Human Nature in its Fourfold State

by Thomas Boston, 1676-1732

I. The State of Innocence

"Lo, this only have I found, that God has made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. " Ecclesiastes 7:29

There are four things very necessary to be known by all who would see heaven:

1. What man was in the state of innocence, as God made him.

2. What he is in the state of corrupt nature, as he has unmade himself.

3. What he must be in the state of grace, as created in Christ Jesus unto good works, if ever he be made a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.

4. What he will be in his eternal state, as made by the Judge of all, either perfectly happy, or completely miserable, and that forever.

These are weighty points, which touch the vitals of practical godliness, from which most men, and even many professors, in these dregs of time, are quite estranged. I design, therefore, under the divine conduct, to open up these things, and apply them.

I begin with the first of them, namely, the State of Innocence: that beholding man polished after the similitude of a palace, the ruins may the more affect us; we may the more prize that matchless Person whom the Father has appointed the repairer of the breach; and that we may, with fixed resolves, betake ourselves to that way which leads to the city which has immoveable foundations.

In the text we have three things:

1. The state of innocence wherein man was created.

"God has made man upright. " By "man" here we are to understand our first parents; the archetypal pair, the root of mankind, and the fountain from whence all generations have streamed; as may appear by comparing Genesis 5:1, 2, "In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him: male and female created he them; and blessed them, " as the root of mankind, "and called their name Adam. " The original word is the same in our text. In this sense, man was made upright (agreeable to the nature of God, whose work is perfect), without any imperfection, corruption, or principle of corruption, in his body or soul. He was made "upright, " that is, straight with the will and law of God, without any irregularity in his soul. By the set it got in its creation, it directly pointed towards God, as his chief end; which straight inclination was represented, as in an emblem, by the erect figure of his body, a figure that no other living creature partakes of. What David was in a gospel sense, that was he in a legal sense; one "according to God's own heart, " altogether righteous, pure, and holy. God made him thus: he did not first make him, and then make him righteous; but in the very making of him, he made him righteous. Original righteousness was created with him; so that in the same moment he was a man, he was a righteous man, morally good; with the same breath that God breathed into him a living soul, he breathed into him a righteous soul.

2. Here is man's fallen state:

"But they have sought out many inventions. " They fell off from their rest in God, and fell upon seeking inventions of their own, to mend their case; and they quite marred it. Their ruin was from their own proper motion: they would not abide as God had made them; but they sought out inventions, to deform and undo themselves.

3. Observe here the certainty and importance of these things:

"Lo, this only have I found, " etc. Believe them, they are the result of a narrow search, and a serious inquiry, performed by the wisest of men. In the two preceding verses, Solomon represents himself as in quest of goodness in the world; but the issue of it was, he could find no satisfying end of his search after it; though it was not for lack of pains, for he "counted one by one, to find out the account. " "Behold, this have I found, says the preacher, " namely, "That, " as the same word is read in our text, "yet my soul seeks—but I find not. " He could make no satisfying discovery of it, which might end his inquiry. He found the good very rare, one as it were among a thousand. But could that satisfy the grand query, "Where shall wisdom be found?" No it could not—and if the experience of others in this point, run counter to Solomon's, as it is no reflection on his discernment, it can as little decide the question, which will remain undetermined until the last day. But, amidst all this uncertainty there is one point found out and fixed—"This have I found. " You may depend upon it as a most certain truth, and be fully satisfied in it; "Lo this;" fix your eyes upon it, as a matter worthy of most deep and serious regard, namely, that man's nature is now depraved—but that depravity was not from God, for he "made man upright;" but from themselves, "they have sought out many inventions. "

Doctrine. God made man altogether righteous.

This is that state of innocence in which God placed man in the world. It is described in the holy Scripture with a running pen, in comparison of the following states; for it was of no continuance—but passed away as a flying shadow, by man's abusing the freedom of his will. I shall,

I. Inquire into the righteousness of this state wherein man was created.

II. Lay before you some of the happy attendants and consequences thereof.

III. Applying the whole.

I. Of Man's Original Righteousness.

As to the righteousness of this state, consider, that as uncreated righteousness, the righteousness of God is the supreme rule; so all created righteousness, whether of men or angels, has respect to a law as its rule, and is a conformity thereto. A creature can no more be morally independent of God in its actions and powers, than it can be naturally independent of him. A creature, as a creature, must acknowledge the Creator's will as its supreme law; for as it cannot exist without him, so it must not be but for him, and according to his will; yet no law obliges, until it is revealed. And hence it follows, that there was a law, which man, as a rational creature, was subjected to in his creation; and that this law was revealed to him.

"God made man upright, " says the text. This supposes a law to which he was conformed in his creation; as when anything is made regular, or according to rule, of necessity the rule itself is presupposed. Whence we may gather, that this law was no other than the eternal, indispensable law of righteousness, observed in all points by the second Adam, opposed by the carnal mind, and some notions of which remain yet among the Pagans, who, "having not the law, are a law unto themselves, " Romans 2:14. In a word, this law is the very same which was afterwards summed up in the ten commandments, and promulgated, on mount Sinai, to the Israelites, called by us the moral law, and man's righteousness consisted in conformity to this law or rule.

More particularly, there is a twofold conformity required of a man—a conformity of the powers of his soul to the law, which you may call habitual righteousness; and a conformity of all his actions to it, which is actual righteousness. Now, God made man habitually righteous; man was to make himself actually righteous—the former was the stock which God put into his hand; the latter was the improvement he should have made of it. The sum of what I have said is, that the righteousness wherein man was created, was the conformity of all the faculties and powers of his soul to the moral law. This is what we call Original Righteousness, which man was originally endued with. We may take it up in these three things:

1. Man's UNDERSTANDING was a lamp of light. He had perfect knowledge of the law, and of his duty accordingly—he was made after God's image, and consequently could not lack knowledge, which is a part thereof, Col. 3:10, "The new man is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him who created him. " And indeed, this was necessary to fit him for universal obedience; seeing no obedience can be according to the law, unless it proceed from a sense of the commandment of God requiring it. It is true, Adam had not the law written upon tables of stone; but it was written upon his mind, the knowledge thereof being created with him. God impressed it upon his soul, and made him a law to himself, as the remains of it among the heathens do testify, Romans 2:14, 15. And seeing man was made to be the mouth of the creation, to glorify God in his works, we have ground to believe he had naturally an exquisite knowledge of the works of God. We have a proof of this in Adam's giving names to the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the air, and those such as express their nature. "Whatever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof, " Gen. 2:19. The dominion which God gave him over the creatures, soberly to use and dispose of them according to his will (still in subordination to the will of God), seems to require no less than a knowledge of their natures. And, besides all this, his perfect knowledge of the law proves his knowledge in the management of civil affairs, which, in respect of the law of God, "a good man will guide with discretion, " Psalm 112:5.

2. His WILL in all things was agreeable with the will of God, Eph. 4:24. There was no corruption in his will, no inclination to evil; for that is sin, properly and truly so called—hence the apostle says, Rom 7:7, "I had not known sin—but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet. " An inclination to evil is really a fountain of sin, and therefore inconsistent with that rectitude and uprightness which the text expressly says he was endued with at his creation. The will of man, then, was directed and naturally inclined to God and goodness, though mutable. It was disposed, by its original make, to follow the Creator's will, as the shadow does the body; and was not left in an equal balance to good and evil—for at that rate he had not been upright, nor habitually conformed to the law; which in no moment can allow the creature not to be inclined towards God as his chief end, any more than it can allow man to be a God to himself. The law was impressed upon Adam's soul—now this, according to the new covenant, by which the image of God is repaired, consists in two things:

(1. ) Putting the law in the mind, denoting the knowledge of it.

(2. ) Writing it in the heart, denoting inclinations in the will, answerable to the commands of the law, Heb. 8:10. So that as the will, when we consider it as renewed by grace, is by that grace naturally inclined to the same holiness, in all its parts, which the law requires; so was the will of man, when we consider him as God made him at first, endued with natural inclinations to everything commanded by the law. For if the regenerate are partakers of the divine nature, as undoubtedly they are, for so says the Scripture, 2 Pet. 1:4; and if this divine nature can import no less than the inclination of the heart to holiness, then surely Adam's will could not lack this inclination; for in him the image of God was perfect. It is true it is said, Romans 2:14, 15, "That the Gentiles show the work of the law written in their hearts;" but this denotes only their knowledge of that law, such as it is—but the apostle to the Hebrews, in the text cited, takes the word heart in another sense, distinguishing it plainly from the mind. And it must be granted, that, when God promises, in the new covenant, "to write his law in the hearts of his people, " it imports quite another thing than what heathens have—for though they have notions of it in their minds—yet their hearts go another way; their will has a bent and bias quite contrary to that law; therefore, the expression suitable to the present purpose must needs import, besides these notions of the mind, inclinations of the will going along therewith; which inclinations, though mixed with corruption in the regenerate, were pure and unmixed in upright Adam. In a word, as Adam knew his Master's pleasure in the matter of duty, so his will inclined to what he knew.

3. His AFFECTIONS were orderly, pure, and holy; which is a necessary part of that uprightness wherein man was created. The apostle has a petition, 2 Thess. 3:5, "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God;" that is, "The Lord straighten your hearts, " or make them lie straight to the love of God—and our text tells us that man was made straight. "The new man is created in righteousness and true holiness, " Eph. 4:24. Now this holiness, as it is distinguished from righteousness, may import the purity and good order of the affections. Thus the apostle, 1 Tim. 2:8, will have men to "pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting:" because, as troubled water is unfit to receive the image of the sun, so the heart filled with impure and disorderly affections is not fit for divine communications. Man's sensitive appetite was, indeed, naturally carried out towards objects grateful to the senses. For seeing man was made up of body and soul, and God made man to glorify and enjoy him, and for this end to use his good creatures in subordination to himself; it is plain that man was naturally inclined both to spiritual and sensible good; yet to spiritual good, the chief good as his ultimate end. Therefore, his sensitive motions and inclinations were subordinate to his reason and will, which lay straight with the will of God, and were not in the least contrary to the same. Otherwise he would have been made up of contradictions; his soul being naturally inclined to God, as the chief end, in the superior part thereof; and the same soul inclined to the creature, as the chief end, in the inferior part thereof, as they call it—which is impossible, for man, at the same instant, cannot have two chief ends.

Man's affections, then, in his primitive state, were pure from all defilement, free from all disorder and distemper, because in all their motions they were duly subjected to his clear reason, and his holy will. He had also an executive power answerable to his will; a power to do the good which he knew should be done, and which he was inclined to do, even to fulfil the whole law of God. If it had not been so, God would have required of him perfect obedience; for to say that "the Lord gathers where he has not sown, " is but the blasphemy of a wicked heart against so good and bountiful a God, Matt. 25:24-26.

From what has been said, it may be gathered, that the original righteousness explained was universal and natural—yet mutable.

1. It was UNIVERSAL, both with respect to the subject of it—the whole man; and the object of it—the whole law. Universal, I say, with respect to the subject of it; for this righteousness was diffused through the whole man—it was a blessed leaven, which leavened the whole lump. There was not a wrong pin in the tabernacle of human nature, when God set it up, however shattered it is now. Man was then holy in soul, body, and spirit; while the soul remained untainted, its lodging was kept clean and undefiled; the members of the body were consecrated vessels, and instruments of righteousness. A combat between flesh and spirit, reason and appetite, nay, the least inclination to sin, or lust of the flesh in the inferior part of the soul, was utterly inconsistent with this uprightness in which man was created; and has been invented to veil the corruption of man's nature, and to obscure the grace of God in Jesus Christ; it looks very much like the language of fallen Adam, laying his own sin at his Maker's door, Gen. 3:12, "The woman whom you gave me—she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. "

But as this righteousness was universal in respect of the subject, because it spread through the whole man; so also it was universal in respect of the object, the holy law. There was nothing in the law but what was agreeable to his reason and will, as God made him, though sin has now set him at odds with it; his soul was shaped out in length and breadth to the commandment, though exceeding broad; so that his original righteousness was not only perfect in its parts—but in degrees.

2. As it was universal, so it was NATURAL to him, and not supernatural in that state. Not that it was essential to man, as man, for then he could not have lost it, without the loss of his very being; but it was natural to him—he was created with it, and it was necessary to the perfection of man, as he came out of the hand of God, necessary to his being placed in a state of integrity. Yet,

3. It was MUTABLE; it was a righteousness that might be lost, as is manifested by the doleful event. His will was not absolutely indifferent to good and evil; God set it towards good only—yet he did not so fix and confirm its inclinations, that it could not alter. No, it was moveable to evil, and that only by man himself, God having given him a sufficient power to stand in this integrity, if he had pleased. Let no man quarrel with God's works in this; for if Adam had been unchangeably righteous, he must have been so either by nature or by free gift—by nature he could not be so, for that is proper to God, and incommunicable to any creature; if by free gift, then no wrong was done to him in withholding what he could not crave. Confirmation in a righteous state is a reward of grace, given upon continuing righteous through the state of trial, and would have been given to Adam if he had stood out the time appointed for probation by the Creator; and accordingly is given to the saints upon account of the merits of Christ, who "was obedient even unto death. " And herein believers have the advantage of Adam, that they can never totally nor finally fall away from grace.

Thus was man made originally righteous, being created in "God's own image, " Gen. 1:27, which consists in the positive qualities of "knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, " Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24. "All that God made was very good, " according to their several natures, Gen. 1:31. And so was man morally good, being made after the image of him who is "good and upright, " Psalm 25:8. Without this, he could not have answered the great end of his creation, which was, to know, love, and serve his God, according to his will; nay, he could not be created otherwise, for he must either be conformed to the law in his powers, principles, and inclinations, or not—if he was, then he was righteous; and, if not, he was a sinner, which is absurd and horrible to imagine.

II. I shall lay before you some of those things which accompanied or flowed from the righteousness of man's primitive state.

Happiness is the result of holiness; and as this was a holy, so it was a happy state.

1. Man was then a very glorious creature. We have reason to suppose, that as Moses' face shone when he came down from the mount, so man had a very lightsome and pleasant countenance, and beautiful body, while as yet there was no darkness of sin in him at all. But seeing God himself is "glorious in holiness, " Exod. 15:11, surely that spiritual loveliness which the Lord put upon man at his creation, made him a very glorious creature. O, how did light shine in his holy life, to the glory of the Creator! while every action was but the darting forth of a ray and beam of that glorious unmixed light which God had set up in his soul, while that lamp of love, lighted from heaven, continued burning in his heart, as in the holy place; and the law of the Lord, put in his inward parts by the finger of God, was kept by him there, as in the most holy place. There was no impurity to be seen without; no squint look in the eyes, after any unclean thing; the tongue spoke nothing but the language of heaven; and, in a word, "the King's son was all glorious within, " and his "clothing of wrought gold. "

2. He was the favourite of Heaven. He shone brightly in the image of God; who cannot but love his own image, wherever it appears. While he was alone in the world, he was not alone, for God was with him. His communion and fellowship were with his Creator, and that immediately; for as yet there was nothing to turn away the face of God from the work of his own hands, seeing sin had not as yet entered, which alone could make the breach.

By the favour of God he was advanced to be confederate with heaven in the first covenant, called the covenant of works. God reduced the law, which he gave in his creation, into the form of a covenant, whereof perfect obedience was the condition—life was the thing promised, and death the penalty. As for the condition, one great branch of the natural law was, that man should believe whatever God revealed, and should do whatever he commanded; accordingly, God making this covenant with man, extended his duty to the "not eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil;" and the law thus extended, was the rule of man's covenant obedience. How easy were these terms to him who had the natural law written on his heart; and that inclining him to obey this positive law revealed to him, it seems, by an audible voice, Gen. 2:16, 17, the matter whereof was so very easy! And indeed, it was highly reasonable that the rule and matter of his covenant obedience should be thus extended, that which was added being a thing in itself indifferent, where his obedience was to turn upon the precise point of the will of God, the plainest evidence of true obedience; and it being in an external thing, wherein his obedience or disobedience would be most clear and conspicuous.

Now, upon this condition, God promised him life, the continuance of natural life, in the union of soul and body, and of spiritual life, in the favour of his Creator—he promised him also eternal life in heaven, to have been entered into when he should have passed the time of his trial upon earth, and the Lord should see fit to transport him into the upper paradise. This promise of life was included in the threatening of death, mentioned, Gen. 2:17. For while God says, "In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die;" it is, in effect, "If you do not eat of it, you shall surely live. " And this was sacramentally confirmed by another tree in the garden, called therefore, "The Tree of Life, " which he was debarred from, when he had sinned; Gen. 3:22, 23, "Lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever; therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden. "

Yet it is not to be thought that man's life and death did hang only on this matter of the forbidden fruit—but on the whole law; for so says the apostle, Gal. 3:10, "It is written, Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. " That of the forbidden fruit was a revealed part of Adam's religion, and so was necessary expressly to be laid before him; but as to the natural law, he naturally knew death to be the wages of disobedience, for the very heathens were not ignorant of this, "knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, " Romans 1:32. Moreover, the promise included in the threatening, secured Adam's life, according to the covenant, as long as he obeyed the natural law, with the addition of that positive command; so that he needed nothing to be expressed to him in the covenant but what concerned the eating of the forbidden fruit.

That eternal life in heaven was promised in this covenant, is plain from this, that the threatening was of eternal death in hell, to which, when man had made himself liable, Christ was promised, by his death to purchase eternal life. And Christ himself expounds the promise of the covenant of works, of eternal life, while he proposes the condition of that covenant to a proud young man, who, though he had not Adam's stock—yet would needs enter into life in the way of working, as Adam was to have done under this covenant, Matt. 19:17, "If you will enter into life" (namely, eternal life, by doing, ver. 16), "keep the commandments. "

The penalty was death, Gen. 2:17, "In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die. " The death threatened was such as the life promised was, and that most justly; namely, temporal, spiritual, and eternal death. The event is a commentary on this; for that very day he did eat thereof he was a dead man in law—but the execution was stopped because of his posterity, then in his loins, and another covenant was prepared—however, that day his body got its death-wound, and became mortal. Death also seized his soul; he lost his original righteousness, and the favour of God; witness the pangs of conscience which made him hide himself from God. And he became liable to eternal death, which would have actually followed of course, if the Mediator had not been provided, who found him bound with the cords of death, as a malefactor ready to be led to execution. Thus you have a short description of the covenant into which the Lord brought man in the state of innocence.

And does it seem a small thing unto you, that earth was thus confederate with heaven? This could have been done to none but him whom the King of Heaven delighted to honour. It was an act of grace, worthy of the gracious God whose favourite he was; for there was grace and free favour in the first covenant, though the exceeding riches of grace, as the apostle calls it, Eph. 2:7, were reserved for the second. It was certainly an act of grace, favour, and admirable condescension in God, to enter into a covenant, and such a covenant, with his own creature. Man was not at his own—but at God's disposal, nor had he anything to work with but what he had received from God. There was no proportion between the work and the promised reward. Before that covenant, man was bound to perfect obedience, in virtue of his natural dependence on God; and death was naturally the wages of sin, which the justice of God could and would have required, though there had never been any covenant between God and man—but God was free; man could never have required eternal life as the reward of his work, if there had not been such a covenant. God was free to have disposed of his creatures as he saw fit—if he had stood in his integrity to the end of time, and there had been no covenant promising eternal life to him upon his obedience, God might have withdrawn his supporting hand at last and so have made him creep back into nothing, whence almighty power had drawn him forth. And, what wrong could have been in this, for God would have only taken back what he freely gave? But now, the covenant being made, God becomes debtor to his own faithfulness—if man will work, he may crave the reward on the ground of the covenant. Well might the angels, then, upon his being raised to this dignity, have given him this salutation—"Hail! you who is highly favoured, the Lord is with you. "

3. God made him lord of the world, prince of the inferior creatures, universal Lord and emperor of the whole earth. His creator gave him dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, over all the earth, yes, and every living thing that moves on the earth; he "put all things under his feet, " Psalm 8:6-8. He gave him a power, soberly to use and dispose of the creatures in the earth, sea, and air. Thus man was God's deputy governor in the lower world, and this his dominion was an image of God's sovereignty. This was common to the man and to the woman—but the man had one thing peculiar to him, namely, that he had dominion over the woman also, 1 Cor. 11:7. Behold how the creatures came unto him, to own their subjection, and to do him homage as their Lord, and quietly stood before him until he put names on them as his own, Gen. 2:19. Man's face struck an awe upon them; the stoutest creatures stood astonished, tamely and quietly owning him as their Lord and ruler. Thus was man "crowned with glory and honour, " Psalm 8:5. The Lord dealt most liberally and bountifully with him, "put all things under his feet;" only he kept one thing, one tree in the garden, out of his hands, even the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

But you may say, and did he grudge him this? I answer, Nay; but when he had made him thus holy and happy, he graciously gave him this restriction, which was in its own nature a prop and stay to keep him from falling. And this I say upon these three grounds:

(1. ) As it was most proper for the honour of God, who had made man Lord of the lower world, to assert his sovereign dominion over all, by some particular visible sign; so it was most proper for man's safety. Man being set down in a beautiful paradise, it was an act of infinite wisdom, and of grace too, to keep him from one single tree, as a visible testimony that he must hold all of his Creator, as his great landlord; that so, while he saw himself Lord of the creatures, he might not forget that he was still God's subject.

(2. ) This was a memorial of his mutable state given to him from heaven, to be laid up by him for his greater caution. For man was created with a free will to good, which the tree of life was an evidence of—but his will was also free to evil, and the forbidden tree was to him a memorial thereof. It was, in a manner, a continual watchword to him against evil, a beacon set up before him, to bid him beware of dashing himself to pieces on the rock of sin.

