|« Prev||Lecture XXXVIII. Preached Nov. 17, 1694.||Next »|
Now we shall go on to add further considerations for shewing this fourth conclusion. And, thereupon, in the next place,
9. We may further consider, that it is never thought a blemish 504to the justice of any government whatsoever, that children should inherit the poverty and rags of their parents that were either poor or profligate, or that had squandered or forfeited all that they had. This was never thought to have been a blemish to the government under which such persons may live, that children are born poor, when their parents had nothing to leave them; and so they have rags and beggary for their patrimony. This doth not use to be, or can be, with any equity, imputed to the government under which such live, as if that were to be blamed. And much less is it imputable in this case; because human governors are debtors to the communities which they govern, and do owe to them their utmost care and providence for them. But God (as hath been formerly shewed you) can be no debtor to any of his creatures, whether considered singly, or in communities, any otherwise than as he hath by any promise made himself debtor. But he never promised, never obliged himself by any promise, to keep sin out of the world, from hurting creatures that can only hurt themselves by it; or from preventing it to descend, or presently to throw it out of the world; though that he will do fully in his own time, and in his own way. And again,
10. There can be no more obligation on the blessed God, to prevent moral defects among his creatures, than natural ones. If he be not obliged to prevent natural defects, he is as little obliged to prevent moral; because moral perfection must be founded in natural; as all morality hath its foundation in the nature of the creatures who are the capable subjects thereof. But plain it is, he can be under no obligation to prevent natural defects, or that his creatures should be naturally perfect: for in what sense will we suppose it requisite that he should make them so? Not with an absolute perfection, perfection in omni genere; for that is above the condition of a creature; no creature is capable of being universally perfect. That is the peculiar privilege and prerogative of the Original and Uncreated Being, to be absolutely and universally perfect. And therefore, to suppose him obliged to make all his creatures every way perfect, it were to suppose him obliged to have made them all gods; or we must suppose him not obliged to make any thing at all: because it is impossible that a made thing can be absolutely perfect. Or, should we suppose him under an obligation to have made things perfect in any kind above their own? That cannot be thought neither: for that must suppose, then, that there should have been no creatures of any inferior kind, or that all must have been of equal perfection, that every fly or worm must have been a cherubim 505or seraphim. Indeed, it is a most accurate discourse that I have taken notice of to this purpose, in a pagan writer, (as it is more generally reckoned,) Plotinus, who saith, that “to find fault with the Author of nature because of such and such defects, in such and such sorts of creatures, or in particular creatures, it were to find fault that he hath made the world an harmonious thing; that there are such orders and gradations in it; that, he hath made some inanimate things, and endowed some with a life of sense, and some below them with a life of vegetation, and some above them with a life of reason, and some above them with an angelical nature, and the like.” All these comely orders of things should not have been, but all must have been of one order and kind. “And, (as he saith,) it were the same thing as to blame a limner, that he hath not in every thing drawn light colours without any foil; or a comedian, (the author of a comedy,) that he hath not made every person that is to act a part, a king, or a hero; that there should be any that doth sustain the part of mean and inferior persons.”
It is plain, and out of doubt, that God is not obliged to make his creatures all, either absolutely perfect, or to give them higher perfections than do belong to their own kind: or (we may add) to give to every one of them those perfections that that kind is capable of. For we find that there are some of greater health, some of less; some of greater strength, some of less, in that order of creatures wherein they are. And we find that there are such things as hereditary diseases, that do descend, and generally are found every where through the human race. But (I say) God can no more be under obligation to prevent moral than natural defects, among his creatures. And again,
11. We are to consider further, that though the descent and transmission of a sinful pravity with the nature of man may appear to have a difficulty with it, yet it is not altogether unaccountable, if we do but consider things as they are, with that compass of thought which we ought. Nay, it is not ordinarily conceivable, how it should be otherwise, if we do but admit into our thoughts, what a concurrence there is of several things to this purpose. As,
(1.) The retirement of the Holy, Divine Spirit from man, having once sinned. And it is certain, that he did retire thereupon, that he hath retired, otherwise than as according to the Redeemer’s method he is returned. There was an antecedent retirement and withdrawing, and that, upon the sin of man, upon sin’s entering into the world: for do but observe 506that Gal. iii. 14, 15. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us; for cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree; that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles.” (That, which was the blessing of Abraham upon that account, might now be a more diffused blessing, and reach the Gentiles too,) For what? That they might receive the promise of the Spirit (or the promised Spirit) through faith. Now consider what the blessing is, and measure the opposite curse by that: the blessing, you see, is the gift of the Spirit; what is the curse then, but the debasing of the Spirit? And certainly then, that was the curse of the law, the curse of the violated law. As soon as the law was broken, the Divine, Holy Spirit was cursed away from the nature of man; or, man was cursed, so as that thereby this Spirit should be withheld, should be kept off, otherwise than as upon the Redeemer’s account, and according to his methods, it should be restored. And then,
