« EdellinenJatka »
would carry your madness so far as to render God like yourselves, by accusing him of creating you with dispositions, which oblige you to dip your hands in innocent blood, to build your houses with the spoils of widows and orphans, and to commit crimes subversive of society ? Cease to affirm these are natural dispositions. No, they are acquired dispositions. That part of religion which prohibits your.excesses, is practicable by you without the supernatural aid necessary to a thorough conversion.
2. When we speak of natural depravity, we confound the pure virtue that religion inspires with other virtues, which constitution, education, and motives of worldly honor, are sufficient to enable us to practise. I grant, you cannot practise such virtues as have the love of God for their principle, order for their motives, and perfection for their end: but you may at least acknowledge your natural depravity, and exclaim, O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death! You may at least exclaim with the magician mentioned by a poet, I see and approve of the best things, though I practise the worst. You may do more, you may practise some artificial virtues, which the very heathens, not in covenant with God, exemplified. You may be cautious like Ulysses, temperate like Scipio, chaste like Polemon, wise like Socrates. If then you neglect this sort of virtue, and if your negligence ruin you, your destruction is of yourselves.
3. When we speak of natural depravity, we confound that of a man born a pagan, with only the light of reason, with that of a christian, born and educated among christians, and amidst all the advantages of revelation. This vague way of talking is a consequence of the miserable custom of taking detached passages of scripture, considering them only in themselves, without any regard to connection of time, place, or circumstance, and applying them indiscriminately to their own ima. ginations and systems. The inspired writers give us dreadful descriptions of the state of believers before their being called to christianity: they call this state a night, a death, a nothing, in regard to the practice of virtue; and certainly the state of a man now living without religion under the gogpel economy, may be properly described in the same manner: but yet I affirm, that these expressions must be taken in a very different sense. This night, this death, this nothing, if I may be allowed to speak so, have different degrees. The degrees in regard to a native pagan are greater than those in regard to a native christian. What then, my brethren, do you recken for nothing all the care taken of you in your infancy, all the instructions given you in your childhood by your pious fathers and mothers, all the lessons they procured others to give you, all the tutors who have given you information! What! agreeable books put into your hands, exhortations, directions, and sermons, addressed to you, you reckon all these things for nothing! What! you make no account of the visits of your pastors, when you thought yourselves dying; of the proper discourses they directed to you concerning your past negligence, of your own resolutions and vows! I ask, do you reckon all this for nothing? All these efforts have been attended with no good effect : but you are as ambitious, as worldly, as envious, as covetous, as eager in pursuit of lasciviousness, as ever the heathens were, and you never blush, nor ever feel remorse, and all under pretence that the gospel VOL. V.
teaches us we are frail, and can do nothing without the assistance of God !
4. In fine, my brethren, when we speak of the depravity of nature, we confound the condition of a man, to whoin God hath given only exterior re
velation, with the condition of him to whom God • offers supernatural aid to assist him against his na
tural frailty, which prevents his living up to external revelation. Doth he not offer you this assistance? Doth not the holy scripture teach you in a hundred places, that it is your own fault if you be deprived of it?
Recollect only the famous words of St. James, which were lately explained to you in this pulpit with the greatest clearness, and pressed home with the utmost pathos. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. God giveth to all men liberally, to all without exception, and they who are deprived of this wisdom, ought to blame none but themselves, not God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.
True, to obtain it, we must ask it with a design to profit by it; we must ask it nothing wavering, that is, not divided between the hope and the fear of obtaining it; we must not be like those double minded men, who are unstable in all their ways, who seem by asking wisdom to esteem virtue, but who discover by the abuse they make of what wisdom they have, that virtue is supremely hateful to them. We must not resemble the waves of the sea, which seem to offer the spectator on shore a treasure, but which presently drown him in gulfs from which he cannot possibly free himself. Doth God set this wisdom before us at a price too high? Ought we to find fault with him for refusing to bestow it, while we refuse to apply it to that moral use which justice requires ? Can we desire God to bestow his grace on such as ask for it only to insult him?
O! That we were properly affected with the greatness of our depravity, and the shame of our slavery! But our condition, all scandalous and horrible as it is, seems to us all full of charms.
When we are told that sin hath subverted nature, infected the air, confounded in a manner cold with heat, heat with cold, wet with dry, dry with wet, and disconcerted the beautiful order of creation, which constituted the happiness of creatures; when we cast our eyes on the maladies caused by sin, the vicissitudes occasioned by it, the dominion of death over all creatures, which it, hath established; when we see ourselves stretched on a sick bed, cold, pale, dying amidst sorrows and tears, fears and pains, waiting to be torn from a world we idolize; then we detest sin, and groan under the weight of its chains. Should that spirit, who knocks to day at the door of our hearts, say to us, open sinner, I will restore nature to its beauty, the air shall be serene, and all the elements in harmony, I will confirm your health, reanimate your enfeebled frame, lengthen your life, and banish forever from your houses death, that death which stains all your rooms with blood : Ah! every heart would burn with ardor to possess this assistance, and every one of my hearers would make these walls echo with, come holy spirit, come and dry up our tears by putting an end to our maladies.
But when we are told, that sin hath degraded us from our natural dignity; that it hath loaded us with chains of depravity; that man, a creature formed on the model of the divine perfections, and required to receive no other laws than those of or
der, is become the sport of unworthy passions, which move him as they please, which say to him, go, and he goeth, come, and he cometh, which debase and vilify him at pleasure; we are not af. fected with these mortifying truths, but we glory in our shame!
Slaves of sin ! Captives under a heavier yoke than that of Pharaoh, in a furnace more cruel than that of Egypt! Behold your deliverer! He comes to day to break your bonds and set you free. The assistance of grace is set before you. What am I saying? An abundant measure it already communicated to you. Already you know your misery. Already you are seeking relief from it. Avail yourself of this. Ask for this succor, and if it be refused you, ask again, and never cease asking till you have obtained it.
Recollect, that the truths we have been preaching, are the most mortifying of religion, and the most proper to humble us. It was voluntarily that we so often rebelled against God. Freely, alas! freely, and without compulsion, we have some of us denied the truths of religion, and others given mortal wounds to the majesty of its laws. Ah! are there any tears too bitter, is there any remorse too cutting, any cavern in the earth too deep, to expiate the guilt of such a frightful character !
Remember, the truths we have been teaching are full of consolation. This part of my text, Ö Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, is connected with the other part, but in me is thine help. God yet intreats us not to detroy ourselves. God hath not yet given us up. He doth not know, pardon this expression, he is a stranger to that point of honor, which often engages us to turn away forever from those who have treated us with contempt. He, he himself, the great, the mighty God, doth