(3. ) God made man upright, directed towards God as his chief end. He set him, like Moses, on the top of the hill, holding up his hands to heaven—and as Aaron and Hur held up Moses' hands, Exodus 17:10-12, so God gave man an erect figure of body, and forbade him the eating of this tree to keep him in that posture of uprightness wherein he was created. God made the beasts looking down towards the earth, to show that their satisfaction might be brought from thence; and accordingly it does afford them what is suited to their appetite—but the erect figure of man's body, which looks upward, showed him that his happiness lay above him, in God; and that he was to expect it from heaven, and not from earth. Now this fair tree, of which he was forbidden to eat, taught him the same lesson; that his happiness lay not in enjoyment of the creatures, for there was a lack even in paradise—so that the forbidden tree was, in effect, the hand of all the creatures, pointing man away from themselves to God for happiness. It was a sign of emptiness hung before the door of the creation, with the inscription, "This is not your rest. "

4. As he had a perfect tranquillity within his own bosom, so he had a perfect calm without. His heart had nothing to reproach him with; conscience then had nothing to do—but to direct, approve, and feast him—and without, there was nothing to annoy him. The happy pair lived in perfect amity; and though their knowledge was vast, true, and clear—they knew no shame. Though they were naked, there were no blushes in their faces; for sin, the seed of shame, was not yet sown, Gen. 2:25. And their beautiful bodies were not capable of injuries from the air—so they had no need of clothes, which are originally the badges of our shame. They were liable to no diseases nor pains—and, though they were not to live idle—yet toil, weariness, and sweat of the brows, were not known in this state.

5. Man had a life of pure delight, and unalloyed pleasure, in this state. Rivers of pure pleasure ran through it. The earth, with the product thereof, was now in its glory; nothing had yet come in to mar the beauty of the creatures. God placed him, not in a common place of the earth—but in Eden, a place eminent for pleasantness, as the name of it imports; nay, not only in Eden—but in the garden of Eden—the most pleasant spot of that pleasant place; a garden planted by God himself, to be the mansion-house of this his favourite. When God made the other living creatures, he said, Let the water bring forth the moving creature, " Gen. 1:29, and, Let the earth bring forth the living creature, " verse 24. But when man was to be made, he said; "Let us make man, " verse 18. So, when the rest of the earth was to be furnished with herbs and trees, God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, and the fruit-tree, " etc. , verse 11. But of paradise it is said, "God planted it, " Gen. 2:8, which cannot but denote a singular excellence in that garden, beyond all other parts of the then beautiful earth.

He was provided with everything necessary and delightful; for there was "every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food, " verse 9. He knew not those delights which luxury has invented for the gratification of lust—but his delights were such as came out of the hand of God; without passing through sinful hands, which always leave marks of impurity on what they touch. So his delights were pure—his pleasures refined.

Yet may I show you a more excellent way—wisdom had entered into his heart; surely, then, knowledge was pleasant unto his soul. What delight do some find in their discoveries of the works of nature, by those scraps of knowledge they have gathered! but how much more exquisite pleasure had Adam, while his piercing eyes read the book of God's works, which God laid before him, to the end he might glorify him in the same; and therefore had certainly fitted him for the work! But, above all, his knowledge of God, and that as his God, and the communion which he had with him, could not but afford him the most refined and exquisite pleasure in the innermost recesses of his heart. Great is that delight which the saints find in those views of the glory of God, which their souls are sometimes let into, while they are compassed about with many infirmities—and much may well be allowed to sinless Adam; who no doubt had a peculiar relish of those pleasures.

6. He was immortal. He would never have died—if he had not sinned; it was in case of sin that death was threatened, Gen. 2:17, which shows it to be the consequence of sin, and not of the sinless human nature. The perfect constitution of his body, which came out of God's hand very good, and the righteousness and holiness of his soul, removed all inward causes of death; nothing being prepared for the grave's devouring mouth—but the vile body, Phil. 3:21, and those who have sinned, Job 24:19. And God's special care of his innocent creature, secured him against outward violence. The apostle's testimony is express, Romans 5:12, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. " Behold the door by which death came in! Satan wrought with his lies until he got it opened, and so death entered; therefore, is he said to have been "a murderer from the beginning, " John 8:44.

Thus have I shown you the holiness and happiness of men in this state. If any should say, What is all this to us, who never tasted of that holy and happy state? they must know, it nearly concerns us, as Adam was the root of all mankind, our common head and representative; who received from God our inheritance and stock, to keep it for himself and his children, and to convey it to them. The Lord put all mankind's stock, as it were, in one ship; and, as we ourselves would have done, he made our common father the pilot. He put a blessing in the root, to have been, if rightly managed diffused into all the branches. According to our text, making Adam upright, he made man upright; and all mankind had that uprightness in him—for, "if the root be holy, so are the branches. " But more of this afterwards. Had Adam stood, none would have quarrelled with the representation.

III. The Doctrine of the State of Innocence APPLIED.

Use 1. For INFORMATION. This shows us,

1. That not God—but man himself was the cause of his ruin. God made him upright; his Creator set him up—but he threw himself down. Was the Lord's directing and inclining him to good, the reason of his woeful choice? or did heaven deal so sparingly with him, that his pressing needs sent him to hell to seek supply? Nay, man was, and is, the cause of his own ruin.

2. God may most justly require of men perfect obedience to his law, and condemn them for their not obeying it perfectly, though now they have no ability to keep it. In so doing, he gathers but where he has sown. He gave man ability to keep the whole law; man has lost it by his own fault; but his sin could never take away that right which God has to exact perfect obedience of his creature, and to punish in case of disobedience.

3. Behold here the infinite obligation we lie under to Jesus Christ, the second Adam, who, with his own precious blood has bought our freedom, and freely makes offer of it again to us, Hos. 13:9, and that with the advantage of everlasting security, and that it can never be altogether lost any more, John 10:28, 29. Free grace will fix those, whom free will shook down into the gulf of misery.

Use 2. This conveys a REPROOF to three sorts of persons:

1. To those who hate religion in the power of it, wherever it appears; and can take pleasure in nothing but in the world and in their lusts. Surely such men are far from righteousness—they are haters of God, Romans 1:30, for they are haters of his image. Upright Adam in paradise would have been a great eyesore to all such persons; as he was to the serpent, whose seed they prove themselves to be, by their malignity.

2. It reproves those who put religion to shame, and those who are ashamed of religion, before a graceless world. There is a generation, who make so bold with the God who made them, and can in a moment crush them, that they ridicule piety, and make a mock of seriousness. "Against whom do you sport yourselves? against whom make you a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue?" Isaiah 57:4. Is it not against God himself, whose image, in some measure restored to some of his creatures, makes them fools in your eyes? But, "be not mockers, lest your bands be made strong, " Isaiah 28:22. Holiness was the glory which God put on man when he made him; but now the sons of men turn that glory into shame, because they themselves glory in their shame. There are others that secretly approve of religion, and in religious company will profess it, who, at other times, to be neighbour-like, are ashamed to own it; so weak are they, that they are blown over with the wind of the wicked's mouth. A broad laughter, an impious jest, a scoffing jeer, out of a profane mouth, is to many an unanswerable argument against piety and seriousness; for, in the cause of religion, they are as silly doves without heart. O, that such would consider that weighty sentence, "Whoever therefore shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels, " Mark 8:38.

3. It reproves the proud self-conceited professor, who admires himself in a garment of rags which he has patched together. There are many who, when once they have gathered some scraps of knowledge of religion, and have attained to some reformation of life, swell big with conceit of themselves; a sad sign that the effects of the fall lie so heavy upon them that they have not as yet come to themselves, Luke 15:17. They have eyes behind, to see their attainments; but no eyes within, no eyes before, to see their wants, which would surely humble them—for true knowledge makes men to see, both what once they were, and what they are at present; and so is humbling, and will not allow them to be content with any measure of grace attained; but inclines them to press forward, "forgetting the things that are behind, " Phil. 3:13. But those men are such a spectacle of commiseration, as one would be who had set his palace on fire, and was glorying in a cottage which he had built for himself out of the rubbish, though so very weak, that it could not stand against a storm.

Use 3. Of LAMENTATION.

Here was a stately building; man carved like a fair palace—but now lying in ashes—let us stand and look on the ruins, and drop a tear. This is a lamentation, and shall be for lamentation. Could we avoid weeping, if we saw our country ruined, and turned by the enemy into a wilderness? if we saw our houses on fire, and our property perishing in the flames? But all this comes far short of the dismal sight; man fallen as a star from heaven! Ah, may we not now say, "O that we were as in months past!" when there was no stain in our nature, no cloud on our minds, no pollution in our hearts! Had we never been in better case, the matter had been less; but those who were brought up in scarlet—do now embrace dunghills! Where is our primitive glory now? Once no darkness in the mind, no rebellion in the will, no disorder in the affections. But ah! "How is the faithful city become an harlot! Righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Our silver is become dross, our wine mixed with water. " That heart which was once the temple of God, is now turned into a den of thieves. Let our name be Ichabod, for the glory is departed!

Happy were you, O man! who was like unto you? No pain nor sickness could affect you, no death could approach you, no sigh was heard from you—until these bitter fruits were plucked from the forbidden tree! Heaven shone upon you, and earth smiled—you were the companion of angels, and the envy of devils. But how low is he now laid, who was created for dominion, and made lord of the world! "The crown is fallen from our head—woe unto us that we have sinned. " The creatures that waited to do him service, are now, since the fall, set in battle-array against him, and the least of them, having commission, proves too hard for him. Waters overflow the old world; fire consumes Sodom; the stars in their courses fight against Sisera; frogs, flies, lice, etc. , become executioners to Pharaoh and his Egyptians; worms eat up Herod—yes, man needs a league with the beasts; yes, with the very stones of the field, Job 5:23, having reason to fear, that everyone who finds him will slay him. Alas! how are we fallen! how are we plunged into a gulf of misery! The sun has gone down on us, death has come in at our windows; our enemies have put out our two eyes, and sport themselves with our miseries.

Let us, then, lie down in the dust, let shame and confusion cover us. Nevertheless, there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Come then, O sinner, look to Jesus Christ, the second Adam—leave the first Adam and his covenant; come over to the Mediator and Surety of the new and better covenant; and let your hearts say, "Be you our ruler, and let this breach be under your hand. " Let your "eye trickle down, and cease not, without any intermission, until the Lord looks down, and beholds from heaven, " Lamentations 3:49, 50.

IV. The State of NATURE

1. The SINFULNESS of man's natural state

Genesis 6:5. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. "

We have seen what man was, as God made him; a lovely and happy creature—let us view him now as he has unmade himself; and we shall see him a sinful and a miserable creature. This is the sad state we are brought into by the fall; a state as black and doleful, as the former was glorious; and this we commonly call, "The State of Nature;" or "Man's Natural State;" according to that of the apostle, Ephesians 2:3, "And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. " And herein two things are to be considered—1. The sinfulness; 2. The misery of this state, in which all the unregenerate live. I begin with the sinfulness of man's natural state, whereof the text gives us a full, though short account. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great, " &e.

The scope and design of these words are, to clear God's justice in bringing the flood on the old world. There are two particular causes taken notice of in the preceding verses:

1. Mixed marriages, Genesis 6:2, "The sons of God, " the posterity of Seth and Enoch, professors of the true religion, married with "the daughters of men, " the profane, cursed race of Cain. They did not carry the matter before the Lord, that he might choose for them, Psalm 48:14—but without any respect to the will of God, they chose, not according to the rules of their faith—but of their fancy; they "saw that they were fair;" and their marriage with them occasioned their divorce from God. This was one of the causes of the deluge, which swept away the old world. Would to God that all professors in our day could plead not guilty—but though that sin brought on the deluge—yet the deluge has not swept away that sin; which as of old, so in our day, may justly be looked upon as one of the causes of the decay of religion. It was an ordinary thing among the Pagans, to change their gods, as they changed their condition into a married lot—many sad instances the Christian world affords of the same; as if people were of Pharaoh's opinion, That religion is only for those who have no other care upon their heads, Exodus 5:17.

2. Great oppression, Genesis 6:4, "There were giants in the earth in those days;" men of great stature, great strength, and monstrous wickedness, "filling the earth with violence, " Genesis 6:11. But neither their strength, nor treasures of wickedness, could profit them in the day of wrath. Yet the gain of oppression still causes many to forget the terror of this dreadful example.

Thus much for the connection, and what particular crimes that generation was guilty of. But every person that was swept away by the flood could not be guilty of these things; and "shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Therefore, in my text, there is a general indictment drawn up against them all, "The wickedness of man was great in the earth, " etc. , and clearly proved, for God saw it. Two things are here laid to their charge:

1. Corruption of life, wickedness, great wickedness. I understand this of the wickedness of their lives; for it is plainly distinguished from the wickedness of their hearts. The sins of their outward lives were great in the nature of them, and greatly aggravated by their attendant circumstances—and this not only among those of the race of cursed Cain—but those of holy Seth; the wickedness of man was great. And then it is added, "in the earth:" (1. ) To vindicate God's severity, in that he not only cut off sinners—but defaced the beauty of the earth, and swept off the brute creatures from it, by the deluge; that as men had set the marks of their impiety, God might set the marks of his indignation, on the earth. (2. ) To show the heinousness of their sin, in making the earth, which God had so adorned for the use of man--a sink of sin, and a stage whereon to act their wickedness, in defiance of Heaven. God saw this corruption of life—he not only knew it, and took notice of it—but he made them to know that he took notice of it, and that he had not forsaken the earth, though they had forsaken heaven.

2. Corruption of nature—Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. All their wicked practices are here traced to the fountain and spring-head—a corrupt heart was the source of all. The soul, which was made upright in all its faculties, is now wholly disordered. The heart, that was made according to God's own heart, is now the reverse of it, a forge of evil imaginations, a sink of inordinate affections, and a storehouse of all impiety, Mark 7:21, 22. Behold the heart of the natural man, as it is opened in our text. The mind is defiled; the thoughts of the heart are evil; the will and affections are defiled—the imagination of the thoughts of the heart, that is, whatever the heart frames within itself by thinking, such as judgment, choice, purposes, devices, desires, every inward motion, or rather the frame of the thoughts of the heart, namely, the frame, make, or mould of these, 1 Chronicles 29:18, is evil.

Yes, and every imagination, every frame of his thoughts, is evil. The heart is ever framing something; but never one right thing—the frame of thoughts, in the heart of man, is exceedingly various; yet are they never cast into a right frame. But is there not, at least, a mixture of good in them? No, they are only evil; there is nothing in them truly good and acceptable to God—nor can anything be so, which comes out of that forge; where, not the Spirit of God—but "the prince of the power of the air, works, " Ephesians 2:2. Whatever changes may be found in them, are only from evil to evil; for the imagination of the heart, or frame of thoughts in natural men, is evil continually, or every day. From the first day to the last day, in this state, they are in midnight darkness; there is not the glimmering of the light of holiness in them; not one holy thought can ever be produced by the unholy heart.

O, what a vile heart is this! O, what a corrupt nature is this! The tree that always brings forth fruit—but never good fruit, whatever soil it be set in, whatever pains be taken with it, must naturally be an evil tree—and what can that heart be, whereof every imagination, every set of thoughts, is only evil, and that continually? Surely that corruption is ingrained in our hearts, interwoven with our very natures, has sunk deep into our souls, and will never be cured but by a miracle of grace. Now such is man's heart, such is his nature, until regenerating grace changes it. God, who searches the heart, saw man's heart was so, he took special notice of it—and the faithful and true Witness cannot mistake our case; though we are most apt to mistake ourselves in this point, and generally overlook it.

Beware that there be not a thought in your wicked heart saying, "What is that to us? Let that generation, of whom the text speaks, see to that. " For the Lord has left the case of that generation on record, to be a looking-glass to all after generations, wherein they may see their own corruption of heart, and what their lives would be too, if he restrained them not—for "as in water face answers to face, so the heart of man to man, " Proverbs 27:19. Adam's fall has framed all men's hearts alike in this matter. Hence the apostle, Romans 3:10-18, proves the corruption of the nature, hearts, and lives of all men, from what the psalmist says of the wicked in his day, Psalm 14:1-3; 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; 36:1; and from what Jeremiah says of the wicked in his day, Jeremiah 9:3, and from what Isaiah says of those that lived in his time, Isaiah 57:7, 8, and concludes, Genesis 6:19, "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. "

Had the history of the deluge been transmitted unto us, without the reason thereof in the text, we might thence have gathered the corruption and total depravity of man's nature—for what other quarrel could the holy and just God have with the infants that were destroyed by the flood, seeing they had no actual sin? If we saw a wise man, who, having made a beautiful piece of work, and heartily approved of it when he gave it out of his hand, as fit for the use it was designed for, rise up in wrath and break it all in pieces, when he looked on it afterwards; should we not thence conclude that the frame of it had been quite marred since it came out of his hand, and that it does not serve for the use it was at first designed for? How much more, when we see the holy and wise God destroying the work of his own hands, once solemnly pronounced by him very good, may we not conclude that the original frame thereof is utterly marred, that it cannot be mended—but must needs be new made, or lost altogether? Genesis 6:6, 7, "And it repeated the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart; and the Lord said, I will destroy man, " or blot him out; as a man does a sentence out of a book, that cannot be corrected by cutting off some letters, syllables, or words, and interlining others here and there—but must needs be wholly new framed.

But did the deluge carry off this corruption of man's nature? did it mend the matter? No, it did not. God, in his holy Providence, "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the" new "world may become guilty before God, " as well as the old, permits that corruption of nature to break out in Noah, the father of the new world, after the deluge was over. Behold him, as another Adam, sinning in the fruit of a tree, Genesis 9:20, 21, "He planted a vineyard, and he drank of the wine, and was drunken, and he was uncovered within his tent. " More than that, God gives the same reason against a new deluge, which he gives in our text for bringing that on the old world—"I will not, " says he, "again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth, " Genesis 8:21. Whereby it is intimated that there is no mending of the matter by this means; and that if he should always take the same course with men that he had done, he would be always sending deluges on the earth, seeing the corruption of man's nature still remains.

But though the flood could not carry off the corruption of nature—yet it pointed at the way how it is to be done; namely, that men must be "born of water and of the Spirit, " raised from spiritual death in sin by the grace of Jesus Christ, who came by water and blood; out of which a new world of saints arise in regeneration, even as the new world of sinners out of the waters, where they had long lain buried, as it were, in the ark. This we learn from 1 Peter 3:20, 21, where the apostle, speaking of Noah's ark, says, "Wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us. " Now the waters of the deluge being a like figure to baptism, it plainly follows, that they signified as baptism does "the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit. " To conclude then, those waters, though now dried up, may serve us still for a looking-glass, in which we may see the total corruption of our nature, and the necessity of regeneration.

From the text, thus explained, this weighty point of doctrine arises, which he who runs may read in it, namely, Man's nature is now wholly corrupted. There is a sad alteration, an astonishing overturning in the nature of man—where, at first, there was nothing evil, now there is nothing good. In treating on this doctrine, I shall,

I. Confirm it.

II. Represent this corruption of nature in its several parts.

III. Show you how man's nature comes to be thus corrupted.

Apply this doctrine.

I. I shall CONFIRM the doctrine of the corruption of nature.

I shall hold the glass to your eyes, wherein you may see your sinful nature; which, though God takes particular notice of it, many quite overlook. Here we shall consult the word of God, and men's experience and observation.

For scripture-proof, let us consider,

1. How the scripture takes particular notice of fallen Adam's communicating his image to his posterity, Gen. 5:3, "Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth. " Compare with this the first verse of that chapter, "In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him. " Behold here, how the image after which man was made, and the image after which he is begotten, are opposed. Man was created in the likeness of God; that is, the holy and righteous God made a holy and righteous creature—but fallen Adam begat a son, not in the likeness of God—but in his own likeness; that is, corrupt sinful Adam begat a corrupt sinful son. For as the image of God bore righteousness and immortality in it, as was shown before; so this image of fallen Adam bore corruption and death in it, 1 Cor. 15:49, 50, compare verse 22. Moses, in that fifth chapter of Genesis, giving us the first bill of mortality that ever was in the world, ushers it in with this, that dying Adam begat mortals. Having sinned, he became mortal, according to the threatening; and so he begat a son in his own likeness--sinful, and therefore mortal. Thus sin and death passed on all. Doubtless he begat both Cain and Abel in his own likeness, as well as Seth. But it is not recorded of Abel; because he left no children behind him, and his becoming the first sacrifice to death in the world, was a sufficient document of it—nor of Cain, to whom it might have been thought peculiar, because of his monstrous wickedness; and besides, his posterity was drowned in the flood—but it is recorded of Seth, because be was the father of the holy seed; and from him all mankind since the flood have descended, and fallen Adam's own likeness with them.

2. It appears from that text of Scripture, Job 14:4, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. " Our first parents were unclean, how then can we be clean? How could our immediate parents be clean? how can our children be so? The uncleanness here referred to, is a sinful uncleanness; for it is such as makes man's days full of trouble—and it is natural, being derived from unclean parents—"Man is born of a woman, " ver. 1, "And how can he be clean, that is born of a woman?" Job 25:4. The omnipotent God, whose power is not here challenged, could bring a clean thing out of an unclean, and so did in the case of the man Christ—but no other being can. Every person who is born according to the course of nature is born unclean. If the root is corrupt, so must the branches be. Neither is the matter mended, though the parents be sanctified ones; for they are but holy in part, and that by grace, not by nature! and they beget their children as sinful men, not as holy men. Therefore as the circumcised parent begets an uncircumcised child, and after the purest grain is sown, we reap chaff with the corn; so the holiest parent begets unholy children, and cannot communicate their grace to them, as they do their nature; which many godly parents find true, in their sad experience.

3. Consider the confession of the psalmist David, Psalm 51:5, "Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. " Here he ascends from his actual sin, to the fountain of it, namely, corrupt nature. He was a man according to God's own heart; but from the beginning it was not so with him. He was begotten in lawful marriage—but when the lump was shaken in the womb, it was a sinful lump. Hence the corruption of nature in called the "old man;" being as old as ourselves, older than grace, even in those that are sanctified from the womb.

