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of their lusts. Thus the corrupt heart feeds itself with imagination sins : The unclean person is filled with spe. culative impurities, having eyes full of adultery; the covet. ous man fills his heart with the world, though he cannot get his hands full of it; the malicious person, with delight acts his revenge within his own breast; the envious man, within his own narrow soul, beholds, with satisfaction, his neighbour laid low enough; and every lust finds the corrupt imagination a friend to it in time of need. And this it doth, not only when people are awake, but sometimes even when they are asleep ; whereby it comes to pass, that these sins are acted in dreams which their hearts were carried out after, while they were awake. I know some do question the sinfulness of these things : But can it be thought they are consistent with that holy nature and frame of spirit, which was in innocent Adam, and in Jesus Christ, and should be in every man? It is the corruption of nature, then, that makes filthy dreamers condemned, Jude 8. Solomon had experience of the exercise of grace in sleep ; in a dream he prayed; in a dream he made the best choice ; both were accepted of God, 1 Kings üi. 5--15. And if a man may, in his sleep, do what is good and acceptable to God; why may he not also, when asleep, do that which is evil and displeasing to God? The same Solomon would have men aware of this; and prescribes the best remedy against it, namely, the law upon the heart, Prov. vi. 20, 21. " When thou sleepest (says he, ver. 22.) it shall keep thee : to wit, from the sinning in thy sleep: That is, from sinful dreams, For one's being kept from sin (not his being. kept from affliction) is the immediate proper effect of the law of God impressed upon the heart, Psal. cxix. 11. And thus the whole verse is to be understood, as appears from verse 23. “ For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” Now, the law is a lamp of light, as it guides in the way of duty; and instructing reproofs from the law, are the way of life, as they keep from sin : Neither do they guide into the way of peace, but as they lead into the way of duty; nor do they keep a man out of trouble, but as they keep him from sin. And remarkable is the particular, in which Solomon instanceth, namely, the sin of unclean, ness; To keep thee from the evil woman, verse 24. Which is to be joined with verse 22. including verse 23. in a parenthesis, as some versions have it. These things may suffice to convince us of the natural bias of the mind to evil.
Fourthly, There is in the carnal mind an opposition to spiritual truths, and an aversion to the receiving of them. It is as little a friend to divine truths, as it is to holiness. The truths of natural religion, which do, as it were, force their entry into the minds of natural men, 'they hold prisoners in unrighteousness, Rom. i. 18. And as for the truths of revealed religion, there is an evil heart of unbelief in them, which opposeth their entry; and there is an armed force necessary to captivate the mind to the belief of them, 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. God has made a revelation of his mind and will to sinners, touching the way of salvation ; he has given us the doctrine of his holy word: But do natural men believe it indeed ? No, they do not ; “ For he that believeth not on the Son of God, believeth not God;" as is plain from 1 John v. 10. They believe not the promises of the word; they look on them, in effect only as fair words; for these that receive them, are thereby made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Pet. i. 4. The promises are as silver cords, let down from heaven, to draw sinners unto God, and to waft them over into the promised land; but they cast them from them. They believe not the threatenings of the word. As men travelling in desarts carry fire about with them, to fright away wild beasts; so God has made his law a fiery law, (Deut. xxxiii. 2.) hedging it about with threats of wrath : But men naturally are more brutish than beasts themselves ; and will needs touch the fiery smoking mountain, though they should be thrust through with a dart. I doubt not but most, if not all of you, who are yet in the black state of nature, will here plead, Not guilty : But remember the carnal Jews in Christ's time were as confident as you are, that they believed Moses, John ix. 28, 29. But he confutes their confidence, roundly telling them, John v. 46. “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me.” Did ye believe the truths of God, ye durst not reject, as ye do, him who is truth itself. The very difficulty you find in assenting to this truth, bewrays that unbelief I am charging you with. Has it not proceeded so far with some at this day, that it has steeled their foreheads with the impudence and impiety, openly to reject all revealed religion ? Surely it is out of the abundance of the heart their mouth speaketh. But though ye set not your mouths against the heavens, as they do, the same bitter root of unbelief is in all men by nature, and reigns in you and will reign, till overcoming grace captivate your minds to the belief of the truth. To convince you in this point, consider these three things :
Evidence l. How few are there who have been blessed with an inward illumination, by the special operation of the Spirit of Christ, letting them into a view of divine truths, in their spiritual and heavenly lustre! How have you learned the truths of religion, which ye pretend to beNieve! Ye have them merely by the benefit of external revelation, and of your education; so that you are Christians, just because you were not born and bred in a Pagan, but in a Christian country. Ye are strangers to the inward work of the holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in your hearts; and so you cannot have the assurance of faith, with respect to that outward divine revelation made in the word, I Cor. ii. 10, 11, 12. And, therefore, ye are still unbelievers. “ It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every mán, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me," says our Lord, Jolin vi. 45. Now ye have not come to Christ, therefore ye have not been taught of God; ye have not been so taught, and therefore