(2.) Consider, hereupon, the nature and kind of that corruption that is conveyed and doth descend, and how the Scripture speaks of it, generally under the notion of carnality. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, John iii. 6. That is, now, where there is no divine birth, where nothing is born of the Spirit, or where the work of regeneration hath not taken place, the production is nothing else but flesh, the mere human nature; to wit, the denomination is taken from that which governs: though a man be not all flesh, the denomination is taken from that which prevails. What is the thing produced when a human creature is born? A piece of flesh: as that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, whenever that birth comes to obtain and take place with any soul. That which is born of the flesh is but flesh; not as if the nature of man were nothing but flesh, but because carnality is the prevailing thing in the lapsed state of man, that carries the name, and now he is called nothing but flesh. And,
(3.) This is to be considered, to facilitate our apprehension of this matter, that the sensitive nature, (which only is capable of being propagated,) though it cannot itself be the seat and subject of sin, yet it may be in very great disposition thereunto: or things may be there, in that inferior region, in that disposition, that there cannot but be sinfulness as soon as the intelligent mind and spirit supervene. All things will lie in the sensitive nature, as it is transmitted and conveyed in that state, that when the reasonable and intelligent spirit supervenes, though the sensitive nature (as such) is not capable of sin, yet supervening and coming into union, there cannot but a sinfulness ensue. And,507
(4.) We have further to consider to this purpose, how manifest the power of imagination is, every where through the world. And so, how supposable it is, that the power of parental imagination may be great. And we find it is so, very frequently, to make an impression upon the grosser corporeal bulk. There are signatures upon the foetus, as many unquestionable histories do inform us, that speak of parental imaginations. But much more may it he strong on the more fine sort of vehicles, in which, we have very little reason to doubt, the reasonable soul is lodged, and invested with, whenever it comes into union with a terrestrial body. And it cannot be difficult, to apprehend what signatures parental imagination may make there, when the soul comes to act in a body so and so formed. I do not merely, now, speak of this corporeal external bulk, but that finer indument, that is, that immediate inwrapping of the soul in the body; and which, in all likelihood, it carries away with it out of the body whensoever it leaves it. What signatures may he there easily made by parental imagination, it is not hard for us to apprehend, if we let our thoughts work upon that subject, especially considering what impressions have been made upon the grosser or more corporeal bulk itself. And then consider,
(5.) The natural activity of the intelligent mind and spirit, when it comes into union and supervenes, especially with respect to its cogitativeness, its thinkingness, its power to think; which how soon it doth exert, and put forth its power into act, we do not know: but, to be sure, as soon as its organs are capable, and as soon as it becomes, in its own nature, a cogitative or a thinking thing, nothing is more essential to it than a power of thought; so that as soon as it can use thought, it must: especially the organs that it depends upon, and is to act by, being so and so disposed before, it cannot be but there will be thinking amiss. And according to this course as the power of using thought grows riper, it will be more and more irregular.
And here are the first ebullitions of corrupt nature. The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. As soon as he thinks, he will think vainly; he will think vanity. Psalm xciv. 11.—“And God saw that the imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil, and that continually,” in that corrupt state of the world. Genesis vi. 5. And, “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts.” Where there is a corrupt heart, the first ebullitions of it are in impure thoughts, vain thoughts, sinful thoughts; that is, that such things, such kind of phantasies are impressed, as do take their rise only from 508a sensible world: towards an unknown God who is invisible, there are no signatures that can have any power, because they are buried and overwhelmed by such a supervening cloud of sensitive images or imaginations; thereupon, there must be aversion from God, disaffection to him, disinclination towards him, as an unknown, and an unsuitable, and an undesirable Object. And so, here is the very root of all evil. So that he may easily see how it comes to have place, even in the corrupt nature of lapsed man. And then, again,
(6.) We are further to consider, how industrious we must needs suppose the prince of the apostasy to be, for the continuation of that sin in the world, which he introduced into it. And that is a thing less considered in this matter than I think it should be, and doth claim to be. Plain it is, that the whole order of apostate men became apostate, by being accomplices with this great prince of the air. And so sinful men are more universally accomplices with hell, with the apostate prince of the darkness of this world. Nothing is plainer: and do but consider, hereupon, what the parentage of a sinner is, as a sinner; “Ye are of your father the devil, and the works of your father ye will do.” John viii. 44. They are the words of him who is truth itself, and who, therefore, cannot deceive us. Now, in what respects do we think that the devil is called the father of sinners? Not in respect of their mere nature, not in respect of their naturals, the substance either of their souls, or of their bodies, but only in respect of their morals, the sinfulness, the corruption, the impurity of them. But is he a father in respect of this? Then, certainly, it must owe its beginnings, in individuals, to him too; as children do owe their beginning, wherein they are children, to their parents.