4. Hear our Lord's determination of the point, John 3:6, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh. " Behold the universal corruption of mankind—all are flesh! Not that all are frail, though that is a sad truth too; yes, and our natural frailty is an evidence of our natural corruption; but that is not the sense of the text—the meaning of it is, all are corrupt and sinful, and that naturally. Hence our Lord argues, that because they are flesh, therefore they must be born again, or else they cannot enter into the kingdom of God, ver. 3-5. And as the corruption of our nature shows the absolute necessity of regeneration, so the absolute necessity of regeneration plainly proves the corruption of our nature; for why should a man need a second birth, if his nature were not quite marred in his first birth?

5. Man certainly is sunk very low now, in comparison of what he once was. God made him but a "little lower than the angels:" but now we find him likened to the beasts that perish. He hearkened to a brute--and is now become like one of them. Like Nebuchadnezzar, his portion in his natural state is with the beasts, "minding only earthly things, " Phil. 3:19. Nay, brutes, in some sort, have the advantage of the natural man, who is sunk a degree below them. He is more negligent of what concerns him most, than the stork, or the turtle-dove, or the crane, or the swallow, in what is for their interest, Jer. 8:7. He is more stupid than the ox or donkey, Isaiah 1:3. I find him sent to school to learn of the ant, which has no guide or leader to go before her; no overseer or officer to compel or stir her up to work; no ruler—but may do as she wills, being under the dominion of none; yet "provides her food in the summer and harvest, " Proverbs 6:6-8; while the natural man has all these, and yet exposes himself to eternal starving. Nay, more than all this, the Scriptures hold out the natural man, not only as lacking the good qualities of these creatures—but as a compound of the evil qualities of the worst of the creatures; in whom the fierceness of the lion, the craft of the fox, the unteachableness of the wild donkey, the filthiness of the dog and swine, the poison of the asp, and such like, meet. Truth itself calls them "serpents, a generation of vipers;" yes, more, even "children of the devil, " Matt. 23:33; John 8:44. Surely, then, man's nature is miserably corrupted.

6. "We are by nature the children of wrath, " Eph. 2:3. We are worthy of, and liable to, the wrath of God; and this by nature—therefore, doubtless, we are by nature sinful creatures. We are condemned before we have done good or evil; under the curse, before we know what it is. But, "will a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey?" Amos 3:4; that is, will the holy and just God roar in his wrath against man, if he be not, by his sin, made a prey for his wrath? No, he will not; he cannot. Let us conclude then, that, according to the word of God, man's nature is a corrupt nature.

If we consult experience, and observe the case of the world, in those things that are obvious to any person who will not shut his eyes against clear light, we shall quickly perceive such fruits as discover this root of bitterness. I shall propose a few things that may serve to convince us in this point:

1. Who sees not a flood of miseries overflowing the world? Where can a man go where he shall not dip his foot, if he go not over head and ears, in it? Everyone at home and abroad, in city and country, in palaces and cottages, is groaning under some one thing or other, ungrateful to him. Some are oppressed with poverty, some chastened with sickness and pain, some are lamenting their losses, everyone has a cross of one sort or another. No man's condition is so soft—but there is some thorn of uneasiness in it. At length death, the wages of sin, comes after these its harbingers, and sweeps all away. Now, what but sin has opened the sluice of sorrow? There is not a complaint nor sigh heard in the world, nor a tear that falls from our eye—but it is an evidence that man is fallen as a star from heaven; for God distributes sorrows in his anger, Job 21:17. This is a plain proof of the corruption of nature—forasmuch as those who have not yet actually sinned, have their share of these sorrows; yes, and draw their first breath in the world weeping, as if they knew this world at first sight to be a Bochim, the place of weepers. There are graves of the smallest, as well as of the largest size, in the churchyard; and there are never lacking some in the world, who are, like Rachel, weeping for their children because they are not, Matt. 2:18.

2. Observe how early this corruption of nature begins to appear in young ones. Solomon observes, that "even a child is known by his doings, " Proverbs 20:11. It may soon be discerned what way the bias of the heart lies. Do not the children of fallen Adam, before they can go alone, follow their father's footsteps? What a vast deal of little pride, ambition, sinful curiosity, vanity, wilfulness, and averseness to good, appears in them? And, when they creep out of infancy, there is a necessity of using the rod of correction, to drive away the foolishness which is bound in their hearts, Proverbs 20:15, which shows, that, if grace prevails not, the child will be as Ishmael, "a wild ass-man, " as the word is, Gen. 16:12.

3. Take a view of the manifold gross out-breakings of sin in the world—the wickedness of man is yet great in the earth. Behold your bitter fruits of the corruption of our nature, Hosea 4:2, "By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, like the breaking forth of waters, and blood touches blood. " The world is filled with filthiness, and all manner of lewdness, wickedness, and profanity. From whence comes the deluge of sin on the earth—but from the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep, the heart of man, "out of which proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, " etc. , Mark 7:21, 22. You will, it may be, thank God with a whole heart, that you are not like other men; and indeed, you have more reason for it than, I fear, you are aware of; for, as in water face answers to face, so the heart of man to man, Proverbs 28:19. As, looking into clear water, you see your own face; so, looking into your heart, you may see other men's there; and, looking into other men's in them you may see your own. So that the most vile and profane wretches who are in the world, should serve you for a looking-glass; in which you ought to discern the corruption of your own nature—and if you were to do so, you would, with a heart truly touched, thank God, and not yourselves, indeed, that you are not as other men in your lives; seeing the corruption of nature is the same in you as in them.

4. Cast your eye upon those terrible convulsions which the world is thrown into by the lusts of men! Lions make not a prey of lions, nor wolves of wolves—but men are turned lions and wolves to one another, biting and devouring one another. Upon how slight occasions will men sheath their swords in one another! The world is a wilderness, where the clearest fire that men can carry about with them will not frighten away the wild beasts that inhabit it, and that because they are men, and not brutes; but one way or other they will be wounded. Since Cain shed the blood of Abel, the earth has been turned into a slaughter-house; and the chase has been continued, since Nimrod began his hunting; on the earth, as in the sea, the greater still devouring the lesser. When we see the world in such a ferment, everyone attacking another with words or swords, we may conclude there is an evil spirit among them. These violent heats among Adam's sons, show the whole body to be distempered, the whole head to be sick, and the whole heart to be faint. They surely proceed from an inward cause, James 4:1, "lusts that war in our members. "

5. Consider the necessity of human laws, guarded by terrors and punishments; to which we may apply what the apostle says, 1 Tim. 1:9, that "the law is not made for a righteous man—but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, " etc. Man was made for society; and God himself said of the first man, when he had created him, that it was "not fit he should be alone;" yet the case is such now, that, in society, he must be hedged in with thorns. And that from hence we may the better see the corruption of man's nature, let us consider,

(1. ) Every man naturally loves to be at full liberty himself; to have his own will for his law; and, if he were to follow his natural inclinations, he would vote himself out of the reach of all laws, divine and human. Hence some, the power of whose hands has been answerable to their natural inclination, have indeed made themselves absolute, and above laws; agreeably to man's monstrous design at first, to be as gods, Gen. 3:5. Yet,

(2. ) There is no man that would willingly adventure to live in a lawless society—therefore, even pirates and robbers have laws among themselves, though the whole society casts off all respect to law and right. Thus men discover themselves to be conscious of the corruption of nature; not daring to trust one another—but upon security.

(3. ) However dangerous it is to break through the hedge—yet the violence of lust makes many daily adventure to run the risk. They will not only sacrifice their credit and conscience, which last is lightly esteemed in the world; but for the pleasure of a few moments, immediately followed with terror from within, they will lay themselves open to a violent death by the laws of the land wherein they live.

(4. ) The laws are often made to yield to men's lusts. Sometimes whole societies run into such extravagances, that, like a company of prisoners, they break off their fetters, and put their guard to flight; and the voice of laws cannot be heard for the noise of arms. And seldom is there a time, wherein there are not some people so great and daring, that the laws dare not look their impetuous lusts in the face; which made David say, in the case of Joab, who had murdered Abner, "These men, the sons of Zeruiah, be too hard for me, " 2 Sam. 3:39. Lusts sometimes grow too strong for laws, so that the law becomes slack, as the pulse of a dying man, Hab. 1:3, 4.

(5. ) Consider, what necessity often appears of amending old laws, and making new ones; which have their rise from new crimes, of which man's nature is very fruitful. There would be no need of mending the hedge, if men were not, like unruly beasts, still breaking it down. It is astonishing to see what a figure the Israelites, who were separated unto God from among all the nations of the earth, make in their history; what horrible confusions were among them, when there was no king in Israel, as you may see from the eighteenth to the twenty-first chapter of Judges—how hard it was to reform them, when they had the best of magistrates! and how quickly they turned aside again, when they got wicked rulers! I cannot but think, that one grand design of that sacred history, was to discover the corruption of man's nature, the absolute need of the Messiah, and his grace; and that we ought, in reading it, to improve it to that end. How cutting is that word which the Lord has to Samuel, concerning Saul, 1 Sam. 9:17, "The same shall reign over" – or, as the word is, shall restrain – "my people. " O, the corruption of man's nature! the awe and dread of the God of heaven restrains them not; but they must have gods on earth to do it, "to put them to shame, " Judg. 18:7.

6. Consider the remains of that natural corruption in the saints. Though grace has entered—yet corruption is not expelled—though they have got the new creature—yet much of the old corrupt nature remains; and these struggle together within them, as the twins in Rebekah's womb, Gal. 5:17. They find it present with them at all times, and in all places, even in the most retired corners. If a man has a troublesome neighbour, he may move; if he has an ill servant, he may put him away at the term; if a bad companion, he may sometimes leave the house, and be free from molestation that way. But should the saint go into a wilderness, or set up his tent on some remote rock in the sea, where never foot of man, beast, or fowl had touched, there his corrupt heart will be with him. Should he be with Paul, caught up to the third heavens, it will come back with him, 2 Cor. 12:7. It follows him as the shadow does the body; it makes a blot in the fairest line he can draw. It is like the fig-tree on the wall, which however nearly it was cut—yet still grew, until the wall was thrown down—for the roots of it are fixed in the heart, while the saint is in the world, as with bands of iron and brass. It is especially active when he would do good, Romans 7:21, then the fowls come down upon the carcasses. Hence often, in holy duties, the spirit of a saint, as it were, evaporates; and he is left before he is aware, like Michal, with an image in the bed instead of a husband. I need not stand to prove to the godly the corruption of nature in them, for they groan under it; and to prove it to them, were to hold out a candle to let them see the sun—as for the wicked, they are ready to account mole-hills in the saints as big as mountains, if not reckon them all hypocrites. But consider these few things on this head:

(1. ) "If it be thus in the green tree how must it be in the dry?" The saints are not born saints—but made so by the power of regenerating grace. Have they got a new nature, and yet the old remains with them? How great must that corruption be in others, in whom there is no grace!

(2. ) The saints groan under it, as a heavy burden. Hear the apostle, Romans 7:24, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" What though the carnal man lives at ease and quiet, and the corruption of nature is not his burden, is he therefore free from it? No, no! It is because he is dead, that he feels not the sinking weight. Many a groan is heard from a sick bed—but never any from a grave. In the saint, as in the sick man, there is a mighty struggle; life and death striving for the mastery—but in the natural man, as in the dead corpse, there is no noise; because death bears full sway.

(3. ) The godly man resists the old corrupt nature; he strives to mortify it—yet it remains; he endeavours to starve it, and by that means to weaken it—yet it is active. How must it spread then, and strengthen itself in that soul, where it is not starved—but fed! And this is the case of all the unregenerate, who make "provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. " If the garden of the diligent affords him new work daily, in cutting off and rooting up, surely that of the sluggard must needs be "all grown over with thorns. "

7. I shall add but one observation more; and that is, that in every man, naturally, the image of fallen Adam appears. Some children, by the features and lineaments of their face, do, as it were, father themselves—and thus we resemble our first parents. Everyone of us bears the image and impression of the fall upon him; and to evince the truth of this, I appeal to the consciences of all, in these following particulars:

(1. ) Is not sinful curiosity natural to us? and is not this a print of Adam's image? Gen. 3:6. Is not man naturally much more desirous to know new things, than to practice old known truths? How much like old Adam do we look in this eagerness for novelties, and disrelish of old solid doctrines? We seek after knowledge rather than holiness, and study most to know those things which are least edifying. Our wild and roving fancies need a bridle to curb them, while good solid affections must be quickened and spurred on.

(2. ) If the Lord, by his holy law and wise providence, puts a restraint upon us, to keep us back from anything, does not that restraint whet the edge of our natural inclinations, and makes us so much the keener in our desires? And in this do we not betray it plainly, that we are Adam's children? Gen. 3:2-6. I think this cannot be denied; for daily observation evinces, that it is a natural principle, that "stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant, " Proverbs 9:17. The very heathens were convinced, that man was possessed with this spirit of contradiction, though they knew not the spring of it. How often do men let themselves loose in those things, in which, had God left them at liberty, they would have bound up themselves! but corrupt nature takes a pleasure in the very jumping over the hedge. And is it not a repeating of our fathers' folly, that men will rather climb for forbidden fruit, than gather what is shaken off the tree of good providence to them, when they have God's express allowance for it?

(3. ) Which of all the children of Adam is not naturally disposed to hear the instruction that causes to err? And was not this the rock our first parents split upon? Gen. 3:4-6. How apt is weak man, ever since that time, to parley with temptations! "God speaks once, yes twice—yet man perceives it not, " Job 33:14—but he readily listens to Satan. Men might often come fair off, if they would dismiss temptations with abhorrence, when first they appear; if they would nip them in the bud, they would soon die away—but, alas! though we see the train coming at us—yet we stand until it arrives, and we are blown up with its force.

(4. ) Do not the eyes in your head often blind the eyes of the mind? And was not this the very case of our first parents? Gen. 3:6. Man is never more blind than when he is looking on the objects that are most pleasing to sense. Since the eyes of our first parents were opened to the forbidden fruit, men's eyes have been the gates of destruction to their souls; at which impure imaginations and sinful desires have entered the heart, to the wounding of the soul, wasting of the conscience, and bringing dismal effects sometimes on whole societies, as in Achan's case, Joshua 7:21. Holy Job was aware of this danger, from these two little rolling bodies, which a very small splinter of wood can make useless, "I made a covenant with mine eyes, " Job 31:1.

(5. ) Is it not natural to us to care for the body, even at the expense of the soul? This was one ingredient in the sin of our first parents, Gen. 3:6. O, how happy might we be, if we were but at half the pains about our souls, that we bestow upon our bodies! If that question, "What must I do to be saved?" Acts 16:30, ran but near as often through our minds as these questions do, "What shall we eat? What shall we drink? How shall we be clothed?" Matt. 6:31, then many a hopeless case would become very hopeful. But the truth is, most men live as if they were nothing but a lump of flesh—or as if their soul served for no other use—but, like salt, to keep their body from corrupting. "They are flesh, " John 3:6; "they mind the things of the flesh, " Romans 8:5; and "they live after the flesh, " ver. 13. If the consent of the flesh be got to an action, the consent of the conscience is rarely waited for—yes, the body is often served, when the conscience has entered a protest against it.

(6. ) Is not everyone by nature discontented with his present lot in the world, or with some one thing or other in it? This also was Adam's case, Gen. 3:5, 6. Some one thing is always lacking; so that man is a creature given to changes. If any doubt this, let them look over all their enjoyment; and, after a review of them, listen to their own hearts, and they will hear a secret murmuring for lack of something—though perhaps, if they considered the matter aright, they would see that it is better for them to lack, than to have that something. Since the hearts of our first parents flew out at their eyes, on the forbidden fruit, and a night of darkness was thereby brought on the world, their posterity have a natural disease which Solomon calls, "The wandering of the desire, " or, as the word is, "The walking of your soul, " Eccl. 6:9. This is a sort of diabolical trance, wherein the soul traverses the world; feeds itself with a thousand airy nothings; snatches at this and the other created excellency, in imagination and desire; goes here, and there, and everywhere, except where it should go. And the soul is never cured of this disease, until conquering grace brings it back to take up its everlasting rest in God through Christ—but until this be, if man were set again in paradise, the garden of the Lord, all the pleasures there would not keep him from looking, yes, and leaping over the hedge a second time.

(7. ) Are we not far more easily impressed and influenced by evil councils and examples, than by those that are good! You will see this was the ruin of Adam, Gen. 3:6. Evil example, to this day, is one of Satan's master-devices to ruin men. Though we have, by nature, more of the fox than of the lamb; yet that ill property which some observe in this creature, namely, that if one lamb skips into a water, the rest will suddenly follow, may be observed also in the disposition of the children of men; to whom it is very natural to embrace an evil way, because they see others in it before them. Ill example has frequently the force of a violent stream, to carry us over plain duty; but especially if the example be given by those we bear a great affection to—our affection, in that case, blinds our judgment; and what we should abhor in others, is complied with, to humour them. Nothing is more plain, than that generally men choose rather to do what the most do, than what the best do.

(8. ) Who of all Adam's sons needs be taught the art of sewing fig-leaves together, to cover their nakedness? Gen. 3:7. When we have ruined ourselves, and made ourselves naked to our shame, we naturally seek to help ourselves, by ourselves—many poor contrivances are employed, as silly and insignificant as Adam's fig-leaves. What pains are men at, to cover their sin from their own conscience, and to draw all the fair colours upon it that they can! And when once convictions are fastened upon them, so that they cannot but see themselves naked, it is as natural for them to attempt to cover it by self-deceit, as for fish to swim in water, or birds to fly in the air. Therefore, the first question of the convinced is, "What shall we do?" Acts 2:37. How shall we qualify ourselves? What shall we perform? Not considering that the new creature is God's own workmanship or deed, Eph. 2:10, any more than Adam considered and thought of being clothed with the skins of sacrifices, Gen. 3:21.

(9. ) Do not Adam's children naturally follow his footsteps--in hiding themselves from the presence of the Lord? Gen. 3:8. We are quite as blind in this matter as he was, who thought to hide himself from the presence of God among the shady trees of the garden. We are very apt to promise ourselves more security in a secret sin, than in one that is openly committed. "The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight, saying, no eye shall see me, " Job 24:15. Men will freely do that in secret, which they would be ashamed to do in the presence of a child; as if darkness could hide from the all-seeing God. Are we not naturally careless of communion with God; yes, and averse to it? Never was there any communion between God and Adam's children, where the Lord himself had not the first word. If he were to let them alone--they would never inquire after him. Isaiah 57:17, "I hid myself. " Did he seek after a hiding God? Very far from it—"He went on in the way of his heart. "

(10. ) How loath are men to confess sin, to take guilt and shame to themselves? Was it not thus in the case before us? Gen. 3:10. Adam confesses his nakedness, which could not be denied; but says not one word of his sin—the reason of it was, he would gladly have hid it if he could. It is as natural for us to hide sin--as to commit it. Many sad instances thereof we have in this world; but a far clearer proof of it we shall get at the day of judgment, the day in which "God will judge the secrets of men, " Romans 2:16. Many a foul mouth will then be seen which is now "wiped, and says, I have done no wickedness, " Proverbs 30:20.

(11. ) Is it not natural for us to extenuate our sin, and transfer the guilt upon others? When God examined our guilty first parents, did not Adam lay the blame on the woman? and did not the woman lay the blame on the serpent? Gen. 3:12, 13. Adam's children need not be taught this hellish policy; for before they can well speak, if they cannot get the fact denied, they will cunningly lisp out something to lessen their fault, and lay the blame upon another. Nay, so natural is this to men, that in the greatest sins, they will lay the fault upon God himself; they will blaspheme his holy providence under the mistaken name of misfortune or bad luck--and thereby lay the blame of their sin at heaven's door! And was not this one of Adam's tricks after his fall? Gen. 3:12, "And the man said, The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. " Observe the order of the speech. He makes his apology in the first place; and then comes his confession—his apology is long—but his confession very short; it is all comprehended in one word, "and I did eat. " How pointed and distinct is his apology, as if he was afraid his meaning should have been mistaken! "The woman, " says he, or "that woman, " as if he would have pointed the judge to his own works, of which we read, Gen. 2:22. There was but one woman then in the world; so that one would think he needed not to have been so exact in pointing at her—yet she is as carefully marked out in his defence, as if there had been ten thousand.

"The woman whom you gave me:" here he speaks, as if he had been ruined with God's gift. And, to make the gift look the blacker, it is added to all this, "whom you gave to be with me, " as my constant companion, to stand by me as a helper. This looks as if Adam would have fathered an ill design upon the Lord, in giving him this gift.

And, after all, there is a new demonstrative here, before the sentence is complete; he says not, "The woman gave me, " but "the woman--she gave me, " emphatically; as if he had said, she, even she, gave me of the tree. This much for his apology.

But his confession is quickly over, in one word, as he spoke it, "and I did eat. " There is nothing here to point out himself, and as little to show what he had eaten. How natural is this black art to Adam's posterity! he who runs may read it. So universally does Solomon's observation hold true, Proverbs 19:3, "The foolishness of man perverts his way; and his heart frets against the Lord. " Let us then call fallen Adam, father; let us not deny the relation, seeing we bear his image.

To sum up this point, sufficiently confirmed by concurring evidence from the Lord's word, our own experience, and observation; let us be persuaded to believe the doctrine of the corruption of our nature; and look to the second Adam, the blessed Jesus, for the application of his precious blood, to remove the guilt of our sin; and for the efficacy of his Holy Spirit, to make us new creatures, knowing that "except we be born again, we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. "

II. I proceed to inquire into the corruption of nature in the several parts thereof.

But who can comprehend it? who can take the exact dimensions of it, in its breadth, length, height, and depth? "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Jer. 17:9. However, we may quickly perceive as much of it as may be matter of deepest humiliation, and may discover to us the absolute necessity of regeneration. Man in his natural state is altogether corrupt—both soul and body are polluted, as the apostle proves at large, Romans 3:10-18. As for the soul, this natural corruption has spread itself through all the faculties thereof; and is to be found in the understanding, the will, the affections, the conscience, and the memory.

