “The wicked is driven away in his wickedness.”

This is so great a thing, that it is made one part of the design of the mediation of Christ, and his redemption, for which he became a man, and for which he took upon him flesh and blood, that he might be so: “that he might, by death, destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, (undo him as to his design and purpose,) and deliver those who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” To be under this unreasonable fear, what a dreadful thing is this! In this respect, it is to be called unreasonable, because, when a man finds that the thing is necessary, and unavoidable, that he is afraid of; all wisdom would direct him to reconcile himself to necessity, and never to be at rest in his own spirit, till he finds, that as he is to think of death with certainty, so he may think of it with complacency too: till, I say, he may upon good terms so do. And again,

xi. We are to consider, as to what is contained in this misery of man, that as (which I formerly told you) they have in all this, no relief from God, so God hath a real displeasure towards this wretched creature in his present state: and, if in his favour be life; in his disfavour is death: which way soever he turns, or what way soever he thinks of comforting himself, he is still under a nemesis: divine displeasure hangs over his head. “God is angry with the wicked every day. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. On the wicked he will rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest, this shall be the portion of their cup.” While they continue wicked, and as such, that relates them to the divine wrath, constitutes them the proper subjects of it, upon which it preys as fire doth upon suitable fuel. And,

xii. They are not without some apprehensions hereof: misgivings they have in their own minds: there is a kind of gloominess and a dark shadow, that is cast by guilt over the soul and spirit of a man. He is not without some secret surmises, as men cannot rid themselves of all notions of God. A person that is habitually wicked, under the power of sin as a governing principle in him, cannot but apprehend him as an offended 444God, though his apprehensions be not so distinct, so formed, so explicit, yet such secret gnawings and corroding thoughts there will be, conscience accusing as well as excusing by turns; as it ought to be read: self-accusing thoughts do take turns in the soul. The writings of heathens are full of expressions, what the gnawings and tortures are of a guilty, misgiving conscience, of a self-accusing conscience. But, in the last place, which was mentioned the last time,

xiii. That which is the more common case, and is more fitly signified by the name of death, is, the stupefaction that more generally, and more ordinarily, takes place in the minds of men; that they are without feeling. Wrath is upon them, and they do not know it. Some more unformed thoughts they have, but not explicit and distinct ones; such as might affect their hearts, and enter into their very souls: more generally their disease is a lethargy, without sense, and without feeling. And you know how sad the case may be in that respect, with the diseased body of a man. We do not reckon it the better when it can feel no pain, while the matter of the disease is present, and all the morbific matter remains. If it do not only endanger, but stupify, it is so much the more dangerous in common apprehension: and that is the case of the soul of an unrenewed, unregenerate man, that lie can be tossed, and hurried, and torn, even by himself, by his own passions within him, this way, and that way, and yet, he doth not reflect and think with himself, “I am a miserable creature;” but misery is become his element: where things do not gravitare, they do not lie with pressure, as nothing is pressed by being in its element. And misery is become so connatural to men, in this their present state, that misery is round about them, and they feel it not: the anger of God is preying upon them, consuming their souls, but they lay it not to heart, as in Isaiah xlii. latter end, the expression is; divine anger is kindling upon this world, but they know it not; and destroying and consuming it, but they take it not to heart.

This is that death that is passed over all, as to the spiritual import of the expression, or, as it denotes the spiritual evils that do now infest the souls of men. But I would, before I had gone off from this head, have said somewhat by way of Use to this particular. And though I am prevented of saying much, yet, plain it is,

That whereas man, in this state of apostasy, is now a miserable creature, it may be gathered, from all that hath been said upon this head, that he generally mistakes the cause of his misery, and so, is as much likely to mistake the way and 445method of his cure. He little thinks, his misery is a self-sprung thing, and, that he hath the fountain of it in himself. This will not enter into the minds of men. “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways;” Proverbs xiv. 14. That word, because it is rendered “backslider,” may strike a wrong notion into the minds of many, as if, thereby, were meant an hypocritical pretender to religion, who hath apostatized, and made a defection: but, the word carries no notation at all of any other apostasy, than the common apostasy. And it is plain, that by “the backslider in heart” there, is meant the wicked man, in general, a sinner, in opposition to a righteous and good man, as, generally, the two parts of several verses up and down in this book, do distribute men into good and bad, by one appellation or another. And, that is a proper expression, by which the bad is distinguished from the good man, in that verse: the word signifies perverse, froward; a fit character for a wicked man, an unconverted man; such a one “shall be filled with his own ways,” as the good man is so satisfied from himself. The good man is not the first fountain of happiness to himself, but a subordinate one a good man is, and so is satisfied from himself. But the wicked man is the prime and first fountain of all misery to himself: and, therefore, when these wicked ones have any sense at all of their own miseries, they do create to every man a hell within himself.

But this is a thing least of all apprehended: men generally say, “What is the matter with me? what aileth me? I can not be well, I cannot be quiet;” and, they would have this or that thing rectified, in their external circumstances, and they think that will do their business; but, alas! that will not do. They talk of flying from their misery, but, that they cannot do, unless they could fly from themselves. I remember the moralist saith, “Go whither thou wilt, that intolerable companion, (thyself) will go with thee, wheresoever thou flyest, and layest down thine head.” Till thou art new-made, thou art self-made, for misery. God must new-make thee, if ever thou art happy. And, therefore, an amazing wonder it is, that men should so much mind things that are foreign to them, and never cast their eye upon themselves, or think how it is within. They are greatly concerned how affairs go in France, in Flanders, in Germany; but never think how it goes within. O! what a miserable world will it be, (it may be often said by such,) if that side prevail over the other side! What a miserable world will this be then! But men do thus think altogether amiss, and besides the purpose: what good will it do to 446me if so good men, and never so good a cause, prevail and prosper in the world, when I have my own hell within myself? I shall be a miserable creature still, till all be rectified within. It is not a new world, but being a new man, that can ease me, relieve me, and make me a happy creature.

It doth not lie in the power of all the world to make me a happy or miserable man. You may think, if such and such a party of men prevail, we are all undone, we shall be very miserable. But, I tell you, it will be in their power only to make you miserable, in whose power it is to make you ill men. If it be not in the power of any in all the world to make you ill men, they can never make you miserable men. If it were in the power of men, to pluck you off from God, to disaffect you to him, that you take no complacency in him, that you cannot love him, nor pour out your soul to him, this would make you miserable. But, it is not in the power of all this world to make any man miserable, that doth not make and keep himself wicked.

” And so death passed over all men.”

« Prev Lecture XXXI. Preached June 9, 1694. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |