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natural to us, than to seek happiness in the creature, instead of the Creator? To seek that satisfaction in the works of his hands, which can be found in God only? What more natural than the desire of the flesh? That is, of the pleasure of sense in every kind? Men indeed talk magnificently of despising these low pleasures, particularly men of learning and education. They affect to sit loose to the gratification of those appetites, wherein they stand on a level with the beasts that perish. But it is mere affectation; for every man is conscious to himself, that in this respect he is, by nature, a very beast. Sensual appetites, even those of the lowest kind, have, more or less, the dominion over him. They lead him captive; they drag him to and fro, in spite of his boasted reason. The man, with all his good-breeding and other accomplishments, has no pre-eminence over the goat : nay, it is much to be doubted, whether the beast has not the pre-eminence over him. Certainly he has, if we may hearken to one of their modern oracles, who very decently tells us,
"Once in a season, beasts too taste of love;
A considerable difference indeed, it must be allowed, there is between man and man, arising (beside that wrought by preventing grace) from difference of constitution and education. But, notwithstanding this, who, that is not utterly ignorant of himself, can here cast the first stone at another? Who can abide the test of our blessed Lord's comment on the seventh commandment? "He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart?" So that one knows not which to wonder at most, the ignorance or the insolence of those men, who speak with such disdain of them that are overcome by desires, which every man has felt in his own breast! The desire of every pleasure of sense, innocent or not, being natural to every child of man.
10. And so is the desire of the eye, the desire of the pleasures of the imagination. These arise either from great, or beautiful, or uncommon objects: if the two former do not coincide with the latter; for, perhaps it would appear upon a diligent inquiry, that neither grand nor beautiful objects please, any longer than they are new : that, when the novelty of them is over, the greatest part, at least, of the pleasure they give, is over; and, in the same proportion as they become familiar, they become flat and insipid. But let us experience this ever so often, the same desire will remain still. The inbred thirst continues fixed in the soul: nay, the more it is indulged, the more it increases, and incites us to follow after another, and yet another object; although we leave every one with an abortive hope, and a deluded expectation. Yea,
VOL. 5.-A a
"The hoary fool, who many days
Has struggl'd with continued sorrow,
The desperate bet upon to-morrow i
"To-morrow comes! "Tis noon! 'Tis night!
11. A third symptom of this fatal disease, the love of the world, which is so deeply rooted in our nature, is the pride of life, the desire of praise, of the honour that cometh of men. This the greatest admirers of human nature allow to be strictly natural: as natural as the sight or hearing, or any other of the external senses. And are they ashamed of it, even men of letters, men of refined and improved understanding? So far from it, that they glory therein! they applaud themselves for their love of applause! Yea, eminent Christians, so called, make no difficulty of adopting the saying of the old, vain heathen, "Animi dissoluti est et nequam negligere quid de se homines sentiant:" "Not to regard what men think of us, is the mark of a wicked and abandoned mind." So, that to go calm and unmoved through honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report, is with them a sign of one that is indeed not fit to live: away with such a fellow from the earth. But, would one imagine that these men had ever heard of Jesus Christ or his Apostles? Or that they knew who it was that said "How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of God only?" But, if this be really so, if it be impossible to believe, and consequently to please God, so long as we receive or seek honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of God only then, in what a condition are all mankind! The Christians as well as heathens! Since they all seek honour one of another! Since it is as natural for them so to do, themselves being the judges, as it is to see the light which strikes upon their eye, or to hear the sound which enters their ear: yea, since they account it the sign of a virtuous mind, to seek the praise of men; and of a vicious one, to be content with the honour that cometh of God only!
III. 1. I proceed to draw a few inferences from what has been said. And first, from hence we learn one grand, fundamental difference between Christianity, considered as a system of doctrines, and the most refined heathenism. Many of the ancient heathens have largely described the vices of particular men. They have spoken much against their covetousness or cruelty, their luxury or prodigality. Some have dared to say, that "no man is born, without vices of one kind or another." But still, as none of them were apprized of the fall of man, so none of them knew his total corruption. They knew not, that all men were empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They were wholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born into the world, in
every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices, which reign in particular persons, as by the general flood of atheism and idolatry, of pride, self-will, and love of the world. This, therefore, is the first, grand, distinguishing point between heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges, that many men are infected with many vices, and even born with a proneness to them: but supposes withal, that in some the natural good much overbalances the evil. The other declares, that all men are conceived in sin, and shapened in wickedness: that hence there is in every man a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, which is not, cannot be subject to his law, and which so infects his whole soul, that there dwelleth in him, in his flesh, in his natural state, no good thing; but all the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, is evil, only evil, and that continually.