1. Of the corruption of the UNDERSTANDING.

"They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. " Ephesians 4:18. "There is no one who understands. " Romans 3:11.

The understanding, that leading faculty, is despoiled of its primitive glory, and covered over with confusion. We have fallen into the hands of our grand adversary, as Samson into the hands of the Philistines, and are deprived of our two eyes. There is none that understands, " Romans 3:11. "Mind and conscience are defiled, " Tit. 1:15. The natural man's apprehension of divine things is corrupt. Psalm 50:21, "You thought that I was altogether such a one as yourself. " His judgment is corrupt, and cannot be otherwise, seeing his eye is evil—therefore the scriptures, to show that man does all wrong, says, "everyone did that which was right in his own eyes, " Judges 17:6, and 21:25. And his imaginations, or reasonings, must be evil--being of a piece with his judgment, 2 Cor. 10:5. But, to point out this corruption of the mind or understanding more particularly, let these following things be considered:

1. There is a natural weakness in the minds of men with respect to spiritual things. The apostle determines concerning everyone that is not endued with the graces of the Spirit, "That he is blind, and cannot see afar off, " 2 Pet. 1:9. Hence the Spirit of God in the scriptures clothes, as it were, divine truths with earthly figures, even as parents teach their children, using similitudes, Hosea 12:11. This, though it does not cure—yet it proves this natural weakness in the minds of men. But there are not lacking plain proofs of it from experience. As,

(1. ) How hard a task is it to teach many people the common principles of our holy religion, and to make truths so plain as they may understand them? There must be "precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line, " Isaiah 28:10. Try the same people in other things, they will be found "wiser in their generation than the children of light. " They understand their work and business in the world as well as their neighbours; though they are very stupid and unteachable in the matters of God. Tell them how they may advance their worldly wealth, or how they may gratify their lusts, and they will quickly understand these things; though it is very hard to make them know how their souls may be saved, or how their hearts may find rest in Jesus Christ.

(2. ) Consider those who have many advantages beyond the generality of mankind; who have had the benefits of good education and instruction; yes, and are blessed with the light of grace in that measure wherein it is ascribed to the saints on earth—yet how small a portion have they of the knowledge of divine things! What ignorance and confusion still remain in their minds! How often are they perplexed even as to practical truths, and understand as children in these things! It is a pitiful weakness that we cannot perceive the things which God has revealed to us; and it must needs be a sinful weakness, since the law of God requires us to know and believe them.

(3. ) What dangerous mistakes are to be found among men in concerns of the greatest weight! What woeful delusions prevail over them! Do we not often see those, who in other things are the wisest of men--yet these are notorious fools with respect to their soul's interest? Matt. 9:25, "You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent. " Many who are eagle-eyed in the trifles of time, are like owls and bats in the light of eternal realities. Nay, truly, the life of every natural man is but one continued dream and delusion, out of which he never awakes, until either, by a new light darted from heaven into his soul, he comes to himself, Luke 15:17, or, in hell he lifts up his eyes in torment, chapter 16:23. Therefore, in scripture account, though he be ever so wise, he is a fool, and a simple one.

2. Man's understanding is naturally overwhelmed with gross darkness in spiritual things. Man, at the instigation of the devil, attempting to break out a new light in his mind, Gen. 3:5, instead of that, broke up the doors of the bottomless pit, so as, by the smoke thereof, to be buried in darkness. When God first made man, his mind was a lamp of light; but now, when he comes to make him over again, in regeneration, he finds it darkness; Eph. 5:8, "You were once darkness. " Sin has closed the windows of the soul, darkness covers the whole—it is the land of darkness and the shadow of death, where the light is as darkness. The prince of darkness reigns there, and nothing but the works of darkness are framed there. We are born spiritually blind, and cannot be restored without a miracle of grace. This is your case, whoever you are, who are not born again. That you may be convinced in this matter, take the following proofs of it:

Proof 1. The darkness which was upon the face of the world, before, and at the time when Christ came, arising as the Sun of Righteousness upon the earth. When Adam by his sin had lost that primitive light with which he was endued at his creation, it pleased God to make a glorious revelation of his mind and will to him, as to the way of salvation, Gen. 3:15. This was handed down by him, and other godly fathers, before the flood—yet the natural darkness of the mind of man prevailed so far against that revelation, as to carry off all sense of true religion from the old world, except what remained in Noah's family, which was preserved in the ark. After the flood, as men multiplied on the earth, the natural darkness of the mind prevailed again, and the light decayed, until it died away among the generality of mankind, and was preserved only among the posterity of Shem. And even with them it had nearly set, when God called Abraham from serving other gods, Joshua 24:15. God gives Abraham a more full and clear revelation, which he communicates to his family, Genesis 18:19; yet the natural darkness wears it out at length, except that it was preserved among the posterity of Jacob. They being carried down into Egypt, that darkness so prevailed, as to leave them very little sense of true religion; and there was a necessity for a new revelation to be made to them in the wilderness. And many a cloud of darkness got above that, now and then, during the time from Moses to Christ.

When Christ came, the world was divided into Jews and Gentiles. The Jews, and the true light with them, were within an enclosure, Psalm 147:19, 20. Between them and the Gentile world, there was a partition wall of God's making, namely, the ceremonial law—and upon that was reared up another of man's own making, namely, a rooted enmity between the parties, Eph. 2:14, 15. If we look abroad outside the enclosure, and except those proselytes of the Gentiles, who by means of some rays of light breaking forth upon them from within the enclosure, having renounced idolatry, worshiped the true God—but did conform to the Mosaic rites, we see nothing but "dark places of the earth, full of the habitations of cruelty, " Psalm 74:20. Gross darkness covered the face of the Gentile world, and the way of salvation was utterly unknown among them. They were drowned in superstition and idolatry, and had multiplied their idols to such a vast number, that above thirty thousand are reckoned to have been worshiped by the men of Europe alone. Whatever wisdom was among their philosophers, "the world by" that "wisdom know not God, " 1 Cor. 1:21, and all their researches in religion were but groping in the dark, Acts 17:27.

If we look within the enclosure, and except a few that were groaning and "waiting for the consolation of Israel, " we shall see gross darkness on the face of that generation. Though "to them were committed the oracles of God, " yet they were most corrupt in their doctrine. Their traditions were multiplied; but the knowledge of those things, wherein the life of religion lies, was lost. Masters of Israel knew not the nature and necessity of regeneration, John 3:10. Their religion was to build on their birth-privileges, as children of Abraham, Matt. 3:9, to glory in their circumcision, and other external ordinances, Phil. 3:2, 3, and to "rest in the law, " Romans 2:17, after they had, by their false glosses, cut it so short, as they might outwardly go well near to the fulfilling of it, Matt. 5.

Thus was darkness over the face of the world, when Christ, the true light, came into it; and so is darkness over every soul, until he as the day-star, arises in the heart. The latter is an evidence of the former. What—but the natural darkness of men's minds, could still thus wear out the light of external revelation, in a matter upon which eternal happiness depends? Men did not forget the way of preserving their lives—but how quickly they lost the knowledge of the way of salvation of their souls, which are of infinitely more weight and worth! When the teaching of patriarchs and prophets was ineffectual, it became necessary for them to be taught of God himself, who alone can open the eyes of the understanding.

But that it might appear that the corruption of man's mind lay deeper than to be cured by mere external revelation, there were but very few converted by Christ's preaching, who spoke as never man spoke, " John 12:37, 38. The great cure remained to be performed, by the Spirit accompanying the preaching of the apostles; who, according to the promise, John. 14:12, were to do greater works. And if we look to the miracles wrought by our blessed Lord, we shall find, that by applying the remedy to the soul, for the cure of bodily distempers, as in the case of "the man sick of the palsy, " Matt. 9:2, he plainly discovered, that his main errand into the world was to cure the diseases of the soul. I find a miracle wrought upon one who was born blind, performed in such a way, as seems to have been designed to let the world see it, as in a glass, their case and cure, John 9:6, "He made clay, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. " What could more fitly represent the blindness of men's minds, than eyes closed up with earth? Isaiah 44:18, "He has shut their eyes:" the word properly signifies, he has plastered their eyes; as the house in which the leprosy had been, was to be plastered, Lev. 14:42. Thus the Lord's word reveals the design of that strange work; and by it, shows us, that the eyes of our understanding are naturally shut. Then the blind man must go and wash off this clay in the pool of Siloam—no other water will serve this purpose. If that pool had not represented him, whom the Father sent into the world to open the blind eyes, Isaiah 42:7, I think the evangelist had not given us the interpretation of the name; which, he says, signifies sent, John 9:7. So we may conclude, that the natural darkness of our minds is such as there is no cure for—but from the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ, whose eye-salve only can make us see, Revelation 3:18.

Proof 2. Every natural man's heart and life is a mass of darkness, disorder, and confusion, however refined he may appear in the sight of men. Says the apostle Paul, "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. " Titus 3:3; and yet, at the time which this text refers to, "he was blameless, " touching the righteousness which is in the law, Phil. 3:6. This is a plain evidence that "the eye is evil, the whole body being full of darkness, " Matt. 6:23.

The unrenewed part of mankind is rambling through the world, like so many blind men, who will neither take a guide, nor can guide themselves; and therefore are falling over this and the other precipice, into destruction. Some are running after their covetousness, until they are pierced through with many sorrows. Some are sticking in the mire of sensuality. Some are dashing themselves on the rock of pride and self-conceit. Every one stumbling on some one stone of stumbling or other; all of them are running themselves upon the sword-point of justice, while they eagerly follow where unmortified passions and affections lead them. And all the while some are lying along in the way, others are coming up, and falling headlong over them. Therefore, "woe unto you" blind "world because of offences, " Matt. 18:7.

Errors in judgment swarm in the world because it is "night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. " All the unregenerate are utterly mistaken in the point of true happiness—for though Christianity has fixed that matter in point of principle—yet nothing less than overcoming grace can fix it in the practical judgment. All men agree in the desire of being happy; but, among the unrenewed men, concerning the way to happiness, there are almost as many opinions as there are men; "each of us having turned to his own way, " Isaiah 53:6. They are like the blind men of Sodom, around Lot's house, all were seeking to find the door; some grope one part of the wall for it, some another—but none of them could certainly say, he had found it; so the natural man may stumble on any good—but the chief good.

Look into your own unregenerate heart, and there you will see all turned upside down—heaven lying below, and earth at top. Look into your life, there you may see how you are playing the madman, snatching at shadows, and neglecting the substance—eagerly flying after that which is not, and slighting that which is, and will be forever.

Proof 3. The natural man is always as a workman left without light; either trifling or doing mischief. Try to catch your heart at any time you will, and you will find it either weaving the spider's web, or hatching cockatrice eggs, Isaiah 59:5, roving through the world, or digging into the pit; filled with vanity, or else with vileness; busy doing nothing, or what is worse than nothing. A sad sign of a dark mind.

Proof 4. The natural man is void of the saving knowledge of spiritual things. He knows not what a God he has to do with—he is unacquainted with Christ, and knows not what sin is. The greatest graceless wits are blind as moles in spiritual realities. Yes—but some such can speak of them to good purpose; so might those Israelites of the trials, signs, and miracles, which their eyes had seen, Deut. 29:3; to whom nevertheless, the Lord had "not given a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto that day, " ver. 4. Many a man who bears the name of a Christian, may make Pharaoh's confession of faith, Exod. 5:2, "I know not the Lord, " neither will he let go what he commands them to part with. God is with them, as a prince in disguise among his subjects, who meets with no better treatment from them than if they were his fellows, Psalm 50:21.

Do they know Christ, or see his glory, and any beauty in him, for which he is to be desired? If they did, they would not slight him as they do—a view of his glory would so darken all created excellence, that they would take him for and instead of all, and gladly close with him, as he offers himself in the gospel, John 4:13; Psalm 9:10; Matt. 13:44-46.

Do they know what sin is, who nurse the serpent in their bosom, hold fast their deceit, and refuse to let it go? I own, indeed, that they may have a natural knowledge of these things, as the unbelieving Jews had of Christ, whom they saw and conversed with; but there was a spiritual glory in him, perceived by believers only, John 1:14, and in respect of that glory, "the" unbelieving "world knew him not, " ver. 10. The spiritual knowledge of these things, they cannot have; it is above the reach of the carnal mind. 1 Cor. 2:14, "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned. " He may indeed discourse of them—but in no other way than one can talk of honey or vinegar, who never tasted the sweetness of the one, nor the sourness of the other. He has some notions of spiritual truths—but sees not the things themselves, which are wrapped up in the words of truth, 1 Tim. 1:7, "Understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. " In a word, natural men fear, seek, confess--they know not what. Thus you may see man's understanding naturally overwhelmed with gross darkness in spiritual things.

3. There is in the mind of man a natural bias to evil, whereby it comes to pass, that whatever difficulties it finds while occupied about things truly good--it acts with a great deal of ease in evil, as being in that case in its own element, Jer. 4:22. The carnal mind drives heavily on in the thoughts of holiness—but furiously in the thoughts of evil. While holiness is before it, fetters are upon it; but when once it has got over the hedge, it is as a bird got out of a cage, and becomes a free-thinker indeed. Let us reflect a little on the apprehension and imagination of the carnal mind, and we shall find incontestable evidence of this woeful bias to evil.

Proof 1. As when a man by a violent stroke on the head loses his sight, there arises to him a kind of false light whereby he seems to see a thousand airy nothings; so man, being struck blind to all that is truly good for his eternal interest, has a light of another sort brought into his mind—his eyes are opened, knowing evil; and so are the words of the tempter verified, Gen. 3:5. The words of the prophet are plain—"They are wise to do evil—but to do good they have no knowledge, " Jer. 4:22. The mind of man has a natural dexterity to devise mischief; there are not any so simple as to lack skill to contrive ways to gratify their lusts, and ruin their souls, though the power of everyone's hand cannot reach to put their devices in execution. No one needs to be taught this black art; but, as weeds grow up of their own accord in the neglected ground, so does this wisdom which is earthly, sensual, devilish, Jam. 3:15, grow up in the minds of men, by virtue of the corruption of their nature.

Why should we be surprised with the product of corrupt wits--their cunning devices to affront Heaven, to oppose and run down truth and holiness, and to gratify their own and other men's lusts? They row with the stream, no wonder that they make great progress; their stock is within them, and increases by using it, and the works of darkness are contrived with the greater advantage, because the mind is wholly destitute of spiritual light, which, if it were in them in any measure, would so far mar the work.

1 John 3:9, "Whoever is born of God does not commit sin;" he does it wilfully and habitually, for "his seed remains in him. " But, on the other hand, "A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom, " Proverbs 10:23. Evil comes to him easily—and why—but because he is a fool, and has not wisdom, which would mar the contrivances of darkness! The more natural a thing is, the more easily it is done.

Proof 2. Let the corrupt mind have but the advantage of one's being employed in, or present at, some piece of service for God, that so the device, if not in itself sinful—yet may become sinful by its unseasonableness—it will quickly fall upon some device or expedient, by its starting aside, which deliberation, in season, could not produce. Such a devilish dexterity has the carnal mind in devising what may most effectually divert men from their duty to God.

Proof 3. Does not the carnal mind naturally strive to grasp spiritual things in imagination, as if the soul were quite immersed in flesh and blood, and would turn everything into its own shape? Let men who are used to the forming of the most abstracted notions, look into their own souls, and they will find this bias in their minds. Therefore the idolatry which did of old, and still does, so much prevail in the world, is an incontestable evidence—for it plainly shows, that men naturally would have a visible deity, and see what they worship, and therefore they "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image, " etc. , Romans 1:23. The reformation of these nations, blessed be the Lord for it, has banished idolatry, and images too, out of our churches; but heart-reformation only can break down mental idolatry, and banish the more subtle and refined image worship, and representations of the Deity, out of the minds of men. The world, in the time of its darkness, was never more prone to the former, than the unsanctified mind is to the latter. Hence are horrible, monstrous, and misshapen thoughts of God, Christ, the glory above, and all spiritual things.

Proof 4. What a difficult task is it to detain the carnal mind before the Lord! how averse is it to entertain good thoughts, and dwell in the meditation of spiritual things! If a person be driven, at any time, to think of the great concerns of his soul, it is not harder work to hold in an unruly hungry beast, than to hedge in the carnal mind, that it get not away to the vanities of the world again. When God is speaking to men by his word, or they are speaking to him in prayer, does not the mind often leave them before the Lord, like so many "idols that have eyes—but see not, and ears—but hear not. " The carcass is laid down before God—but the world gets away the heart; though the eyes be closed, the man sees a thousand vanities—the mind, in the meantime, is like a bird got loose out of a cage, skipping from bush to bush; so that, in effect, the man never comes to himself until he is gone from the presence of the Lord.

Say not, it is impossible to get the mind fixed; it is hard, indeed—but not impossible—grace from the Lord can do it, Psalm 108:1; agreeable objects will do it. A pleasant speculation will arrest the minds of the inquisitive; the worldly man's mind is in little hazard of wandering, when he is contriving his business, casting up his accounts or counting his money; if he answers you not at first, he tells you he did not hear you, he was busy; his mind was fixed. Were we admitted into the presence of a king, to petition for our lives, we should be in no hazard of not paying attention. But this is the case, the carnal mind, employed about any spiritual good, is out of its element, and therefore cannot fix on spiritual realities.

Proof 5. But however hard it is to keep the mind on good thoughts, it sticks like glue to what is evil and corrupt like itself, 2 Pet. 2:14, "Having eyes full of adultery, which cannot cease from sin. " Their eyes cannot cease from sin--that is, their hearts and minds, venting by the eyes what is within, are like a furious beast, which cannot be held in when once it has got out its head. Let the corrupt imagination once be let loose on its favourite object, it will be found hard work to call it back again, though both reason and will are for its retreat. For then it is in its own element; and to draw it off from its impurities, is like drawing a fish out of the water, or rending a limb from a man. It runs like fire set to a train of powder, that rests not until it can get no farther.

Proof 6. Consider how the carnal imagination supplies the lack of real objects to the corrupt heart, that it may make sinners happy--at least in the imaginary enjoyment of their lusts. Thus the corrupt heart feeds itself with imagination-sins. The unclean person is filled with speculative impurities, "having eyes full of adultery". The covetous man fills his heart with the world, though he cannot get his hands full of it. The malicious person fills his mind with acts of revenge. The envious man, within his own narrow soul, beholds with satisfaction, his neighbour laid low. Every lust finds the corrupt imagination a friend to it in time of need. This the heart does, not only when people are awake—but sometimes even when they are asleep; whereby it comes to pass, that those sins are acted in dreams, which their hearts pant after when they are awake.

I am aware that some 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 everyone? It is the corruption of nature, then, which makes filthy dreamers condemned, Jude, ver. 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 3:5-15. 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, " Proverbs 6:20, 21. "When you sleep, " says he, ver. 22, "it shall keep you, " that is, from sinning in your sleep--from sinful dreams—for a man'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, Psalm 119:11.

And thus the whole verse is to be understood, as appears from ver. 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 and 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—they guide not 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. Remarkable is the particular which Solomon instances, namely, the sin of uncleanness, "to keep you from the evil woman, " etc. , ver. 24, which is to be joined to ver. 22, enclosing the 23rd in a parenthesis as some versions have it. These things may suffice to convince us of the natural bias of the mind to evil.

4. There is in the carnal mind an opposition to spiritual truths, and an aversion to receive them. It is as little a friend to divine truths, as it is to holiness. As for the truths of revealed religion, there is an evil heart of unbelief in them, which opposes their entry; and there is an armed force necessary to captivate the mind to the belief of them, 2 Cor. 10:4, 5. God has made a revelation of his mind and will to sinners, concerning 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 who believes not on the Son of God, believes not God, " as is plain from 1 John 5:10. They believe not the promises of the word; they look on them, in effect, only as fair words—for those who receive them are thereby made "partakers of the divine nature, " 2 Pet. 1:4. 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 traveling in deserts carry fire about with them, to frighten away wild beasts, so God has made his law a fiery law, Deut. 33:2, surrounding it with threats of wrath—but men are naturally 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 9:28, 29. But he confutes their confidence, roundly telling them, John 5:46, "Had you believed Moses, you would have believed me. " If you believe the truths of God, you dared not to reject, as you do, Him who is truth itself. The very difficulty you find in assenting to this truth, discovers that unbelief which I am charging you with. Has it not proceeded so far with some at this day, that it has steeled their foreheads with impudence and impiety, openly to reject all true religion? Surely it is "out of the abundance of the heart their mouth speaks. " But, though you set not your mouth 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, until overcoming grace brings your minds to the belief of the truth. To convince you in this point, consider these three things:

Proof 1. How few are there who have been blessed with an inward illumination, by the special operation of the Spirit of Christ, leading them into a view of divine truths in their spiritual and heavenly lustre! How have you learned the truths of religion, which you pretend to believe? You have them merely by the benefit of external revelation, and by education; so that you are Christians, just because you were not born and bred in a Pagan—but in a Christian country. You are strangers to the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in your hearts; therefore you are still unbelievers. "It is written in the Prophets, They shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, who has heard, and has learned of the Father--comes unto me, " says our Lord, John 6:45. Now, you have not come to Christ, therefore you have not been taught of God—you have not been so taught, and therefore you have not come; you believe not. Behold the revelation from which the faith, even of the fundamental principles in religion, springs, Matt. 16:16, 17, "You are Christ, the Son of the living God. Blessed are you, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you—but my Father who is in heaven. " If ever the Spirit of the Lord takes you in hand, to work in you that faith which is of the operation of God, it may be, that as much time will be spent in pulling down the old foundation, as will make you find the necessity of the working of his mighty power, to enable you to believe the very foundation-principles which now you think you make no doubt of, Eph. 1:19.

