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rageous in its desires. St. Paul declares, that “ unto the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." Titus 1, 15. A purged heart is requisite for a clear mind; but where lust dwells, it taints and perverts the practical judgment, from whence so many disorders follow in the life. The natural conscience in many cases, in its simple judgment of things, sincerely declares what is to be done, and what to be avoided; but when compounded and stained with a tincture of sensuality, it judges according to the desires. The rebellious Israelites in the wilderness are described, “ It is a people that do err in their hearts :" Psal. 57. 10. the heart was the erroneous fountain of all their miscarriages, and forty years instruction could do them no good. Those who are given up to carnal delights, and are in a confederacy with the gross senses, even their directive and judging faculty is carnal in its apprehensions. A reprobate mind, and vile affections, are naturally and judicially the cause and effect of one another. Even natural truths that are plain and bright, as the essential distinction between moral good and evil, between virtue and vice, and the belief of a judgment to come, that is inseparably connected with it ; yet through the perverseness and crookedness of men's hearts, are strangely darkened. Men wish according to their carnal interest; and what they wish, they would fain believe; and as when there was no “King in Israel, every one did what was good in his own eyes:” so if there were no after-reckoning, men would, without the check of conscience, follow the wills of the flesh, therefore they are atheists in desire, and if not scared by the pangs of a throbbing conscience, will be so in their thoughts.

The heathens cancelled the law of nature, and transgressed all the rules of duty and decorum; they securely indulged those lusts that are a derogation and debasement to the reasonable creature, and make men below men. The reason of this prodigious degeneracy was, their manners corrupted their minds. St. Paul charges the Ephesians, not to “walk as the other Gentiles, in the vanity of their minds, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who being past feeling, have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” Ephes. 4. 17, 18, 19. A dead conscience, and a dissolute life, are inseparable. And how many that are surrounded with the celestial beams of the gospel, are as impure and impenitent, as those in the black night of Paganism? They stand at the entrance of the bottomless pit, yet do not smell the brimstone that enrages the fire there : the flames of their lusts, have seared their consciences to a desperate degree of hardness and insensibility. Of such the apostle speaks, “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things they understand not, and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; and shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time; spots they are, and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings, while they feast with you.” 2 Pet. 2. 12, 13. They violated all the prescriptions and restraints of natural reason, they had lost all the ingenuous bashfulness of the human nature, and pleased themselves in their false licentious principles, whereby they endeavoured to justify their enormous actions, and set a superficial gloss upon their foul deformities. Now a seduced and seducing mind, make the conversion of a sinner most difficult. Whilst the judgment condemns what the affections approve, men are not so invincibly and irrecoverably lost ; the enlightened conscience is an earnest of their return to their duty. But when the spirit is deceived, the flesh always prevails; and men are most dissolute, corrupt, and desperately wicked. Our Saviour says, “ If the light that is in us be darkness, how great is that darkness?” How disorderly and ruinous will the course be ? “ If the salt hath lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted ?" If the conscience, that should be as salt to preserve the soul from tainting pleasure, be corrupted, wherewith can it 'be restored ?

(3.) Fleshly lusts smother and suppress the dictates and testimony of the enlightened conscience, that they are not influential upon the life. The dictates of conscience are in a direct line, instructing and advising men in their duty: the testimony is by reflection upon their errors from the divine rule, and condemning them for their guilt.

Ist. The dictates of the enlightened conscience are suppressed. It is the observation of * the philosopher, concerning sensual persons, that they have reason in the faculty and habit, but not

* έχειν την έπιση μην εν εξει μη χοή σθαι δε. Αrist. 1. 7, &c. c. 3. in the use and exercise. The practical understanding declares our duty, that it is absolutely necessary to obey God; and men assent to it in the general: but when this principle is to be applied to practice in particulars that are ungrateful to the corrupt will, lust draws a veil over it, that it may not appear to check the sensual inclinations. Whilst the mind, seduced by the senses, is intent upon the pleasing object, it does not actually and strongly consider the divine command; and conscience is brought under the control of the impetuous passions. The light of reason, as well as of divine revelation, discovers, that the blessed beginning, and the happy end of man, is to be like God, and to enjoy his love ; but when there is a competition between his favour, and the things of the world, the carnal heart suppresses the dictates of the mind, and makes a blindfold choice of things present and sensible, as if man were all earth, and there were no spark of heaven within him.

The heathens are charged by St. Paul,-“That they withheld the truth in unrighteousness." The notion of God as the supreme Lawgiver, and to be obeyed according to his law impressed upon conscience, was a natural truth, and should have reigned in their hearts and lives; but they would not suffer it to exert its power in ordering their actions. There is a natural miracle seen in Egypt every year; when the river Nilus overflows the plains : many living creatures are half formed, and part remains slimy earth, without life or motion.