And let but that context be observed, 1 John v. 18, 19. “He that is born of God, keepeth himself, that the wicked one toucheth him not.” Therefore, this is a divine birth; there is a self-preserving principle conveyed with that divine nature which is new born, that the wicked one shall not touch him; that is, mortally to touch him; not touch him so as to kill him; but he hath touched mortally all the rest. And, therefore, the apostle adds in the very next words, “we are of God,” to wit, new-born of God; an eliptical expression: the word being born, having been before used, it was enough to say, we are of God; born of God. But how is the case with the rest of the world? They “all lie in wickedness,” we read it: in all likelihood, it should be read, “in that wicked one,” spoken of before, in that foregoing word: that is, in the wicked one, who can only touch those that are born of God; but doth mortally touch the rest.509
And thereupon, we find that the common course of the unregenerate and unconverted world, it is said to be after “the power of the prince of the air, that works in the children of disobedience.” Ephes. ii. 2. Whereupon, in the very next words, they are said to be children of wrath too, by nature. Observe how things lie connected; “and are by nature children of wrath.” By nature, how so? Inasmuch as there is a corrupt and depraved nature continually descending and transmitted; wherein we are not to suppose him to be without his advantage, or without his agency, who is “the prince of the darkness of this world.” and who is also called “the God of this world.” 2 Cor. iv. 4.
And it is not, therefore, strange, that men should be, as to all their concerns, so much subject to the diabolical power, because they have been accomplices with him from the beginning, even the first apostasy; when nobody can suppose (that considers matters equally) but that he must be continually intent to keep his ground in this world; and doth all that in him lies, to transmit impurity from age to age. And his advantage, in order hereunto, upon the sensitive nature, cannot but be great. Though he cannot immediately touch the mind and spirit itself, without its own consent, without its own betraying itself; yet, that power variously actuates the sensitive nature; and thereby, the inferior appetite, and whatsoever is in the lower region of the soul; (this is no inapprehensible thing;) to wit, to cherish sin, and to foment and cherish it the same way, by the mediation of sense by which he first introduced it. And, by sense, we are not to understand only the external sense, but we are to understand, under that notion, whatsoever lies within the compass of sensitive nature, imagination and appetite, as well as the external sense. And what signatures he may make upon it, is more easy for us to apprehend as possible, than to conclude as certain: but very likely it is, that his power may go very far; and we are not to doubt but his malice will go as far as his power. And then, I add upon all this,
12. That there being such a sinful pravity conveyed and descending down with our nature, from age to age, this must, in the beginning thereof, be matter of just displeasancy to the blessed God. It cannot be, but there must be aversion in his holy and pure nature, to a nature impure and unholy. And let us but consider this, that we are said to be, (as was taken notice of before,) “by nature, the children of wrath.” lying under the divine displeasure, under a vindicta, even by nature: Ephes. ii. 2, 3. And pray, let the reason of the thing be a 510little discussed and looked into. Consider whether that various inclination and disposition, before actual sin, be not in itself a hateful thing. And that nothing which is asserted, among those that have inquired into, and do profess the truth in this matter, may appear harsh and hard, let us but consider how such matters used to be judged of by human measures, by men; sure, in things wherein they will not censure men, we may think God more uncensurable. If men will allow themselves the liberty of free thought, they cannot deny it. But whereas, there is such a thing as human justice, pray do but consider how it useth to have its exercise in matter of punishment, and upon what ground. And whereas, all men have some natural notions remaining with them of right and wrong, and they have aversion or propension, according to such notions, more or less, do but consider how these do work among men, considered as men. Let me but set your thoughts on work on the latter of these first: that is, take a virtuous person, one that goes under that common estimate, by all that know him, as a person of strict virtue. Will he not, as such, disaffect an ill man, a vicious and wicked man? And you will say, he instinctively doth so; that is, the wickedness he sees in him. But then. I would inquire, What is it that such a one disaffects, in such another? Is it, I say, any abstract act he doth? That can never be; for that, abstracted or prescinded from an evil inclination, is not the thing that he hates or can hate; that any man can reasonably hate; for an act, an external act, that falls under the notice of another, take it off from an evil inclination, it is but a casual thing; and it is morally neither good nor evil; and therefore, can be no object of a rational hatred. Therefore, whatsoever there is of just hatred in the vilest and most profligate person’s course, What is the object of that just hatefulness? Not the external acts, abstractly considered, from a vicious inclination; but as they proceed thence, or as they are supposed to proceed thence. So that it is an ill habit of mind, of a vicious mind, that is the object of hatred, every where, with virtuous men.