Proof 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. 2:12, "God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth. " They fall 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 on the sand, and that faith is but ill-founded, which cannot stand—but is quite overthrown, when the storm comes.

Proof 3. Consider the utter inconsistency of most men's lives with the principles of religion which they profess—you may as soon bring east and west together, as their principles and 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 was a mere fable, and the wrath of God, revealed in his word against their unrighteousness and ungodliness, a mere scarecrow. If you believe the doctrines of the word, how is it that you are so unconcerned about the state of your souls before the Lord? how is it that you are so little concerned about this weighty point, whether you be born again or not? Most live as they were born--and are likely to die as they live--and yet live in peace. Do such people believe the sinfulness and misery of a natural state? Do they believe that they are children of wrath? Do they believe that there is no salvation without regeneration, and no regeneration but what makes a man a new creature?

If you believe the promises of the word, why do you not embrace them, and seek to enter into the promised rest? What sluggard would not dig for a hidden treasure, if he really believed that he might so obtain it? Men will work and toil for a maintenance, because they believe that by so doing they shall get it; yet they will be at no pains for the eternal weight of glory! Why? Because they do not believe the word of promise! Heb. 4:1, 2. If you believe the threatenings, how is it that you live in your sins; live out of Christ, and yet hope for heaven? Do such people 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 punishes.

5. There is in the mind of man, a natural proneness to lies and falsehood, which favour his lusts. "They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies, " Psalm 58:3. 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, then disbelieved it--and embraced a lie instead of it. For an incontestable evidence hereof, we may see the first article of the devil's creed, "you shall not surely die, " Gen. 3:4, which was obtruded by him on our first parents, and by them received, naturally embraced by their posterity, and held fast, until light from heaven obliges them to quit it. It spreads itself through the lives of natural men—who, (unless their consciences are awakened), walk after their own lusts, still retaining the principle, "That they shall not surely die. " And this is often improved to such perfection, that man says, in the face of the denounced curse, "I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my heart, to add drunkenness to thirst, " Deut. 29:19. 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, "O that it were true!" so that the mind lies fair for assenting to it.

The true doctrine is, "the doctrine that is according to godliness, " 1 Tim. 6:3, and "the truth which is after godliness, " Titus 1:1. Error is the doctrine which is according to ungodliness; for there is not an error in the mind, nor an untruth vented in the world, in matters of religion—but has an affinity to the corruption of the heart, according to that saying of the apostle, 2 Thess. 2:12, "They believed 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 most ready access into the minds of men in their natural state. Therefore, it is not strange that men reject the simplicity of gospel truths--and greedily embrace error and external pomp in religion, seeing these things are so agreeable to the lusts of the heart, and the vanity of the mind of the natural man. Hence also it is, that so many embrace atheistical principles; for none do it but in compliance with their sinful passions; none but those, whose advantage it would be that there were no God.

6. Man is naturally high-minded; for when the gospel comes in power to him, it is employed in "casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, " 2 Cor. 10:5. Humility of mind is not a flower that grows in the field of nature; but is planted by the finger of God in a renewed heart, and learned from the humble Jesus. It is natural to man to think highly of himself, and what is his own—for the stroke which he has got by his fall in Adam, has produced a false light, whereby molehills about him appear like mountains; and a thousand airy beauties present themselves to his deluded mind. "Vain man would be wise, " so he accounts himself, and so he would be accounted by others, "though man be born like a wild donkey's colt, " Job 11:12. His way is right, because it is his own—for "every way of man is right in his own eyes, " Proverbs 21:2. His state is good, because he knows none better; he is alive without the law, Romans 7:9, and therefore his hope is strong, and his confidence firm. It is another tower of Babel, reared up against heaven; and it will not fall, while the power of darkness can hold it up. The word batters it—yet it stands—one while breaches are made in it—but they are quickly repaired; at another time, it is all made to shake—but still it is kept up; until either God himself by his Spirit raises a heart-quake within the man, which tumbles it down, and leaves not one stone upon another, 2 Cor. 10:4, 5, or death batters it down, and pulls down the foundation of it, Luke 16:23.

And as the natural man thinks highly of himself, so he thinks basely of God, whatever he pretends, Psalm 50:21, "You thought that I was altogether such an one as yourself. " The doctrine of the gospel, and the mystery of Christ, are foolishness to him; and in his practice he treats them as such, 1 Cor. 1:18, and 2:14. He brings the word and the works of God, in the government of the world, before the bar of his carnal reason; and there they are presumptuously censured and condemned, Hos. 14:9. Sometimes the ordinary restraints of Providence are taken off, and Satan is permitted to stir up the carnal mind—and, in that case, it is like an ant's nest, uncovered and disturbed; doubts, denials, and hellish reasonings, crowd in it, and cannot be overcome by all the arguments brought against them, until power from on high subdues the mind, and stills the mutiny of the corrupt principles.

Thus much of the corruption of the understanding; which, although the half is not told, may discover to you the absolute necessity of regenerating grace. Call the understanding now, "Ichabod; for the glory is departed from it, " 1 Samuel 4:21. Consider this, you who are in the state of nature, and groan out your case before the Lord, that the Sun of Righteousness may arise upon you, lest you be shut up in everlasting darkness. What avails your worldly wisdom? What do your attainments in religion avail--while your understanding lies wrapped up in its natural darkness and confusion, utterly void of the light of life? Whatever be the natural man's gifts or attainments, we must, as in the case of the leper, Lev. 13:44, "pronounce him utterly unclean, his plague is in his head. " But that is not all; it is in his heart too—his will is corrupted, as I shall soon show.

2. Of the corruption of the WILL.

The will, that commanding faculty, which at first was faithful and ruled with God, is now turned traitor, and rules with and for the devil. God planted it in man, "wholly a holy seed;" but now it is "turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine. " It was originally placed in due subordination to the will of God, as was shown before; but now it is wholly gone aside. However some magnify the power of free-will, a view of the spirituality of the law, to which acts of moral discipline in no way answer, and a deep insight into the corruption of nature, given by the inward operation of the Spirit, convincing of sin, righteousness, and judgment, would make men find an absolute need of the power of free grace, to remove the bands of wickedness from off their free-will. To open up this plague of the heart, I offer these following things to be considered:

1. There is, in the unrenewed will, an utter inability for what is truly good and acceptable in the sight of God. The natural man's will is in Satan's fetters, hemmed in within the circle of evil, and cannot move beyond it, any more than a dead man can raise himself out of his grave, Eph. 2:1. We deny him not a power to choose, pursue, and act what is good, as to the matter; but though he can will what is good and right, he can will nothing aright and well, John 15:5. Christ says, "Without me, " that is, separate from me, as a branch from the stock, as both the word and context will bear, "you can do nothing;" which means, nothing truly and spiritually good. His very choice and desire of spiritual things, is carnal and selfish, John 6:26, "You seek me--because you ate of the loaves and were filled. " He not only does not come to Christ—but "he cannot come, " ver. 44. And what can he do acceptable to God, who believes not on him whom the Father has sent? To prove this inability for good in the unregenerate, consider these two things:

Proof 1. How often does the light so shine before men's eyes, that they cannot but see the good which they should choose, and the evil which they should refuse—and yet their hearts have no more power to comply with that light, than as if they were arrested by some invisible hand! They see what is right—yet they follow, and cannot but follow what is wrong. Their consciences tell them the right way, and approve of it too—yet their will cannot be brought up to it—their corruption so chains them, that they cannot embrace it; so that they sigh and go backward, notwithstanding their light. If it be not thus, how is it that the word and way of holiness meet with such poor reception in the world? How is it that clear arguments and reason on the side of piety and a holy life, which seem to have weight even with the carnal mind, do not bring men over to that side? Although the existence of a heaven and a hell were only probable, it would be sufficient to determine the will to the choice of holiness, were it capable of being determined thereto by mere reason—but men, "knowing the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same—but have pleasure in them that do them, " Romans 1:31.

And how is it that those who magnify the power of free-will, do not confirm their opinion before the world, by an ocular demonstration in a practice as far above others in holiness, as the opinion of their natural ability is above that of others? Or is it maintained only for the protection of lusts, which men may hold fast as long as they please; and when they have no more use for them, throw them off in a moment, and leap out of Delilah's lap into Abraham's bosom? Whatever use some make of that principle, it does of itself, and in its own nature, cast a broad shadow for a shelter to wickedness of heart and life. It may be observed, that the generality of the hearers of the gospel, of all denominations, are plagued with it; for it is a root of bitterness, natural to all men—from whence spring so much fearlessness about the soul's eternal state, so many delays and excuses in that weighty matter, whereby much work is laid up for a deathbed by some, while others are ruined by a legal walk, and neglect the life of faith, and the making use of Christ for sanctification; all flowing from the persuasion of sufficient natural abilities. So agreeable is it to corrupt nature.

Proof 2. Let those, who, by the power of the spirit of bondage, have had the law opened before them in its spirituality, for their conviction, speak and tell, if they found themselves able to incline their hearts toward it, in that case; nay, whether the more that light shone into their souls, they did not find their hearts more and more unable to comply with it. There are some who have been brought unto "the place of the breaking forth, " who are yet in the devil's camp, who from their experience can tell, that light let into the mind cannot give life to the will, to enable it to comply therewith; and could give their testimony here, if they would. But take Paul's testimony concerning it, who, in his unconverted state, was far from believing his utter inability for good; but learned it by experience, Romans 7:8-13. I own, the natural man may have a kind of love to the letter of the law—but here lies the stress of the matter, he looks on the holy law in a carnal dress; and so, while be embraces the creature of his own fancy, he thinks that he has the law. But in very deed he is without the law—for as yet he sees it not in its spirituality; if he did, he would find it the very reverse of his own nature, and what his will could not fall in with, until changed by the power of grace.

2. There is in the unrenewed will an aversion to good. Sin is the natural man's element; he is as unwilling to part with it as fish are to come out of the water on to dry land. He not only cannot come to Christ—but he will not come, John 5:40. He is polluted, and hates to be washed, Jer. 13:27, "Will you not be made clean? when shall it once be?" He is sick—yet utterly averse to the remedy—he so loves his disease--that he loathes the Physician. He is a captive, a prisoner, and a slave--but he loves his conqueror, his jailor, and master—he is fond of his fetters, prison, and drudgery, and has no liking to his liberty. For proof of the aversion to good in the will of man, I will instance in some particulars:

Proof 1. The adverseness of children. Do we not see them naturally lovers of sinful liberty? How unwilling are they to be hedged in! How averse to restraint! The world can bear witness, that they are "as bullocks unaccustomed to the yoke:" and more, that it is far easier to bring young bullocks tamely to bear the yoke, than to bring young children under discipline, and make them tamely submit to be restrained in sinful liberty. Everybody may see in this, as in a glass, that man is naturally wild and wilful, according to Zophar's observation, Job 11:12, that "man is born like a wild donkey's colt. " What can be said more? He is like a colt, the colt of an donkey, the colt of a wild donkey. Compare Jer. 2:24, "A wild donkey used to the wilderness, that snuffs up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away?"

Proof 2. What pain and difficulty do men often find in bringing their hearts to pious duties! and what a task is it to the carnal heart to abide at them! It is a pain to it--to leave the world but a little to come before God. It is not easy to borrow time from the many things--to spend it upon the one thing needful. Men often go to God in duties, with their faces towards the world; and when their bodies are on the mount of ordinances, their hearts will be found at the foot of the hill "going after their covetousness, " Ezek. 33:31.

They are soon wearied of well-doing; for holy duties are not agreeable to their corrupt nature. Take notice of them at their worldly business, set them down with their carnal company, or let them be enjoying a lust; time seems to them to fly, and drive furiously, so that it is gone before they are aware. But how heavily does it pass, while a prayer, a sermon, or a Sabbath lasts! The Lord's day is the longest day of all the week, with many; therefore, they must sleep longer that morning, and go sooner to bed that night, than ordinarily they do; that the day may be made of a tolerable length—for their hearts say within them, "When will the Sabbath be gone?" Amos 8:5. The hours of worship are the longest hours of that day—hence, when duty is over, they are like men eased of a burden; and when sermon is ended, many have neither the grace nor the good manners to stay until the blessing is pronounced—but, like the beasts, their head is away, as soon as a man puts his hand to loose them; and why? because, while they are at ordinances, they are, as Doeg, "detained before the Lord, " 1 Sam. 22:7.

Proof 3. Consider how the will of the natural man rebels against the light, Job 24:13. Light sometimes enters in, because he is not able to keep it out—but he loves darkness rather than light. Sometimes, by the force of truth, the outer door of the understanding is broken up; but the inner door of the will remains fast bolted. Then lusts rise against light—corruption and conscience encounter, and fight as in the field of battle, until corruption getting the upper hand, conscience is forced to turn its back; convictions are murdered, and truth is made and held prisoner, so that it can create no more disturbance. While the word is preached or read, or the rod of God is upon the natural man, sometimes convictions are darted in upon him, and his spirit is wounded in greater or lesser measure—but these convictions not being able to make him fall, he runs away with the arrows sticking in his conscience; and at length, one way or other, gets them out, and makes himself whole again. Thus, while the light shines, men, naturally averse to it, and wilfully shut their eyes--until God is provoked to blind them judicially, and they become proof against his word and providences too—so, go where they will, they can sit at ease; there is never a word from heaven to them, that goes deeper than their ears. Hos. 4:17, "Ephraim is joined to idols—let him alone. "

Proof 4. Let us observe the resistance made by elect souls, when the Spirit of the Lord is at work, to bring them from "the power of Satan unto God. " Zion's King gets no subjects but by stroke of sword, "in the day of his power, " Psalm 110:2, 3. None come to him—but such as are drawn by a divine hand, John 6:44. When the Lord comes to the soul, he finds the strong man keeping the house, and a deep peace and security there, while the soul is fast asleep in the devil's arms. But "the prey must be taken from the mighty, and the captive delivered. " Therefore, the Lord awakens the sinner, opens his eyes, and strikes him with terror, while the clouds are black above his head, and the sword of vengeance is held to his bosom. Now, the sinner is at great pains to put a fair face on a black heart, to shake off his fears, to make headway against them, and to divert himself from thinking on the unpleasant and ungrateful subject of his soul's case. If he cannot so rid himself from them, carnal reason is called in to help, and urges, that there is no ground for such great fear; all may be well enough yet; and if it be ill with him, it will be ill with many.

When the sinner is beat from this false reasoning, and sees no advantage in going to hell with company--he resolves to leave his sins—but cannot think of breaking off so soon; there is time enough, and he will do it afterwards. Conscience says, "Today if you will hear his voice harden not your hearts;" but he cries, "Tomorrow, Lord; tomorrow, Lord;" and "not just now, Lord;" until that now is never likely to come. Thus many times he comes from his prayers and confessions, with nothing but a bosom full of sharper convictions; for the heart does not always cast up the sweet morsel, as soon as confession is made with the mouth, Judges 10:10-16. And when conscience obliges him to part with some lusts--other lusts are kept as right eyes and right hands, and there are rueful looks after those that are put away; as it was with the Israelites, who with bitter hearts remembered "the fish they freely ate in Egypt, " Numb. 11:5. Nay, when he is so pressed, that he must needs say before the Lord, that he is content to part with all his idols; the heart will be giving the tongue the lie. In a word, the soul, in this case, will shift from one thing to another; like a fish with the hook in its jaws, until it can do no more, for power is come to make it yield, as "the wild donkey in her month, " Jer. 2:24.

3. There is in the will of man a natural "proneness to evil, " a woeful bent towards sin. Men naturally are "bent to backsliding from God, " Hos. 11:7. They hang, as the word is, towards backsliding; even as a hanging wall, whose breaking comes suddenly at an instant. Set holiness and life upon the one side, sin and death upon the other; and leave the unrenewed will to itself, it will choose sin, and reject holiness. This is no more to be doubted, than that water, poured on the side of a hill will run downward, and not upward; or that a flame will ascend, and not descend.

Proof 1. Is not the way of evil the first way which children go? Do not their inclinations plainly appear on the wrong side, while yet they have no ability to hide them? In the first opening of our eyes in the world, we look asquint, hell-ward, not heaven-ward. As soon as it appears that we are rational creatures it appears that we are sinful creatures, Psalm 58:3, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born. " Proverbs 22:15, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child—but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. " Folly is bound in the heart, it is woven into our very nature. The knot will not unloose; it must be broken asunder by strokes. Words will not do it, the rod must be taken to drive it away; and if it be not driven far away, the heart and it will meet and knit again. Not that the rod of itself will do this—the sad experience of many parents testifies the contrary; and Solomon himself tells you, Proverbs 27:22, "Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding him like grain with a pestle, you will not remove his folly from him;" it is so bound in his heart. But the rod is an ordinance of God, appointed for that end; which, like the word, is made effectual by the Spirit's accompanying his own ordinance.

This, by the way, shows that parents, in administering correction to their children, have need, first of all, to correct their own irregular passions, and look upon it as a matter of great solemnity, setting about it with much dependence on the Lord, and following it with prayer for the blessing, if they would have it effectual.

Proof 2. How easily are men led aside to sin! Those who are not persuaded to be holy, are otherwise simple ones, easily wrought upon—those whom the word cannot draw to holiness, are "caught in the Devil’s trap, having been captured by him to do his will. " 2 Timothy 2:26. Profane Esau, that cunning man, Gen. 25:27, was as easily cheated of the blessing as if he had been a fool or an idiot. The more natural a thing is, the more easy it is—so Christ's yoke is easy to the saints, in so far as they are partakers of the divine nature—and sin is easy to the unrenewed man; but to learn to be holy, is as difficult as for the Ethiopian to change his skin; because the will naturally hangs towards evil, and is averse to good.

A child can cause a round thing to roll, when he cannot move a square thing of the same weight; for the roundness makes it fit for motion, so that it goes with a touch. Even so, men find the heart easily carried towards sin, while it is as a dead weight in the way of holiness. We must seek for the reason of this from the natural bent and disposition of the heart, whereby it is prone and bent to evil. Were man's will, naturally—but in equal balance to holiness and evil, the one might be embraced with as little difficulty as the other; but experience testifies it is not so. In the sacred history of the Israelites, especially in the Book of Judges, how often do we find them forsaking Jehovah, the mighty God, and doting upon the idols of the nations about them! But did ever any one of these nations grow fond of Israel's God, and forsake their own idols? No, no; though man is naturally given to changes, it is but from evil to evil, not from evil to good. Jer. 2:11, 12 "Has any nation ever exchanged its gods for another god, even though its gods are nothing? Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay, says the Lord. " Surely the will of man stands not in equal balance—but has a strong bent to the wrong side.

Proof 3. Consider how men go on still in the way of sin, until they are stopped, and that by another hand than their own; Isaiah 57:17, "I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his wilful ways. " If God withdraws his restraining hand, it is no doubt what way he will choose; for, observe it, the way of sin is the way of his heart—his heart naturally lies that way; it has a natural propensity to sin. As long as God allows them, they walk in their own way, Acts 14:16. The natural man is so fixed in his woeful choice, that there needs no more to show he is off from God's way, than to say he is upon his own.

Proof 4. Whatever good impressions are made on him, they do not last. Though his heart be firm as a stone, yes, harder than the nether-millstone in point of receiving of them; it is otherwise unstable as water, and cannot keep them. It works against the receiving of them; and, when they are made, it works them off, and returns to its natural bias; Hos. 6:4, "Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goes away. " The morning cloud promises a heavy shower—but, when the sun arises, it vanishes; the sun beats upon the early dew--and it evaporates; so the husbandman's expectation is disappointed. Such is the goodness of the natural man. Some sharp affliction, or piercing conviction, obliges him, in some sort, to turn from his evil course—but his will not being renewed, piety is still against the grain with him, and therefore this goes off again, Psalm 78:34-37. Though a stone thrown up into the air may abide there a little while—yet its natural heaviness will bring it down again—so do unrenewed men return to their wallowing in the mire; because, though they washed themselves—yet their swinish nature was not changed. It is hard to cause wet wood to take fire, hard to make it keep alight; but it is harder than either of these to make the unrenewed will retain attained goodness; which is a plain evidence of the natural bent of the will to evil.

Proof 5. Do the saints serve the Lord now, as they were accustomed to serve sin, in their unconverted state? Very far from it, Romans 6:20, "When you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness. " Sin got all, and admitted no partner; but now, when they are the servants of Christ, are they free from sin? Nay, there are still with them some deeds of the old man, showing that he is but dying in them; and hence their hearts often misgive them, and slip aside unto evil, "when they would do good, " Romans 7:21. They need to watch, and keep their hearts with all diligence; and their sad experience teaches them, "That he who trusts in his own heart is a fool, " Proverbs 28:26. If it be thus in the green tree, how must it be in the dry?

4. There is a natural contrariety, direct opposition, and enmity, in the will of man, to God himself, and his holy will, Romans 8:7, "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. " The will was once God's deputy in the soul, set to command there for him; but now it is set up against him. If you would have the picture of it in its natural state, the very reverse of the will of God represents it. If the fruit hanging before one's eye is but forbidden, that is sufficient to draw the heart after it. Let me instance in the sin of profane swearing and cursing, to which some are so abandoned, that they take a pride in it, belching out horrid oaths and curses, as if hell opened with the opening of their mouths; or larding their speeches with minced oaths; and all this without any manner of provocation, though even that would not excuse them. Pray, tell me,

(1. ) What profit is there here? A thief gets something for his pains; a drunkard gets a belly-full; but what do you swearers get? Others serve the devil for pay; but you are volunteers, who expect no reward but your work itself, in affronting Heaven; and if you repent not, you will get your reward in full measure; when you go to hell, your work will follow you. The drunkard shall not have a drop of water to cool his tongue there; nor will the covetous man's wealth follow him into the other world! you may drive on your old trade there; eternity will be long enough to give you your heart's fill of it.