Altera para vivit, rudis est pars altera tellus.

Such monsters were the ungodly and unrighteous heathens; half men in their understandings, and half mud in their filthy affections. And there are innumerable such monsters in the christian world.

2dly. The testimony of conscience is suppressed and neglected by the prosperous sinner. If conscience be in some degree righteous, and faithful in its office, “and reproves him, and sets his sins in order before his eyes ;" he will not regard its earnest warnings. He is as unwilling to hear that sincere witness in his bosom, as Ahab was the inflexible prophet Micaiah ; of whom he said, “I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good of me, but evil.” Prosperity affords many diversions, whereby the sinner shifts off conversing with conscience, and remains engaged in his sinful state. “I hearkened, and heard,” saith the prophet Jeremy, “but they spake not aright; no man repented of his wickedness, saying, what have I done?” What foul ignominious acts, how defiling and debasing my soul, how offensive to the pure eyes of God, who is so glorious in majesty, and dreadful in power? Such a sight of sin would make the conscience broil, and chill the passions, and urge sinners to return to their duty. But whilst they prosper, they are obstinate in rebellion ? “Every one turned to his course, as the horse rushes into the battle.” As the horse when inflamed, by the noise and other accidents of war, furiously rushes to his own destruction: thus sinners when they encounter alluring objects that divert the mind from serious consideration, either they do not discern, or will not observe the dangers before them, and with as little consideration, and as much fierceness as the beasts venture upon their own destruction. Conversion is the product of the most serious and sad thoughts, from which a prosperous sinner is most averse.

The external means for converting sinners, are usually ineffectual upon them whilst they enjoy prosperity.

First. The “ Gospel is the power of God to salvation to them that believe;" and the preaching of it is by divine institution the ordinary means of conversion. God could by the immediate illumination of the mind, and influence upon the will and affections, convert sinners from the errors of their ways; but his wisdom and condescending goodness makes use of the ministry of men to convey the word of truth and life to the world. This way is very congruous, both to the compounded nature of man, by the senses to work upon the soul, and to the native freedom of his will: for though the supernatural agent infallibly changes the heart, yet the instrument can only direct and persuade men, as those who are endowed with intellectual and elective faculties; and thus the efficacy of divine grace is insinuated, in a way suitable to the reasonable nature. The ministers are styled the light of the world, to discover to men their undone condition by sin, and to point out the way to their everlasting peace. Our blessed Redeemer saves the lost remnant of mankind by the sacred ministry; and where there are no “evangelical preachers sent," or only a doleful succession of blind guides, what * Tertullian says of Scythia, a country that by the extremity of the cold, is hard and dry, and perpetually barren, but the residence of fierce cruelty, is applicable to a nation, the hearts of men are frozen to their sins, there is no melting in the tears of true repentance, no holy heat, only their brutish lusts are ardent and active. But where the ambassadors of Christ are faithful and zealous to induce sinners to break off their sins by repentance, and to be reconciled to God, there are none more incapable of the sanctifying power of the gospel, than sinners in prosperity.

(1.) Pride, the vice of prosperity, makes them fierce and stubborn against the holy and strict rules of the word. “We will not hearken to thee, but will certainly do whatsoever goes out of our own mouth.” Isa. 44. 16, 17. If a faithful minister represents the inside of their foul souls, their uncomely passions are raised against him: if he recommends the earnest study of holiness, and godliness, they entertain his counsels with derision and disdain. Those to whom the dearest and most affectionate honour is due, being spiritual fathers and physicians, are despised in their persons and office, by fools in their prosperity. They condemn what they do not understand, and affect not to understand what condemns them. They hear sermons to censure, and censure that they may not be troubled by them. What hope is there of reducing haughty scorners to the obedience of the gospel? Even the miracles and ministry of our Saviour were without success upon the pharisees, “who heard and derided him.” If such are convinced in their minds, and not disarmed of their pride and self-will, they refuse to yield “themselves to the Lord,” Meekness is a requisite qualification for receiving the word with its saving virtue. “We are directed to lay aside all filthiness, and superfluity of naughtiness; and with meekness to receive the ingrafted word, that is able to save our souls." We are prepared for “divine grace," by a serious sense of our want of it, and earnest desire to obtain it. “ He fills the hungry with good things and the rich he sends empty away.” None are so insensible of their spiritual wants, and averse from the humble acknowledgment of them, as the prosperous sinner; and none more unlikely to obtain spiritual riches.

* Omnia torpent, omnia rigent, sola feritas calet,

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