ye have not come ; ye believe not. Behold the revelation from which the faith even of the fundamental principles in religion doth spring, Matth. xvi. 17, 18. “ Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.-Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for Aesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." If ever the Spirit of the Lord take a dealing with thee, to work in thee that faith, which is of the operation of God; it may be, as much time will be spent in razing the old foundation, as will make thee find a necessity of the working of his mighty power, and to enable thee to believe the very foundation principles, which now thou thinkest thou makest no doubt of, Eph. i. 19,
Evid. 2. How many professors have made shipwreck of their faith (such as it was) in time of temptation and trial ! See how they fall, like stars from heaven, when Antichrist prevails, 2 Thess. ii. 11, 12. “God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie ; that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth." They fell into damning delusions, because they never really believed the truth, though they themselves, and others too, thought they did believe it. That house is built upon the sand, and that faith'is but ill-founded, that cannot bear out, but is quite overthrown, when the storm
Evid. 3. Consider the utter inconsistency of most mens lives, with the principles of religion which they profess; ye may as soon bring east and west together, as their practice. Men believe that fire will burn them, and therefore they will not throw themselves into it: But the truth is, most men live as if they thought the gospel a mere fable; and the wrath of God revealed in his word against their unrighteousness and ungodliness, a mere scarecrow. If
ye believe the doctrines of the word, how is it that ye are so unconcerned about the state of your souls before the Lord ? How is it that you are so little concerned with that weighty point, whether ye be born again or not? Many live as they were born, and are like to die as they live, and yet live in peace. Do such believe the sinfulness and misery of a natural state? Do they believe they are children of wrath ? Do they believe there is no salvation without regeneration ? and no regeneration but what makes man a new creature? If you believe the promises of the word, why do you not embrace them, and labour to enter into the promised rest? What sluggard would not dig for a hid treasure, if he really believed he might so obtain it ? Men will work and sweat for a maintenance ; because they believe that by so doing they will get it; yet they will be at no tolerable pains for “ the eternal weight of glory;" why, but because they do not believe the word of promise ? Heb. iv. 1, 2. If you believe the threatenings, how is it that you live in your sins, live out of Christ, and yet hope for mercy? Do such believe God to be the holy and just one, who will by no means clear the guilty? No, no, none believe, none (or next to none) believe what a just God the LORD is, and how severely he punisheth.
Fifthly, There is in the mind of man a natural proneness to lies and falsehood, which make for the safety of lusts. “ They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies," Psal. Ivii. 3. We have this with the rest of the corruption of our nature from our first parents. God revealed the truth to them ; but through the solicitation of the tempter, they first doubted of it; they disbelieved it, and embraced a lie instead of it. And for an incontestible evidence hereof, we may see that first article of the devil's creed, ye shall not surely die, Gen. iii. 4. which was obtruded by him on our first parents, and by them received; naturally embraced by their posterity, and hold fast, till a light from heaven oblige them to quit it. It spreads itself through the lives of natural men; who till their consciences be awakened, walk after their own lusts; still petaining the principle, That they shall not surely die. And this is often improved to that perfection, that the man oan say, over the belly of the denounced curse, “ I shall have peace though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst," Deut. xxix. 19. Whatever advantage the truths of God have over error by means of education, or otherwise ; error has always with the natural man this advantage against truth, namely, That there is something within him, which says,
0 that it were true : so the mind lies fair for assenting to it. And here is the reason of it. The true doctrine is, « the doctrine that is according to godliness," 1 Tim. vi. 3. and “ the truth which is after godliness,". Tit. i. 1. Error is the doctrine which is according to ungodliness ; for there is never an error in the mind, nor an untruth vented in the world, in matters of religion,) but what has an affinity with one corruption of the heart or other ; accordIng to that of the apostle, 2 Thess. ii. 21. “ They be. Jieved not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." So that truth and error being otherwise attended with equal advantages for their reception, error, by this means has ready access to the minds of men in their natural state. Wherefore, it is nothing strange that men reject the simplicity of gospel truths and institutions, and greedily embrace error and external pomp in religion ;