(2. ) What pleasure is there here—but what flows from your trampling on the holy law? Which of your senses does swearing and cursing gratify? If it gratifies your ears, it can only be by the noise it makes against the heavens. Though you had a mind to give up yourselves to all manner of profanity and sensuality, there is so little pleasure can be strained out of these sins of swearing, that we must needs conclude, your love to them, in this case, is a love to them for themselves, a devilish unhired love, without any prospect of profit or pleasure from them otherwise. If any shall say, these are monsters of men—be it so; yet, alas! the world is full of such monsters; they are to be found almost everywhere. Allow me to say, they must be admitted as the mouth of the whole unregenerate world against heaven, Romans 3:14, "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. " Ver. 19, "Now we know, that whatever things the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. "

I have a charge against every unregenerate man and woman, young and old, to be proved by the testimony of Scripture, and their own consciences; namely, that whether they be professors or profane, seeing they are not born again, they are heart enemies, (1. ) to God; (2. ) to the Son of God; (3. ) to the Spirit of God; and (4. ) to the law of God. Hear this, you careless souls, who live at ease in your natural state.

(1. ) You are enemies to GOD in your mind, Col. 1:21. You are not as yet reconciled to him; the natural enmity is not as yet slain, though perhaps it lies hidden, and you do not perceive it.

[1. ] You are enemies to the very being of God, Psalm 14:1, "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God. " The proud man wishes that none were above himself; the rebel, that there were no king; and the unrenewed man, who is a mass of pride and rebellion, that there were no God. He says it in his heart, he wishes it were so, though he is ashamed and afraid to speak it out. That all natural men are such fools, appears from the apostle's quoting a part of this psalm, "That every mouth may be stopped, " Romans 3:10-19. I own, indeed, that while the natural man looks on God as the Creator and Preserver of the world, because he loves his own self, therefore his heart rises not against God being his Benefactor—but his enmity will quickly appear when he looks on God as the Governor and Judge of the world, binding him, under the pain of the curse, to exact holiness, and girding him with the cords of death, because of his sin. Listen in this case to the voice of the heart, and you will find it to be, "there is no God!"

[2. ] You are enemies to the nature of God, Job 21:14, "They say unto God--Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways!" Men set up for themselves, an idol of their own fancy, instead of the true God, and then fall down and worship it. They love him no other way than Jacob loved Leah, while he mistook her for Rachel. Every natural man is an enemy to God, as he is revealed in his word. The infinitely holy, just, powerful, and true being, is not the God whom he loves—but the God whom he loathes. In fact, men naturally are haters of God, Romans 1:30; if they could, they certainly would make him otherwise than what he is. Now, upon this I would, for your conviction, propose to your conscience a few queries.

1st, How are your hearts affected towards the infinite purity and holiness of God? Conscience will give an answer to this, which the tongue will not speak out. If you are not partakers of his holiness, you cannot be reconciled to it. The Pagans finding that they could not be like God in holiness, made their gods like themselves in filthiness; and thereby they show what sort of a God the natural man would have. God is holy; can an unholy creature love his unspotted holiness? Nay, it is the righteous only that can "give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness, " Psalm 97:12. God is light; can creatures of darkness rejoice therein? Nay, "everyone that does evil hates the light, " John 3:20. "For what communion has light with darkness?" 2 Cor. 6:14.

2nd, How are your hearts affected towards the justice of God? There is not a man, who is wedded to his lusts, as all the unregenerate are—but would desire to blot out the God of justice. Can the malefactor love his condemning judge? or an unjustified sinner, a just God? No, he cannot, Luke 7:47, "To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little. " Hence, as men cannot get the doctrine of his justice blotted out of the Bible, it is such an eye-sore to them, that they strive to blot it out of their minds—they ruin themselves by presuming on his mercy, while they are not careful to get a righteousness, wherein they may stand before his justice; but "think he will do nothing at all to them, " Zeph. 1:12.

3rd, How are your hearts affected towards the omniscience and omnipresence of God? Men naturally would rather have a blind idol, than the all-seeing God; therefore, they do what they can, as Adam did, to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord. They no more love the all-seeing, every-where present God, than the thief loves to have the judge witness to his evil deeds. If it could be carried by votes, God would be voted out of the world, and closed up in heaven; for the language of the carnal heart is, "The Lord does not see us. The Lord has abandoned the earth, " Ezek. 8:12.

4th, How are your hearts affected towards the truth and veracity of God? There are but few in the world who can heartily subscribe to this sentence of the apostle, Romans 3:4, "Let God be true—but every man a liar. " Nay, truly, there are many who, in effect, hope that God will not be true to his word. There are thousands who hear the gospel, who hope to be saved, and think all safe with them for eternity--who never had any experience of the new birth, nor do at all concern themselves in the question, Whether they are born again, or not? a question that is likely to wear out from among us at this day. Our Lord's words are plain and peremptory, "Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. " What are such hopes, then—but real hopes that God--with profoundest reverence be it spoken--will recall his word, and that Christ will prove a liar? What else means the sinner, who, "when he hears the words of the curse, blesses himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart?" Deut. 29:19.

5th, How are your hearts affected towards the power of God? None but new creatures will love him for it, on a fair view thereof; though others may slavishly fear him upon account of it. There is not a natural man—but would contribute, to the utmost of his power, to the building of another tower of Babel, to hem it in.

On these grounds I declare every unrenewed man an enemy to the true God.

(2. ) You are enemies to the SON of God. That enmity to Christ is in your hearts, which would have made you join the farmers who killed the heir, and cast him out of the vineyard. "Am I a dog?" you will say, that I should so treat my sweet Saviour? So did Hazael ask in another case; but when he had the temptation, he was a dog to do it. Many call Christ their dear Saviour, whose consciences can bear witness, that they never derived as much sweetness from him as from their sweet lusts, which are ten times dearer to them than Christ. He is no other way dear to them, than as they abuse his death and sufferings for the peaceable enjoyment of their lusts; that they may live as they please in the world; and when they die, be kept out of hell. Alas! it is but a mistaken Christ that is sweet to you, whose souls loathe that Christ who is the "brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. " It is with you as it was with the carnal Jews, who delighted in him, while they mistook his errand into the world, fancying that he would be a temporal deliverer to them, Mal. 3:1. But when he "sat as a refiner and purifier of silver, " vers. 2, 3, and rejected them as reprobate silver, who thought to have had no small honour in the kingdom of the Messiah, his doctrine galled their consciences, and they had no rest until they imbrued their hands in his blood. To open your eyes in this point, which you are so averse to believe, I will lay before you the enmity of your hearts against Christ in all his offices.

1st, Every unregenerate man is an enemy to Christ in his PROPHETICAL office. He is appointed of the Father as the great Prophet and Teacher; but not upon the call of the world, who, in their natural state, would have unanimously voted against him—therefore, when he came, he was condemned as a seducer and blasphemer. For evidence of this enmity, I will instance two things.

Proof 1. Consider the treatment which he meets with when he comes to teach souls inwardly by his Spirit. Men do what they can to stop their ears, like the deaf adder, that they may not hear his voice. They "always resist the Holy Spirit. " "They desire not the knowledge of his ways;" and therefore bid him "depart from them. " The old calumny is often raised upon him on that occasion, John 10:20, "He is mad, why listen to him?" Soul concern is accounted, by many, nothing else but distraction, and melancholy fits; men thus blaspheming the Lord's work, because they themselves are beside themselves, and cannot judge of those matters.

Proof 2. Consider the entertainment which he meets with when he comes to teach men outwardly by his word. His written word, the Bible, is slighted. Christ has left it to us, as the book of our instruction, to show us what way we must steer our course, if we would go to Immanuel's land. It is a lamp to light us through a dark world, to eternal light. And he has enjoined us, to search it with that diligence wherewith men dig into mines for silver and gold, John 5:39. But, ah! how is this sacred treasure profaned by many! They ridicule that holy word, by which they must be judged at the last day; and will rather lose their souls than their jest, dressing up the conceits of their wanton wits in scripture phrases.

Many exhaust their spirits in reading romances, and their minds pursue them, as the flame does the dry stubble; while they have no heart for, nor relish to, the holy word; and therefore seldom take a Bible in their hands. What is agreeable to the vanity of their minds, is pleasant and exciting; but what recommends holiness to their unholy hearts, makes their spirits dull and flat. What pleasure they find in reading a profane ballad, or story-book, to whom the Bible is entirely tasteless! Many lay by their Bibles with their Sabbath-day's clothes; and whatever use they have for their clothes, they have none for their Bibles, until the return of the Sabbath. Alas! the dust on your Bibles is a witness now, and will, at the last day, be a witness of the enmity of your hearts against Christ as a Prophet.

Besides all this, among those who usually read the scripture, how few are there that read it as the word of the Lord to their souls, and keep up communion with him in it! They do not make his statues their counsellors, nor does their particular case send them to their Bibles. They are strangers to the solid comforts of the scriptures. And when they are dejected, it is something else than the word that revives them—as Ahab was cured of his sullen fit, by the obtaining of Naboth's vineyard for him.

Christ's word preached is despised. The treatment which most of the world, to whom it has come, have always given it, is that which is mentioned, Matt. 22:5, "They made light of it;" and for his sake, they are despised whom he employs to preach it; whatever other face men put upon their contempt of the ministry. John 15:20, 21, "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master. ' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. "

But though the earthen vessels, wherein God has put the treasure, be turned, with many, into vessels wherein there is no pleasure—yet why is the treasure itself slighted? But slighted it is, and that with a witness, this day. "Lord, who has believed our report? To whom shall we speak?" Alas! when they come to ordinances for the most part, it is but to appear, or as the word is, to be seen before the Lord; and to tread his courts, namely, as a company of beasts would do, if they were driven into them, Isaiah 1:12, so little reverence and awe of God appear on their spirits. Many stand like brazen walls before the word, in whose corrupt hearts the preaching of the word makes no broach. Nay, not a few are growing worse and worse, under "precept upon precept;" and the result of all is, "They go and fall backward, and are broken, and snared, and taken, " Isaiah 28:13. What tears of blood are sufficient to lament that the gospel of "the grace of God, " is thus "received in vain!" Ministers are but the voice of one crying; the speaker is in heaven; and speaks to you from heaven by men—why do you "refuse him who speaks?" Heb. 12:25. God has made our master Christ, heir of all things, and we are sent to seek for a spouse for him. There is none so worthy as he; none more unworthy than they to whom this match is proposed; but the prince of darkness is preferred before the Prince of Peace!

A dismal darkness overclouded the world by Adam's fall, more terrible than as if the sun, moon, and stars had been forever wrapped up in blackness of darkness; and there we would have eternally lain, had not this grace of the gospel, as a shining sun, appeared to dispel it, Tit. 2:11. But yet we fly like night-owls from it; and, like the wild beasts, lay ourselves down in our dens—when the sun arises, we are struck blind with the light thereof; and, as creatures of darkness, love darkness rather than light. Such is the enmity of the hearts of men against Christ, in his prophetical office.

2ndly, The natural man is an enemy to Christ in his PRIESTLY office. He is appointed of the Father a priest forever; that, only by his sacrifice and intercession, sinners may have peace with, and access to God. But Christ crucified is a stumbling-block, and foolishness to the unrenewed part of mankind, to whom he is preached, 1 Cor. 1:23. They are not for him as the "new and living way;" nor is he, by the voice of the world, "a High-priest over the house of God. " Corrupt nature goes quite another way to work.

Proof 1. None of Adam's children are naturally inclined to receive the blessing in borrowed robes; but would always, according to the spider's motto, "owe all to themselves:" and so climb up to heaven on a thread spun for themselves. For they "desire to be under the law, " Gal. 4:21, and "go about to establish their own righteousness, " Romans 10:3. Man naturally looks on God as a great master; and himself as his servant, who must work and win heaven as his wages. Hence, when conscience is awakened, he thinks that, to the end he may be saved, he must answer the demands of the law, serve God as well as he can, and pray for mercy wherein he comes short. And thus many come to duties, who never come out of them to Jesus Christ.

Proof 2. As men naturally think highly of their duties, that seem to them to be well done, so they look for acceptance with God, according as their work is done, not according to the share they have in the blood of Christ. "Therefore have we fasted, say they, and you see not?" They value themselves on their performances and attainments; yes, their very opinions in religion, Phil. 3:4, 7, taking to themselves what they rob from Christ the great High priest.

Proof 3. The natural man, going to God in duties, will always be found either to go without a Mediator, or with more than the one only Mediator, Jesus Christ. Nature is blind, and therefore venturesome; it sets men a-going immediately to God without Christ; to rush into his presence, and put their petitions in his hand, without being introduced by the secretary of heaven, or putting their requests into his hand. So fixed is this disposition in the unrenewed heart, that when many hearers of the gospel are conversed with upon the point of their hopes of salvation, the name of Christ will scarcely be heard from their mouths. Ask them how they think to obtain the pardon of sin? they will tell you they beg and look for mercy, because God is a merciful God; and that is all they have to confide in. Others look for mercy for Christ's sake—but how do they know that Christ will take their plea in hand? Why, as the papists have their mediators with the Mediator, so have they. They know he cannot but do it; for they pray, confess, mourn, and have great desires, and the like; and so have something of their own to commend them unto him—they were never made poor in spirit, and brought empty-handed to Christ, to lay the stress of all on his atoning blood.

3rdly, The natural man is an enemy to Christ in his KINGLY office. The Father has appointed the Mediator, "King in Zion, " Psalm 2:6. All to whom the gospel comes are commanded, on their highest peril, "to kiss the Son, " and submit themselves unto him, verse 12. But the natural voice of mankind is, "Away with him;" as you may see, verse 2, 3, "They will not have him to reign over them, " Luke 19:14.

Proof 1. The workings of corrupt nature would wrest the government out of his hands. No sooner was he born—but, being born a King, Herod persecuted him, Matt. 2. And when he was crucified, they "set up over his head his accusation written, This is Jesus, the King of the Jews, " Matt. 27:37. Though his kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, and not of this world—yet they cannot allow him a kingdom within a kingdom, which acknowledges no other head or supreme but the Royal Mediator. They make bold with his royal prerogatives, changing his laws, institutions, and ordinances; modelling his worship according to the devices of their own hearts, introducing new offices and officers into his kingdom, not to be found in "the book of the manner of his kingdom;" disposing of the external government thereof, as may best suit their carnal designs. Such is the enmity of the hearts of men against Zion's King.

Proof 2. How unwilling are men, naturally, to submit unto, and be hedged in by, the laws and discipline of his kingdom! As a king, he is a lawgiver, Isaiah 33:22, and has appointed an external government, discipline, and censures, to control the unruly, and to keep his professed subjects in order, to be exercised by officers of his own appointment, Matt. 18:17, 18; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17. But these are the great eye-sores of the carnal world, who love sinful liberty, and therefore cry out, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us, " Psalm 2:3. Hence this work is found to be, in a special manner, a striving against the stream of corrupt nature, which, for the most part, puts such a face on the church, as if there were no king in Israel, everyone doing that which is right in his own eyes.

Proof 3. However natural men may be brought to feign submission to the King of saints—yet lusts always retain the throne and dominion in their hearts, and they are serving divers lusts and pleasures, Titus 3:3. None—but those in whom Christ is formed, do really put the crown on his head, and receive the kingdom of Christ within them. His crown is "the crown wherewith his mother crowned him on the day of his espousals. " Who are they, whom the power of grace has not subdued, who will not allow him to set up, and to put down, in their souls, as he will? Nay, as for others, will never absolutely resign themselves to his government, until conquered in a day of power. Thus you may see, that the natural man is an enemy to Jesus Christ in all his offices.

But O, how hard it is to convince men in this point! They are very loath to believe. And, in a special manner, the enmity of the heart against Christ in his priestly office seems to be hidden from the view of most of the hearers of the gospel. There appears to be a peculiar malignity in corrupt nature against this office of his. It may be observed, that the Socinians, those enemies of our blessed Lord, allow him to be properly a Prophet and a King—but deny him to be properly a Priest. And this is agreeable enough to the corruption of our nature—for, under the covenant of works, the Lord was known as a Prophet or Teacher, and also as a King or Ruler; but not at all as a Priest. So man knows nothing of the mystery of Christ, as the way to the Father, until it is revealed to him—and when it is revealed, the will rises up against it; for corrupt nature is opposed to the mystery of Christ, and the great contrivance of salvation, through the crucified Saviour, revealed in the gospel. For clearing of which weighty truth, let these four things be considered:

[1. ] The soul's falling in with the grand scheme of salvation by Jesus Christ, and setting the matters of salvation on that footing before the Lord, is declared by the Scriptures of truth to be an undoubted mark of a real saint, who is happy here, and shall be happy hereafter, Matt. 11:6, "Blessed is he whoever shall not be offended in me. " 1 Cor. 1:23, 24, "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. " Phil. 3:3, "For we are the circumcision who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. " Now, how could this be, if nature could comply with that grand device?

[2. ] Corrupt nature is the very reverse of the gospel plan. In the gospel, God proposes Jesus Christ as the great means of re-uniting man to himself; he has named him as the Mediator, one in whom he is well pleased, and will have none but him, Matt. 17:5; but nature will have none of him, Psalm 71:11. God appointed the place of meeting for the reconciliation, namely, the flesh of Christ; accordingly, God was in Christ, 2 Cor. 5:19, as the tabernacle of meeting, to make up the peace with sinners—but natural men, although they should die forever, will not come to Christ, John 5:40, "You will not come to me that you might have life. " In the way of the gospel, the sinner must stand before the Lord in an imputed righteousness—but corrupt nature is for an inherent righteousness; and, therefore, so far as natural men follow after righteousness, they follow after "the law of righteousness, " Romans 9:31, 32; and not after "the Lord our righteousness. " Nature is always for building up itself, and to have some ground for boasting; but the great design of the gospel is to exalt grace, to depress nature, and exclude boasting, Romans 3:27. The sum of our natural religion is, to do good from and for ourselves, John 5:44; the sum of the gospel religion is, to deny ourselves, and to do good from and for Christ, Phil. 1:21.

[3. ] Everything in nature is against believing in Jesus Christ. What beauty can the blind man discern in a crucified Saviour, for which he is to be desired? How can the will, naturally impotent, yes, and averse to good, make choice of him? Well may the soul then say to him in the day of the spiritual siege, as the Jebusite said to David in another case, "Except you take away the blind and the lame, you shall not come in hither, " 2 Sam. 5:6. The way of nature is to go into oneself for all; according to the fundamental maxim of unsanctified morality, "That a man should trust in himself;" which, according to the doctrine of faith, is mere foolishness—for so it is determined, Proverbs 28:26, "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool. " Now faith is the soul's going out of itself for all—and this, nature, on the other hand, determines to be foolishness, 1 Cor. 1:18-23. Therefore there is need of the working of mighty power to cause sinners to believe, Eph. 1:19; Isaiah 53:1. We see the promises of welcome to sinners, in the gospel-covenant, are ample, large, and free, clogged with no conditions, Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 22:17. If they cannot believe his bare word, he has given his oath upon it, Ezek. 33:11; and, for their greater assurance, he has annexed seals to his sworn covenant, namely, the holy sacraments—so that no more could be demanded of the most faithless person in the world, to make us believe him, than the Lord has condescended to give us, to make us believe himself. This plainly speaks nature to be against believing; and those who flee to Christ for a refuge, to have need of strong consolation, Heb. 6:18, to balance their strong doubts, and propensity to unbelief. Farther, also, it may be observed, how in the word sent to a secure, graceless generation, their objections are answered beforehand; and words of grace are heaped one upon another, as you may read, Isaiah 55:7-9; Joel 2:13. Why? Because the Lord knows, that when these secure sinners are thoroughly awakened, doubts, fears, and carnal reasonings against believing, will be getting into their breasts, as thick as dust in a house, raised by sweeping a dry floor.

[4. ] Corrupt nature is bent towards the way of the law, or covenant of works; and every natural man, so far as he sets himself to seek after salvation, is engaged in that way, and will not leave it, until beat from it by divine power. Now the way of salvation by works, and that of free grace in Jesus Christ, are inconsistent. Romans 11:6, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work. " Gal. 3:12, "And the law is not of faith; but the man that does them shall live in them. " Therefore, if the will of man naturally inclines to the way of salvation by the law, it lies cross to the gospel plan. And that such is the natural bent of our hearts, will appear, if these following things be considered:

(1st. ) The law was Adam's covenant; and he knew no other, as he was the head and representative of all mankind, who were brought into it with him, and left under it by him, though without strength to perform the condition thereof. Hence, this covenant is interwoven with our nature; and though we have lost our father's strength—yet we still incline to the way he was set upon, as our head and representative in that covenant—that is, by doing, to live. This is our natural religion, and the principle which men naturally take for granted, Matt. 19:16, "What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?"

(2ndly. ) Consider the opposition that has always been made in the world, against the doctrine of free grace in Jesus Christ--by men setting up the way of works; thereby discovering the natural tendency of the heart. It is manifest, that the great design of the gospel plan is to exalt the free grace of God in Jesus Christ, Romans 4:16, "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace. " See Eph. 1:6, and chapter 2:7-9. All gospel truths centre in Christ—so that to learn the truth, is to learn Christ, Eph. 4:20, and to be truly taught it, is to be taught as "the truth is in Jesus, " verse 21. All dispensations of grace and favour from heaven, whether to nations or particular people, have still had something about them proclaiming the freedom of grace; as in the very first separation made by the divine favour, Cain, the elder brother is rejected, and Abel, the younger, accepted. This shines through the whole history of the Bible—but, as true it is, this has been the point principally opposed by corrupt nature. One may well say, that, of all errors in religion, since Christ the seed of the woman was preached, this of works, in opposition to free grace in him, was the first that lived, and, it is likely, will be the last that dies. There have been vast numbers of errors, which have sprung up, one after another; whereof, at length, the world became ashamed and weary, so that they died away—but this has continued, from Cain, the first author of this heresy, unto this day; and never lacked some who clave to it, even in the times of greatest light.