2. Hence we may, secondly, learn, that all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any other title, are but heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences heathenism from Christianity. They may indeed allow, that men have many vices: that some are born with us: and, that consequently we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be: there being few that will roundly affirm, "We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation." But here is the shibboleth: Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Or, to come back to the text, is "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart evil continually ?" Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but a heathen still.
3. We may learn from hence, in the third place, what is the proper nature of religion, of the religion of Jesus Christ. It is Osgawea tuxns, God's method of healing a soul which is thus diseased. Hereby the great Physician of souls applies medicines to heal this sickness; to restore human nature, totally corrupted in all its faculties. God heals our atheism, by the knowledge of himself, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent; by giving us faith, a divine evidence and conviction of God, and of the things of God: in particular, of this important truth, Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. By repentance and lowliness of heart, the deadly disease of pride is healed that of self-will by resignation, a meek and thankful submission to the will of God. And for the love of the world in all its branches, the love of God is the sovereign remedy. Now this is properly religion, faith thus working by love, working the genuine meek humility, entire deadness to the world, with a loving, thankful acquiescence in, and conformity to, the whole will and word of God.
4. Indeed, if man were not thus fallen, there would be no need of all this. There would be no occasion for this work in the heart, this "renewal in the spirit of our mind." The superfluity of godli ness would then be a more proper expression than the superfluity of naughtiness. For an outside religion, without any godliness at all,
would suffice to all rational intents and purposes. It does accordingly suffice, in the judgment of those who deny this corruption of our nature. They make very little more of religion than the famous Mr. Hobbes did of reason. According to him, reason is only "A well-ordered train of words:" according to them, religion is only a well-ordered train of words and actions. And they speak consistently with themselves: for, if the inside be not full of wickedness, if this be clean already, what remains, but to cleanse the outside of the cup? Outward reformation, if their supposition be just, is indeed the one thing needful.
5. But ye have not so learned the Oracles of God. Ye know, that he who seeth what is in man, gives a far different account both of nature and grace, of our fall and our recovery. Ye know that the great end of religion is, to renew our hearts in the image of God, to repair that total loss of righteousness and true holiness, which we sustained by the sin of our first parents. Ye know that all religion which does not answer this end, all that stops short of this, the renewal of our soul in the image of God, after the likeness of him that created it, is no other than a poor farce, and a mere mockery of God, to the destruction of our own souls. O beware of those teachers of lies, who would palm this upon you for Christianity! Regard them not, although they should come unto you with all the deceivableness of unrighteousness, with all smoothness of language, all decency, yea beauty and elegance of expression, all professions of earnest good-will to you, and reverence for the Holy Scriptures. Keep to the plain, old faith, "once delivered to the saints," and delivered by the Spirit of God to our hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure! Ye were born in sin: therefore "ye must be born again," born of God. By nature ye are wholly corrupted: by grace ye shall be wholly renewed. In Adam ye all died: in the second Adam, "in Christ, ye all are made alive." "You that were dead in sins hath he quickened:" he hath already given you a principle of life, even faith in him who loved you, and gave himself for you! Now, "go on from faith to faith," until your whole sickness be healed, and all that "mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus!"
ON THE NEW-BIRTH.
"Ye must be born again."-JOHN iii. 7.
1. IF any doctrine, within the whole compass of Christianity, may be properly termed fundamental, they are, doubtless, these two, the doctrine of justification, and that of the new-birth: the former, relating to that great work, which God does for us, in forgiving our sins; the latter, to the great work, which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature. In order of time, neither of these is before the other in the moment we are justified by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Jesus, we are also born of the Spirit: but, in order of thinking, as it is termed, justification precedes the newbirth. We first conceive his wrath to be turned away, and then his Spirit to work in our hearts.
2. How great importance then must it be of to every child of man, thoroughly to understand these fundamental doctrines? From a full conviction of this, many excellent men have written very largely concerning justification, explaining every point relating thereto, and opening the Scriptures which treat upon it. Many likewise have written on the new-birth and some of them largely enough: but yet not so clearly as might have been desired: nor so deeply and accurately: having either given a dark, abstruse account of it, or a slight and superficial one. Therefore, a full, and, at the same time, a clear account of the new-birth, seems to be wanting still; such as may enable us to give a satisfactory answer to these three questions. First, Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine of the new-birth? Secondly, How must we be born again? What is the nature of the new-birth? And, Thirdly, Wherefore must we be born again? To what end is it necessary? These questions, by the assistance of God, I shall briefly and plainly answer, and then subjoin a few inferences which will naturally follow.
I. 1. And first, Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine? The foundation of it lies nearly as deep as the creation of the world: in the Scriptural account whereof we read, "And God," the Three-One God," said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him," Gen. i. 26, 27: not barely in his natural image, a picture of his own immortality, a spiritual being, endued with understanding, freedom of will, and various