And then, consider, what it is that human laws do punish, in the next place. Who do they punish? Do they punish the external action abstractly, from the evil inclination or intention? Never at all: for if it doth appear that there was an action done against the rule of the law, that doth not proceed from an ill inclination or intention, it is looked upon as a casual thing, and not punishable. Therefore, the thing that is punishable, is the ill intention and disposition, only 511discovering itself by such and such external acts. This is plain in itself.
But now, whereas, we have no way to know the inclinations of men’s minds, but by external indicia, the disposition and habitude of every one lie immediately open to the divine inspection: there is all the difference. If then, there be a just and reasonable ground to hate an ill disposition, an ill inclination, because it doth discover itself by external acts to us, why is there not the same reason that it should be hated, or that it should be matter of displeasure, whenever it appears, unto him by whom things are immediately seen in themselves, and as they lie without external discovery? And therefore, a sinful generation is called “a generation of vipers.” You have poison, you have malignity in your natures. This he can see, that sees all things, and knows all things, before it doth, se prodere, before it discovers itself in sinful actions; before it appears to our view, before it can be discerned by us. And therefore, consider further,
13. Which will be a further proof of the former, and contribute further towards our common end, the clearing of difficulties in this matter, that it is plain, that infants, as soon as they come to partake of the human nature, they do need a Redeemer, as much as others: for I hope there is none among us that is such a durus infantum pater, so hard and harsh a father of infants, but to admit, that many infants may be saved, may become blessed creatures hereafter. Well, but how shall they come to be so without a Redeemer, without a Christ? Is not he said to be “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world?” Whatsoever sins of the world that are taken away, they are taken away by him. But what? are infants no part of the world? They are said to compose the kingdom of God in this world; that is, concur to the composition. “Suffer little children to be brought unto me, for of such is the kingdom of God.” Those that were brought in arms, that were carried, of them it is said, “of such is the kingdom of God;” that kingdom whereof our Lord Jesus Christ is the immediate King. He takes them into his kingdom. They come under the government of the Redeemer; then they did need a Redeemer, and to be dealt with in a way of grace, and not merely upon a natural point. They are a part of that body which he gave himself to purchase and sanctify. Ephes. v. 25, 26. And it is plain,
14. That they do need to be regenerated; they need regeneration as well as redemption; and which, indeed, hath its foundation in redemption: “for that which is born of the 512flesh, is but flesh.” and no more: but “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” and that Spirit is the Spirit of Christ: and if we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his. And therefore, I would subjoin to all these considerations, in the last place,
15. That whatsover God thought fit not to do, by way of prevention of the corning of sin into the world, and of its being transmitted in it, he hath done with more unspeakably glorious advantage, by way of remedy. And the remedy for setting things right, where things were out of course, in the apostate world, it is two ways. The one whereof doth more directly respect us, and the other himself: that is, by redemption, and the penal judgment. These two things will set all things right. I cannot now enlarge as I would: but very true it is indeed, that it must mightily pose, nonplus all our understandings, if there were to be continual descent of our sinful generation one after another in this world eternally. If things were to run on thus to all eternity, it were the most unaccountable thing imaginable. But we find this is not to be; there will be a period put to this course within awhile. This world, and the wickedness of it, must come to an end: and while sin is running on, from age to age, grace hath its exercise too, which runs a parallel, from age to age. And therefore, there is a far more glorious display of all the divine perfections in the appointed means of remedy, than there would have been in the prevention of those great disorders that have been in the world, by sin’s once entering into it, and continuing a course in it so long.
|« Prev||Lecture XXXVIII. Preached Nov. 17, 1694.||Next »|