I do not, without ground, call Cain the author of it; who, when Abel brought a sacrifice of atonement, a bloody offering of the firstlings of his flock, like the publican smiting on his bosom, and saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner, " advanced with his thank-offering of the fruit of the ground, Gen. 4:3, 4, like the proud Pharisee with his "God, I thank you, " etc. For what was the cause of Cain's wrath, and of his murdering Abel? was it not that he was not accepted of God for his work? Gen. 4:4, 5. "And why did he slew him? Because his own works wore evil and his brother's righteous, " 1 John 3:12; that is, done in faith, and accepted, when his were done without faith, and rejected, as the apostle teaches, Heb. 11:4. So he wrote his indignation against justification and acceptance with God through faith, in opposition to works, in the blood of his brother, to convey it down to posterity. And, since that time, the unbloody sacrifice has often swimmed in the blood of those who rejected it.

The promise made to Abraham, of the seed in which all nations should be blessed, was so overclouded among his posterity in Egypt, that the generality of them saw no need of that way of obtaining the blessing, until God himself confuted their error by a fiery law from Mount Sinai, which "was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come, " Gal. 3:19. I need not insist on telling you, how Moses and the prophets had still much to do, to lead the people off from the conceit of their own righteousness. The ninth chapter of Deuteronomy is entirely spent on that purpose. They were very gross in that point in our Saviour’s time, in the time of the apostles, when the doctrine of free grace was most clearly preached, that error lifted up its head in the face of the clearest light; witness the epistles to the Romans and Galatians. And since that time it has not been lacking; Popery being the common sink of former heresies, and the heart and life of that delusion. And, finally, it may be observed, that always as the church declined from her purity otherwise, the doctrine of free grace was obscured proportionably.

(3rdly. ) Such is the natural propensity of man's heart to the way of the law, in opposition to Christ, that, as the tainted vessel turns the taste of the purest liquor put into it, so the natural man turns the very gospel into law, and transforms the covenant of grace into a covenant of works. The ceremonial law was to the Jews a real gospel, which held blood, death, and translation of guilt, before their eyes continually, as the only way of salvation; yet their very table, that is, their altar, with the several ordinances pertaining thereto, Mal. 1:12, was a snare unto them, Romans 11:9, while they used it to make up the defects in their obedience to the moral law; and clave to it so, as to reject him, whom the altar and sacrifices pointed them to, as the subject of all—even as Hagar, whose duty was only to serve, was, by their father, brought into her mistress's bed; not without a mystery in the purpose of God, "for these are the two covenants, " Gal. 4:24. Thus is the doctrine of the gospel corrupted by papist and other enemies to the doctrine of free grace. And indeed, however natural men's heads may be set right in this point, as surely as they are out of Christ; their faith, repentance, and obedience, such as they are, are placed by them in the room of Christ and his righteousness; and so trusted to, as if by these they fulfilled a new law.

(4thly. ) Great is the difficulty, in Adam's sons, of their parting with the law as a covenant of works. None part with it, in that respect—but those whom the power of the spirit of grace separates from it. The law is our first husband, and gets everyone's virgin love. When Christ comes to the soul, he finds it married to the law, so as it neither can nor will be married to another, until it be obliged to part with the first husband, as the apostle teaches, Romans 7:1-4. Now, that you may see what sort of a parting this is, consider,

[1st. ] It is death, Romans 7:4; Gal. 2:19. Entreaties will not prevail with the soul here; it says to the first husband, as Ruth to Naomi, "The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me. " And here sinners are true to their word; they die to the law, before they are married to Christ. Death is hard to everybody; but what difficulty, do you imagine, must a loving wife, on her deathbed, find in parting with her husband, the husband of her youth, and with the dear children she has brought forth to him? The law is that husband; all the duties performed by the natural man are these children. What a struggle, as for life, will be in the heart before they are parted? I may have occasion to touch upon this afterwards; in the mean time, take the apostle's short but pithy description of it, Romans 10:3, "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. " They go about to establish their own righteousness, like an eager disputant in schools, seeking to establish the point in question; or, like a tormentor, extorting a confession from one upon the rack. They go about to establish it, to make it stand—their righteousness is like a house built on the sand; it cannot stand—but they would have it to stand. It falls; they set it up again—but still it tumbles down on them; yet they cease not to go about to make it stand.

But why all these pains about a tottering righteousness? Because, such as it is, it is their own. What sets them against Christ's righteousness? Why, that would make them free grace's debtors for all; and that is what the proud heart can by no means submit to. Here lies the stress of the matter, Psalm 10:4, "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek, " to read it without the supplement, in other terms, it means, "He cannot beg, and to beg he is ashamed. " Such is the struggle before the soul dies to the law. But what speaks yet more of this woeful disposition of the heart, nature oft-times gets the mastery of the disease—insomuch that the soul, which was likely to have died to the law while convictions were sharp and piercing, fatally recovers of the happy and promising sickness; and, what is natural, cleaves more closely than ever to the law, even as a wife brought back from the gates of death, would cleave to her husband. This is the outcome of the exercises of many about their souls' case—they are indeed brought to follow duties more closely; but they are as far from Christ as ever, if not farther.

[2ndly. ] It is a violent death, Romans 7:4, "you are become dead to the law, " being killed, slain, or put to death, as the word bears. The law itself has a great hand in this; the husband gives the wound, Gal. 2:19, "I through the law am dead to the law. " The soul that dies this death, is like a loving wife matched with a rigorous husband; she does what she can to please him—yet he is never pleased—but harasses and beats her until she breaks her heart, and death sets her free—this will afterwards more fully appear.

Thus it is made evident, that men's hearts are naturally bent to the way of the law, and lie cross to the gospel method—and the second article of the charge against you who are unregenerate is verified, namely, that you are enemies to the Son of God.

(3. ) You are enemies to the SPIRIT of God. He is the Spirit of holiness—the natural man is unholy, and loves to be so, and therefore resists the Holy Spirit, Acts 7:51. The work of the Spirit is to convince the world of "sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, " John 16:8. But O, how do men strive to ward off these convictions, as much as they ward off a blow, threatening the loss of a right eye, or a right hand. If the Spirit of the Lord darts them in, so that they cannot avoid them; the heart says, in effect, as Ahab to Elijah, whom he both hated and feared, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" And indeed, they treat him as an enemy, doing their utmost to stifle convictions, and to murder these harbingers that come to prepare the Lord's way into the soul. Some fill their hands with business, to put their convictions out of their heads, as Cain, who set about building a city; some put them off with delays and fair promises, as Felix did; some will sport them away in company, and some sleep them away. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of sanctification; whose work it is to subdue lusts, and burn up corruption—how then can the natural man, whose lusts are to him as his limbs, yes, as his life, fail of being an enemy to him?

(4. ) You are enemies to the LAW of God. Though the natural man desires to be under the law, as a covenant of works, choosing that way of salvation, in opposition to the mystery of Christ; yet as it is a rule of life to him, requiring universal holiness, and forbidding all manner of impurity, he is an enemy to it—"is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, " Romans 8:7. For,

[1. ] There is no unrenewed man, who is not wedded to some one lust or another, which his heart can by no means part with. Now, that he cannot bring up his inclinations to the holy law, he would fain have the law brought down to his inclinations—a plain evidence of the enmity of the heart against it. Therefore, "to delight in the law of God after the inward man, " is proposed in the word as a mark of a gracious soul, Romans 7:22; Psalm 1:2. It is from this natural enmity of the heart against the law, that all the Pharisaical glosses upon it have arisen; whereby the commandment, which is in itself exceeding broad, has been made very narrow, to the intent that it might be the more agreeable to the natural disposition of the heart.

[2. ] The law, laid home on the natural conscience in its spirituality, irritates corruption. The nearer it comes, nature rises the higher against it. In that case it is as oil to the fire, which instead of quenching it, makes it flame the more—"When the commandment came, sin revived, " says the apostle, Romans 7:9. What reason can be assigned for this—but the natural enmity of the heart against the holy law? Unmortified corruption, the more it is opposed, the more it rages.

Let us conclude then, that the unregenerate are heart-enemies to God, his Son, his Spirit, and his law; that there is a natural contrariety, opposition, and enmity in the will of man to God himself, and his holy will.

(5. ) There is in the will of man contumacy against the Lord. Man's will is naturally wilful in an evil course; he will have his will, though it should ruin him—it is with him, as with the leviathan, Job 41:29, "Darts are counted as stubble; he laughs at the shaking of a spear. " The Lord calls to him by his word; says to him, as Paul to the jailor, when he was about to kill himself, "Do yourself no harm:" sinner, "why will you die?" Ezek. 18:31. But they will not hearken; everyone turns to his course, "as the horse rushes into the battle, " Jer. 8:6. We have a promise of life, in form of a command, Proverbs 4:4, "Keep my commandments and live:" it speaks impenitent sinners to be self-destroyers, wilful self-murderers. They transgress the command of living; as if one's servant should wilfully starve himself to death, or greedily drink a cup of poison, which his master commands him to forbear—even so do they; they will not live, they will die, Proverbs 8:36, "All those who hate me, love death. "

O, what a heart is this! It is a stony heart, Ezek. 36:26, hard and inflexible as a stone—mercies melt it not, judgments break it not; yet it will break before it bend. It is an insensible heart—though there be upon the sinner a weight of sin, which makes the earth to stagger; although there is a weight of that wrath on him, which makes the devils to tremble; yet he goes lightly under the burden; he feels not the weight any more than a stone would, until the Spirit of the Lord quickens him so far as to feel it.

(6. ) The unrenewed will is wholly perverse, in reference to man's chief and highest end. The natural man's chief end is not God—but himself. The being of man is merely relative, dependent, borrowed—he has neither being nor goodness originally from himself; but all he has is from his God, as the first cause and spring of all perfection, natural or moral. Dependence is woven into his very nature—so that if God were totally to withdraw from him, he would dwindle into a mere nothing. Seeing then whatever man is, he is by God, surely in whatever he is, he should be to God, as the waters which came from the sea, do of course return there again.

Thus man was created, directly looking to God, as his chief end—but, failing into sin, he fell off from God, and turned into himself; and, like a traitor usurping the throne, he gathers in the rents of the crown to himself. This infers a total apostasy and universal corruption in man; for where the chief and last end is changed, there can be no goodness there. This is the case of all men in their natural state, Psalm 14:2, 3, "The Lord looked down to see if there were any that did seek God. They are all gone aside" from God; they seek not God—but themselves. Though many fair shreds of morality are to be found among them—yet "there is none who does good, no, not one;" for though some of them in appearance run well—yet they are still off the way; they never aim at the right mark. They are "lovers of their own selves, " 2 Tim. 3:2, "more than God, " ver. 4. Therefore Jesus Christ, having come into the world to bring men back to God again, came to bring them out of themselves in the first place, Matt. 16:24.

The godly groan under this woeful disposition of the heart—they acknowledge it, and set themselves against it, in its subtle and dangerous insinuations. The unregenerate, though most insensible of it, are under the power of self; and wherever they turn themselves, they cannot move beyond the circle of self—they seek themselves, they act for themselves; their natural, civil, and religious actions, from whatever springs they come, all run into, and meet in the dead sea of self.

Most men are so far from making God their chief end, in their natural and civil actions, that in these matters, God is not in all their thoughts. Their eating and drinking, and such like natural actions, are for themselves; their own pleasure or necessity, without any higher end, Zech. 7:6, "Did you not eat for yourselves?" They have no eye to the glory of God in these things, as they ought to have, 1 Cor. 10:31. They do not eat and drink to keep up their bodies for the Lord's service; they do them not because God has said, "You shall not kill:" neither do those drops of sweetness, which God has put into the creature, raise up their souls towards that ocean of delights that is in the Creator; though they be a sign hung out at heaven's door, to tell men of the fullness of goodness that is in God himself, Acts 14:17. But it is self, and not God, that is sought in them, by natural men. And what are the unrenewed man's civil actions, such as buying, selling, working, etc. —but fruit to himself? Hos. 10:1. So marrying, and giving in marriage, are reckoned among the sins of the old world, Matt. 24:38, for they have no eye to God therein, to please him; but all they had in view was to please themselves, Gen. 6:3.

Finally, self is natural men's highest end, in their religious actions. They perform duties for a name, Matt. 6:1, 2, or some other worldly interest, John 6:26. Or if they be more refined, it is their peace, and at most their salvation from hell and wrath or their own eternal happiness, that is their chief and highest end, Matt. 19:16-22. Their eyes are blind, that they cannot see the glory of God. They seek God indeed—yet not for himself—but for themselves. They seek him not at all—but for their own welfare—so their whole life is woven into one web of practical blasphemy; making God the means, and self their end, yes, their chief end.

Thus I have given you a crude draught of man's will, in his natural state, drawn by scripture, and men's own experience. Call it no more Naomi—but Marah; for bitter it is, and a root of bitterness. Call it no more free-will—but slavish lust; free to evil—but free from good, until regenerating grace loosens the bands of wickedness. Now, since all must be wrong, and nothing can be right, where the understanding and will are so corrupt; I shall briefly dispatch what remains, as following, of course, on the corruption of these prime faculties of the soul.

3. The Corruption of the AFFECTIONS.

"Men loved darkness. " John 3:19. "Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. " 2 Tim. 3:4.

The affections are corrupted. The unrenewed man's affections are wholly disordered and distempered—they are as the unruly horse, that either will not receive, or violently runs away with, the rider. So man's heart naturally is a mother of abominations, Mark 7:21, 22, "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. " The natural man's affections are wretchedly misplaced; he is a spiritual monster. His heart is where his feet should be--fixed on the earth; his heels are lifted up against heaven--which his heart should be set on, Acts 9:5. His face is towards hell, his back towards heaven; and therefore God calls to him to turn. He loves what he should hate, and hates what he should love. He joys in what he ought to mourn for, and mourns for what he should rejoice in. He glories in his shame, and is ashamed of his glory. He abhors what he should desire, and desires what he should abhor, Proverbs 2:13-15.

They hit the point indeed, as Caiaphas did in another case, who cried out against the apostles, as men that turned the world upside down, Acts 17:6; for that is the work which the gospel has to do in the world, where sin has put all things so out of order, that heaven lies under, and earth a-top. If the unrenewed man's affections be set on lawful objects, then they are either excessive or defective. Lawful enjoyments of the world have sometimes too little—but mostly too much of them; either they get not their due, or, if they do, it is measure pressed down, and running over. Spiritual things have always too little of them. In a word, they are never right; only evil.

Now, here is a threefold cord against heaven and holiness, not easily to be broken--a blind mind, a perverse will, and disorderly distempered affections. The mind, swelled with self-conceit, says, the man should not stoop; the will, opposite to the will of God, says, he will not; and the corrupt affections, rising against the Lord, in defence of the corrupt will, say, he shall not. Thus the poor creature stands out against God and goodness, until a day of power comes, in which he is made a new creature.

4. Corruption of the CONSCIENCE.

The conscience is corrupt and defiled, "to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled. " Titus 1:15.

Conscience is an evil eye, which fills one's mind with much darkness and confusion; being naturally unable to do its office—until the Lord, by letting in new light to the soul, awakens the conscience, it remains sleepy and inactive. Conscience can never do its work—but according to the light it has to work by. Therefore, seeing the natural man cannot spiritually discern spiritual things, 1 Cor. 2:14, the conscience naturally is quite useless in that point; being cast into such a deep sleep, which nothing but saving illumination from the Lord can set it on work in that matter.

The light of the natural conscience in good and evil, sin and duty--is very defective; therefore, though it may check for grosser sins—yet, to the more subtle workings of sin, it cannot check them, because it discerns them not. Thus, conscience will fly in the face of many, if at any time they are drunk, swear, neglect prayer; or are guilty of any gross sin; who otherwise have a profound peace, though they live in the sin of unbelief, and are strangers to spiritual worship, and the life of saving faith. Natural light being but faint and languishing in many things which it reaches, conscience, in that case, shoots like a stitch in one's side, which quickly goes off—its incitements to duty, and checks for, and struggles against sin, are very remiss, which the natural man easily gets over. But because there is a false light in the dark mind, the natural conscience following the same, will call evil good, and good evil, Isaiah 5:20. So conscience is often like a blind and furious horse, which violently runs down himself, his rider, and all that comes in his way. John 16:2, "Whoever kills you, will think that he does God service. "

When the natural conscience is awakened by the Spirit of conviction, it will indeed rage and roar, and put the whole man in a dreadful consternation; awfully summon all the powers of the soul to help in a strait; make the stiff heart to tremble, and the knees to bow; set the eyes weeping, the tongue confessing; and oblige the man to cast out the goods into the sea, which he apprehends are likely to sink the ship of the soul, though the heart still goes after them. Yet it is an evil conscience which naturally leads to despair, and will do it effectually, as in Judas' case; unless either lusts prevail over it, to lull it asleep, as in the case of Felix, Acts 24:25, or the blood of Christ prevail over it, sprinkling and purging it from dead works, as in the case of all true converts, Heb. 9:14, and 10:22.

5. Corruption of the MEMORY.

Even the memory bears evident marks of sin and corruption. What is good and worthy to be remembered, makes but slender impression, so that impression easily wears off; the memory, as a leaking vessel, lets it slip. As a sieve that is full when in the water, lets all go when it is taken out--just so is the memory with respect to spiritual things.

But how does the memory retain what ought to be forgotten! Sinful things so bear in themselves upon it, that though men would sincerely have them out of mind--yet they stick there like glue! However forgetful men are in other things, it is hard to forget an injury. So the memory often furnishes new fuel to old lusts; makes men in old age remember the sins of their youth, while it presents them again to the mind with delight, which thereupon returns to its former lusts. Thus the memory is like a riddle--which lets through the pure grain, and keeps the refuse.

Thus far of the corruption of the soul--the mind, will, affections, conscience, and memory.

6. Corruption of the BODY.

"Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. " Romans 3:13-15.

The body itself also is partaker of corruption and defilement. Therefore the Scripture calls it sinful flesh, Romans 8:3. The natural temper, or rather distemper of our bodies have a natural tendency to sin. The body incites to sin, betrays the soul into snares, yes, is itself a snare to the soul. The body is a furious beast, of such a temper, that it will not be beat down, kept under control, and brought into subjection. It will cast the soul into much sin and misery.

The body serves the soul in many sins. Its members are weapons of unrighteousness, whereby men fight against God. The eyes and ears are open doors, by which impure motions and sinful desires enter the soul. The tongue is "a world of iniquity, " "an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison, " by it the impure heart vents a great deal of its filthiness. The throat is "an open grave. " The feet run the devil's errands. The belly is made a god, Phil. 3:19, not only by drunkards and riotous livers—but by every natural man. So the body naturally is an agent for the devil, and a storehouse of weapons against the Lord.

To conclude—man by nature is wholly corrupted, "from the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in him. " As in a dunghill, every part contributes to the corruption of the whole, so the natural man grows still worse and worse--the soul is made worse by the body, and the body by the soul; and every faculty of the soul (the mind, will, affections, conscience and memory) serves to corrupt another more and more.

There is a vileness in the body, Phil. 3:21, which, as to the saints, will never be removed, until it is melted down in the grave, and cast into a new form at the resurrection, to come forth a spiritual body.

This much for the second general head.

III. I shall show HOW man's nature comes to be thus corrupted.

The heathens perceived that man's nature was corrupted; but how sin had entered, they could not tell. But the Scripture is very plain on that point, Romans 5:12, 19, "By one man--sin entered into the world. By one man's disobedience--many were made sinners. " Adam's sin corrupted man's nature, and leavened the whole lump of mankind. We putrefied as in Adam as our root. The root was poisoned, and so the branches were envenomed—the vine turned into the vine of Sodom, and so the grapes became grapes of gall. Adam, by his sin, became not only guilty—but corrupt; and so transmits guilt and corruption to his posterity, Gen. 5:3; Job 14:4. By his sin he stripped himself of his original righteousness, and corrupted himself; we were in him representatively, being represented by him as our moral head in the covenant of works; we were in him seminally, as our natural head; hence we fell in him, and by his disobedience were made sinners, as Levi, in the loins of Abraham paid tithes, Heb. 7:9, 10.

His first sin is imputed to us; therefore, we are justly left under the lack of his original righteousness, which being given to him as a common person, he cast off by his sin—and this is necessarily followed, in him and us, by the corruption of the whole nature; righteousness and corruption being two contraries, one of which must needs always be in man, as a subject capable thereof. And Adam, our common father, being corrupt, we are so too; for "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?"

Although it is sufficient to prove the righteousness of this dispensation, that it was from the Lord, who does all things well; yet, to silence the murmurings of proud nature, let these few things farther be considered.

1. In the covenant wherein Adam represented us, eternal happiness was promised to him and his posterity, upon condition of Adam's perfect obedience, as the representative of all mankind—whereas, if there had been no covenant, they could not have pleaded eternal life upon their most perfect obedience—but might have been, after all, reduced to nothing; notwithstanding, by natural justice, they would have been liable to God's eternal wrath, in case of sin. Who in that case would not have consented to that representation?

2. Adam had a power to stand given him, being made upright. He was as capable of standing for himself and all his posterity, as any after him could be for themselves. This trial of mankind in their head would soon have been over, and the crown for them all, had he stood—whereas, had his posterity been independent of him, and everyone left to act for himself, the trial would have been continually carrying on, as men came into the world.

3. He had the strongest natural affection to engage him, being our common father.

4. His own stock was in the ship, his all lay at stake, as well as ours. He had no separate interest from ours; but if he forget ours, he must necessarily forget his own.

5. If he had stood, we would have had the light of his mind, the righteousness of his will, and holiness of his affections, with entire purity, transmitted unto us; we could not have fallen; the crown of glory, by his obedience, would have been forever secured to him and his descendants. This is evident from the nature of a federal representation, and no reason can be given why, seeing we are lost by Adam's sin, we would not have been saved by his obedience. On the other hand, it is reasonable, that he falling, we would with him bear the loss.

