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Introductory observations.

In these words the following particulars are to be observed. (1.) A certain spiritual disease charged on some persons, viz. darkness, and blindness of mind, appearing in their ignorance and folly. (2.) The great degree of this disease; so as to render the subjects of it fools. Ye fools, when will ye be wise? And so as to reduce them to a degree of brutishness. Ye brutish among the people. This ignorance and folly were to such a degree, as to render men like beasts. (3.) The obstinacy of this disease; expressed in that interrogation, When will ye be wise? Their blindness and folly were not only very great; but deeply rooted and established, resisting all manner of cure. (4.) Of what nature this blindness is. It is especially in things pertaining to God. They were strangely ignorant of his perfections, like beasts: and had foolish notions of him, as though he did not see, nor know; and as though he would not execute justice, by chastising and punishing wicked men. (5.) The unreasonableness and sottishness of the notion they had of God, that he did not hear, did not observe their reproaches of him and his people, is shown by observing that he planted the ear. It is very unreasonable to suppose that he, who gave power of perceiving words to others, should not perceive them himself. And the sottishness of their being insensible of God’s all-seeing eye, and particularly of his seeing their wicked actions, appears, in that God is the being who formed the eye, and gave others a power of seeing. The sottishness of their apprehension of God, as though he did not know what they did, is argued from his being the fountain and original of all knowledge. The unreasonableness of their expecting to escape God’s just chastisements and judgments for sin, is set forth by his chastising even the heathen, who did not sin against that light, or against so great mercies, as the wicked in Israel did; nor had ever made such a profession as they. (6.) We may observe, that this dreadful disease is ascribed to mankind in general. The Lord knoweth the thoughts of Man, that they are vanity. The psalmist had been setting forth the vanity and unreasonableness of the thoughts of some of the children of men; and immediately upon it he observes, that this vanity and foolishness of thought is common and natural to mankind.

From these particulars we may fairly deduce the following doctrinal observation: That there is an extreme and brutish blindness in things of religion, which naturally possesses the hearts of mankind.—This doctrine is not to be understood as any reflection on the capacity of the human nature; for God hath made man with a noble and excellent capacity. The blindness I speak of, is not a merely negative ignorance; such as in trees and stones, that know nothing. They have no faculties of understanding and perception, whereby they should be capable of any knowledge. And inferior animals, though they have sensitive perception, are not capable of any intellectual views. There is no fault to be found with man’s natural faculties. God has given men faculties truly noble and excellent; well capable of true wisdom and divine knowledge. Nor is the blindness I speak of like the ignorance of a new-born infant; which arises from want of necessary opportunity to exert these faculties.

The blindness that is in the heart of man, which is spoken of in the text and doctrine, is neither for want of faculties, nor opportunity to know, but from some positive cause. 254254    This is meant in a popular not a philosophical sense; and is expressive of active, wilful perverseness, rather than the abstract nature of sin, or the obliquity of the natural act—W. There is a principle in his heart, of such a blinding and besotting nature, that it hinders the exercises of his faculties about the things of religion; exercises for which God has made him well capable, and for which he gives him abundant opportunity.

In order to make it appear, that such an extreme brutish blindness, with respect to the things of religion, does naturally possess the hearts of men, I shall show how this is manifest in those things that appear in men’s open profession; and how it is manifest in those things that are found by inward experience, and are visible in men’s practice.

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