6. Those who quarrel with this dispensation, must renounce their part in Christ; for we are no otherwise made sinners by Adam, than we are made righteous by Christ, from whom we have both imputed and inherent righteousness. We no more made choice of the second Adam for our head and representative in the second covenant, than we did of the first Adam in the first covenant.

Let none wonder that such a horrible change could be brought on by one sin of our first parents; for thereby they turned away from God, as their chief end, which necessarily infers a universal depravation. Their sin was a complication of evils, a total apostasy from God, a violation of the whole law—by it they broke all the ten commands at once.

1. They chose new gods. They made their belly their God--by their sensuality. Self became their God--by their ambition. Yes, and the devil their God--by believing him, and disbelieving their Maker.

2. Though they received—yet they observed not that ordinance of God about the forbidden fruit. They despised that ordinance so plainly enjoined them, and would needs carve out to themselves how to serve the Lord.

3. They took the name of the Lord their God in vain; despising his attributes, his justice, truth, power, etc. They grossly profaned the holy tree; abused his word, by not giving credit to it; abused that creature of his which they should not have touched; and violently misconstrued his providence, as if God, by forbidding them that tree, had been standing in the way of their happiness; therefore he did not allow them to escape his righteous judgment.

4. They remembered not the Sabbath to keep it holy—but put themselves out of a condition to serve God aright on his own day; neither kept they that state of holy rest wherein God had put them.

5. They cast off their relative duties—Eve forgets herself, and acts without the advice of her husband, to the ruin of both; Adam, instead of admonishing her to repent, yields to the temptation, and confirms her in her wickedness. They forgot all duty to their posterity. They honoured not their Father in heaven; and therefore, their days were not long in the land which the Lord their God gave them.

6. They ruined themselves, and all their posterity.

7. They gave themselves up to lust and sensuality.

8. They took away what was not their own, against the express will of the great Owner.

9. They bore false witness, and lied against the Lord, before angels, devils, and one another; in effect giving out, that they were harshly dealt with, and that God grudged their happiness.

10. They were discontented with their lot, and coveted a forbidden object; which ruined both them and theirs.

Thus was the image of God on man defaced all at once.

IV. I shall now APPLY this doctrine of the corruption of nature.

Use 1. For INFORMATION.

Is man's nature wholly corrupted? Then,

1. No wonder that the grave opens its devouring mouth for us, as soon as the womb has cast us forth; and that the cradle is turned into a coffin, to receive the corrupt lump—for we are all, in a spiritual sense, dead-born; yes, and filthy, Psalm 14:3, foul, vile, and stinking as a corrupt thing, as the word imports. Then let us not complain of the miseries we are exposed to at our entrance into the world, nor of the continuance of them while we are in the world. Here is the venom which has poisoned all the springs of earthly enjoyments we have to drink of. It is the corruption of man's nature, which brings forth all the miseries of human life, in churches, states, and families, and in men's souls and bodies.

2. Behold here, as in a mirror, the spring of all the wickedness, profanity, and formality, which is in the world; the source of all the disorders in your own heart and life. Everything acts like itself, agreeable to its own nature; and so corrupt man acts corruptly. You need not wonder at the sinfulness of your own heart and life, nor at the sinfulness and perverseness of others—if a man be crooked, he cannot but halt; and if the clock be set wrong, how can it point the hour aright?

3. See here, why sin is so pleasant, and true religion such a burden to carnal men—sin is natural, holiness not so. Oxen cannot feed in the sea, nor fish in the fruitful fields. A swine brought into a palace would soon get away again, to wallow in the mire; and corrupt nature tends ever to impurity.

4. Learn from this, the nature and necessity of regeneration.

First, This discovers the NATURE of regeneration, in these two things:

1. It is not a partial—but a total change, though imperfect in this life. Your whole nature is corrupted; therefore, the cure must go through every part. Regeneration makes not only a new head, for knowledge—but a new heart, and new affections, for holiness. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new!" 2 Corinthians 5:17. If a man, having received many wounds, should be cured of them all, save one only, he might bleed to death by that one as well as by a thousand—so, if the change go not through the whole man, it is naught.

2. It is not a change made by human industry—but by the mighty power of the Spirit of God. A man must be born of the Spirit, John 3:5. Minor diseases may be cured by men; but those which are birth-defects, not without a miracle, John 9:32. The change wrought upon men by good education, or forced upon them by a natural conscience, though it may pass among men for a saving change—yet it is not so; for our nature is corrupt, and none but the God of nature can change it. Though a gardener, by engrafting a pear branch into an apple tree, may make the apple tree bear pears—yet the art of man cannot change the nature of the apple tree. So a man may fix a new life to his old heart—but he can never change the heart.

Secondly, This also shows the NECESSITY of regeneration. It is absolutely necessary, in order to salvation, John 3:4, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. " No unclean thing can enter the New Jerusalem; but you are wholly unclean, while in your natural state. If every member of your body were disjointed, each joint must be loosened before the members can be set right again. This is the case of your soul, as you have heard—therefore, you must be born again; otherwise you shall never see heaven, unless it be afar off, as the rich man in hell did. Deceive not yourself; no mercy of God, no blood of Christ, will bring you to heaven in your unregenerate state—for God will never open a fountain of mercy to wash away his own holiness and truth; nor did Christ shed his precious blood, to blot out the truths of God, or to overturn God's measures about the salvation of sinners. Heaven! What would you do there, you who are not born again? you who are no ways fitted for Christ the head? That would be a strange sight! a holy head, and members wholly corrupt! a head full of treasures of grace, and members wherein are nothing but treasures of wickedness! a head obedient to the death, and heels kicking against heaven. You are no better adapted for the society above, than beasts are for converse with men. You are a hater of true holiness; and at the first sight of a saint there, would cry out, "Have you found me, O my enemy!" Nay, the unrenewed man, if it were possible he could go to heaven in that state, would go to it no otherwise than now he comes to the duties of holiness; that is, leaving his heart behind him.

Use 2. For LAMENTATION.

Well may we lament your case, O natural man! for it is the saddest case one can be in out of hell. It is time to lament for you; for you are dead already, dead while you live—you carry about with you a dead soul in a living body; and because you are dead, you can not lament your own case. You are loathsome in the sight of God; for you are altogether corrupt; you have no good in you. Your soul is a mass of darkness, rebellion, and vileness, before the Lord. You think, perhaps, that you have a good heart to God, good inclinations, and good desires; but God knows there is nothing good in you—"Every imagination of your heart is only evil continually. " You can do no good; you can do nothing but sin. For,

1. You are the servant of sin, Romans 6:17, and therefore free from righteousness, ver. 20. Whatever righteousness is, poor soul, you are free from it; you do not, you can not meddle with it. You are under the dominion of sin; a dominion where righteousness can have no place. You are a child and servant of the devil, seeing you are yet in a state of nature, John 8:44, "You are of your father the devil. " And, to prevent any mistake, consider, that sin and Satan have two sort of servants:

(1. ) There are some employed, as it were, in coarser work; those bear the devil's mark on their foreheads, having no form of godliness; but are profane, grossly ignorant, mere moralists, not so much as performing the external duties of religion—but living as sons of this world, only attending to earthly things, Phil. 3:19.

(2. ) There are some employed in a more refined sort of service to sin, who carry the devil's mark in their right hand; which they can and do hide from the eyes of the world. These are secret hypocrites, who sacrifice as much to the corrupt mind, as the others to the flesh, Eph. 2:3. These are ruined by a more secret trade of sin—pride, unbelief, self-seeking, and the like, swarm in, and prey upon their corrupted, wholly corrupted souls. Both are servants of the same house; the latter as far as the former from righteousness.

2. How is it possible that you should be able to do any good, you whose nature is wholly corrupt? Can fruit grow where there is no root? or, Can there be an effect without a cause? "Can the fig-tree bear olive berries? either a vine, figs?" If your nature is wholly corrupt, as indeed it is, all you do is bear fruit according to your nature; for no effect can exceed the virtue of its cause. "Can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit?" Matt. 7:18.

Ah! what a miserable spectacle is he who can do nothing but sin! You are the man, whoever you are, that are yet in your natural state. Hear, O sinner, what is your case.

(1. ) Innumerable sins compass you about; mountains of guilt are lying upon you; floods of impurities overwhelm you, living lusts of all sorts roll up and down in the dead sea of your soul, where no good can breathe, because of the corruption there. Your lips are unclean; the opening of your mouth is as the opening of an reeking grave, full of stench and rottenness, Romans 3:13, "Their throat is an open sepulchre. " Your natural actions are sin; for "when you did eat, and when you did drink, did not you eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?" Zech. 7:6. Your civil actions are sin, Proverbs 21:4, "The ploughing of the wicked is sin. " Your religious actions are sin, Proverbs 15:8, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. " The thoughts and imaginations of your heart are only evil continually. A deed may be soon done, a word soon spoken, a thought swiftly pass through the heart; but each of these is an item in your accounts. O, sad reckoning! as many thoughts, words, and actions, so many sins. The longer you live your accounts swell the more. Should a tear be dropped for every sin, your head must be waters, and your eyes a fountain of tears; for nothing but sin comes from you. Your heart frames nothing but evil imaginations—there is nothing in your life but what is framed by your heart; and, therefore, there is nothing in your heart or life but evil.

(2. ) All your religion, if you have any, is lost labour, as to acceptance with God, or any saving effect on yourself. Are you yet in your natural state? Truly, then, your duties are sins, as was just now hinted. Would not the best wine be loathsome in a vessel wherein there is no pleasure? So is the religion of an unregenerate man. Under the law, the garment which the flesh of the sacrifice was carried in, though it touched other things, did not make them holy—but he who was unclean, touching anything, whether common or sacred, made it unclean. Even so, your duties cannot make your corrupt soul holy, though they in themselves are good; but your corrupt heart defiles them, and makes them unclean, Hag. 2:12-14.

You were accustomed to divide your works into two sorts; some good, some evil—but you must count again, and put them all under one head; for God writes on them all "only evil. " This is lamentable—it will be no wonder to see those beg in harvest, who fold their hands, and sleep in seed-time; but to be labouring with others in the spring, and yet have nothing to reap when the harvest comes, is a very sad case, and will be the case of all professors living and dying in their natural state.

(3. ) You can not help yourself. What can you do, to take away your sin--you who are wholly corrupt? Nothing, truly but sin. If a natural man begins to relent, drops a tear for his sin, and reform, presently the corrupt nature takes merit itself; he has done much himself, he thinks, and God cannot but do more for him on that account. In the mean time, he does nothing but sin—so that the fitness of the merit is, that the leper be put out of the camp, the dead soul buried out of sight, and the corrupt lump cast into the pit. How can you think to recover yourself by anything which you can do? Will mud and filth wash out filthiness; and will you purge out sin by sinning? "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!" Job 14:4. This is the case of your corrupt soul; not to be recovered but by Jesus Christ. "O Israel, you have destroyed yourself—but in me is your help, " Hos. 13:9. You are poor indeed, extremely "miserable and poor, " Revelation 3:17. You have no shelter—but a refuge of lies. You have no garment for your soul—but filthy rags. You have nothing to nourish—but husks which cannot satisfy. And more than this, you did get such a bruise in the loins of Adam, as is not yet cured, so that you are without strength, as well as ungodly, Romans 5:6; unable to do, or work for yourself; nay, more than all this, you can not so much as think aright—but are lying helpless, as an infant exposed in the open field, Ezek. 16:5.

Use 3. For EXHORTATION.

I urge you to believe this sad truth. Alas! it is evident that it is very little believed in the world. Few are concerned to get their corrupt lives changed; but fewer, by far, to get their nature changed. Most men know not what they are, nor what spirits they are of; they are as the eye, which, seeing many things, never sees itself. But until you know the plague of his own heart, there is no hope of your recovery. Why will you not believe it? You have plain Scripture testimony for it; but you are loath to entertain a such an ill opinion of yourselves. Alas! this is the nature of your disease, Revelation 3:17, "You know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. " Lord, open their eyes to see it, before they die of it, and in hell lift up their eyes, and see what they will not see now.

I shall close this weighty point, of the corruption of man's nature, with a few words as to another doctrine from the text.

  1. God's specially noticing our natural corruption.

Doctrine. God takes special notice of our natural corruption, or the sin of our nature. This he testifies two ways:

1. By his WORD, as in the text—"God saw that every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually. " "The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. " Psalm 14:2-3

2. By his WORKS. God marks his particular notice of it, and displeasure with it, as in many of his works, so especially in these two.

(1. ) In the death of infants. Many miseries they have been exposed to—they were drowned in the deluge, consumed in Sodom by fire and brimstone; they have been slain with the sword, dashed against the stones, and are still dying ordinary deaths. What is the true cause of this? On what ground does a holy God thus pursue them? Is it the sin of their parents? That may be the occasion of the Lord's raising the process against them; but it must be their own sin that is the ground of the sentence passing on them—for "the soul that sins, it shall die, " says God, Ezek. 18:4. Is it their own actual sin? They have none. But as men do with serpents, which they kill at first sight, before they have done any hurt, because of their venomous nature; so it is in this case.

(2. ) In the birth of the elect children of God. When the Lord is about to change their nature, he makes the sin of their nature lie heavy on their spirits. When he means to let out their corruption, the lance goes deep into their souls, reaching to the root of sin, Romans 7:7-9. The flesh, or corruption of nature, is pierced, being crucified, as well as the affections and lusts, Gal. 5:24.

USE. Let us, then, have a special eye upon the corruption and sin of our nature. God sees it—O, that we saw it too, and that sin were ever before us! What avails it to notice other sins, while this mother-sin is not noticed? Turn your eyes inward to the sin of your nature. It is to be feared, that many have this work to begin yet; that they have shut the door, while the grand thief is yet in the house undiscovered. This is a weighty point; and in handling of it, I shall notice these four heads:

I. Men overlooking their natural sin.

I shall, for conviction, point at some evidences of men's overlooking the sin of their nature, which yet the Lord takes particular notice of.

1. Men's looking on themselves with such confidence, as if they were in no hazard of gross sins. Many would take it very unkindly to get such a caution as Christ gave his apostles, Luke 21:34, "Take heed of carousing and drunkenness. " If any should suppose them to break out in gross abominations, each would be ready to say, "Am I a dog?" It would raise the pride of their hearts—but not their fear and trembling, because they know not the corruption of their nature.

2. Lack of tenderness towards those that fall. Many, in that case, cast off all feelings of Christian compassion, for they do not consider themselves, lest they also be tempted, Gal. 6:1. Men's passions are often highest against the faults of others, when sin sleeps soundly in their own breasts. David, even when he was at his worst, was most violent against the faults of others. While his conscience was asleep under his own guilt, in the matter of Uriah, the Spirit of the Lord takes notice, that his anger was greatly kindled against the man in the parable, 2 Sam. 12:5. And, on good grounds, it is thought it was at the same time that he treated the Ammonites so cruelly, as is related, ver. 31, "Putting them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and making them pass through the brick-kiln. " Grace makes men zealous against sin in others, as well as in themselves—but eyes turned inward to the corruption of nature, clothe them with pity and compassion; and fill them with thankfulness to the Lord, that they themselves were not the people left to be such spectacles of human frailty.

3. There are many, who, if they be kept from afflictions in worldly things, and from gross out-breakings in their lives, know not what it is to have a repentant heart. If they meet with a cross, which their proud hearts cannot stoop to bear, they are ready to say, O to be gone! but the corruption of their nature never makes them long for heaven. Lusts, scandalously breaking out at a time, will mar their peace—but the sin of their nature never makes them a heavy heart.

4. Delaying of repentance, in hopes to set about it afterwards. Many have their own appointed time for repentance and reformation—as if they were such complete masters over their lusts, that they can allow them to gather more strength, and yet overcome them. They take up resolutions to amend, without an eye to Jesus Christ, union with him, and strength from him; a plain evidence that they are strangers to themselves—so they are left to themselves, and their flourishing resolutions wither; for, as they see not the necessity, so they get not the benefit, of the dew from heaven to water them.

5. Men's venturing freely on temptations, and promising relief in their own strength. They cast themselves fearlessly into temptation, in confidence of their coming off fairly—but, were they sensible of the corruption of their nature, they would be cautious of entering on the devil's ground; as one girt about with bags of gunpowder, would be unwilling to walk where sparks of fire are flying, lest he should be blown up. Self-distrust well befits Christians. "Lord, is it I?" They that know the deceit of their bow, will not be very confident that they shall hit the mark.

6. Ignorance of heart-plagues. The knowledge of the plagues of the heart, is a rare attainment. There are, indeed, some of them written in such great characters, that he who runs may read them—but there are others more subtle, which few discern. How few are there, to whom the bias of the heart to unbelief is a burden? Nay, they perceive it not. Many have had sharp convictions of other sins, that were never to this day convinced of their unbelief; though that is the sin especially aimed at in a thorough conviction, John 16:8, 9, "He will reprove the world of sin, because they believe not on me. " A disposition to establish our own righteousness, is a weed which naturally grows in every man's heart; but few labour at the plucking of it up—it lurks undiscovered. The bias of the heart to the way of the covenant of works, is a hidden plague of the heart to many. All the difficulty they find is, in getting up their hearts to duties—they find no difficulty in getting their hearts off them, and over them to Jesus Christ. How hard it is to bring men off from their own righteousness! Yes, it is very hard to convince them of their self-righteousness at all.

7. Pride and self-conceit. A view of the corruption of nature would be very humbling, and oblige him who has it, to reckon himself the chief of sinners. Under the greatest attainments and enlargements, it would be ballast to his heart, and hide pride from his eyes. The lack of thorough humiliation, piercing to the sin of one's nature, is the ruin of many professors—for digging deep makes the great difference between wise and foolish builders, Luke 6:48, 49.

II. Original sin to be specially noticed.

I will lay before you a few things, in which you should have a special eye to original sin.

1. Have a special eye to it, in your application to Jesus Christ. Do you find any need of Christ, which sends you to him as the Physician of souls? O, forget not your disease when you are with the Physician. They never yet knew well their errand to Christ, who went not to him for the sin of their nature; for his blood to take away the guilt of it, and his Spirit to break the power of it. Though, in the bitterness of your souls, you should lay before him a catalogue of your sins of omission and commission, which might reach from earth to heaven—yet, if original sin were lacking in your confession, assure yourselves that you have forgot the chief part of the errand which a poor sinner has to the Physician of souls. What would it have availed the people of Jericho, to have set before Elisha all the vessels in their city, full of the water that was bad, if they had not led him forth to the spring, to cast in salt there? 2 Kings 2:19-21. The application is easy.

2. Have a special eye to it in your repentance, whether in its beginning or progress; in your first repentance, and in the renewing of your repentance afterwards. Though a man be sick, there is no fear of death, if the sickness strike not to his heart—and there is as little fear of the death of sin, as long as the sin of our nature is not touched. But if you would repent indeed, let the streams lead you up to the fountain; and mourn over your corrupt nature, as the cause of all sin, in heart, lip, and life, Psalm 51:4, 5, "Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight. Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. "

3. Have a special eye upon it in your mortification, Gal. 5:24, "Those who are Christ's, have crucified the flesh. " It is the root of bitterness that must be struck at; which the axe of mortification must be laid to, else we labour in vain. In vain do men go about to cleanse the stream, while they are at no pains about the muddy fountain—it is a vain religion to attempt to make the life truly good, while the corruption of nature retains its ancient vigour, and the power of it is not broken.

4. You are to eye it in your daily walk. He who would walk aright must have one eye upward to Jesus Christ, and another inward to the corruption of his own nature. It is not enough that we look about us, we must also look within us. Where the wall is weakest, there our greatest enemy lies; and there are grounds for daily watching and mourning.

III. WHY original sin is to be especially noticed.

I shall offer some reasons, why we should especially notice the sin of our nature.

1. Because of all sins, original sin is the most extensive and diffusive. It goes through the whole man, and spoils all. Other sins mar particular parts of the image of God—but this at once defaces the whole. A disease affecting any particular member of the body is dangerous—but that which affects the whole, is worse. The corruption of nature is the poison of the old serpent cast into the fountain of action, which infects every action, and every breathing of the soul.

2. Original sin is the cause of all particular lusts, and actual sins, in our hearts and lives. It is the spawn which the great leviathan has left in the souls of men, from whence comes all the offspring of actual sins and abominations, Mark 7:21, "Out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, " etc. It is the bitter fountain—particular lusts are but rivulets running from it, which bring forth into the life a part only, and not the whole of what is within. The fountain is always above the stream—and where the water is good, it is best in the fountain; where it is bad, it is worst there. The corruption of nature being that which defiles all, it must needs be the most abominable thing.

3. Original sin is virtually all sin—for it is the seed of all sins, which need but the occasion to set up their heads, being, in the corruption of nature, as the effect in the virtue of its cause. Hence it is called "a body of death, " Romans 7:24, as consisting of the several members belonging to such "a body of sins, " Col. 2:11, whose life lies in spiritual death. It is the cursed ground, fit to bring forth all manner of noxious weeds. As the whole nest of venomous creatures must needs be more dreadful than any few of them that come creeping forth; so the sin of your nature, that mother of abominations, must be worse than any particular lust which appears stirring in your heart and life.

Never did any sin appear in the life of the vilest wretch who ever lived; but look into your own corrupt nature, and there you may see the seed and root that sin--and every other sin. There is atheism, idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, and whatever is vile--in your heart! Possibly none of these are apparent to you; but there is more in that unfathomable depth of wickedness than you know. Your corrupt heart is like an ant's nest, of which, while the stone lies on it, none of them appear; but take off the stone, and stir them up but with a straw, you will see what a swarm is there--and how lively they are! Just such a sight would your heart afford you, did the Lord but withdraw the restraint He has upon it, and allow Satan to stir it up by temptation!

4. The sin of our nature is, of all sins, the most fixed and abiding. Sinful actions, though the guilt and stain of them may remain—yet in themselves they pass away. The drunkard is not always at his cups, nor the unclean person always acting lewdness—but the corruption of nature is an abiding sin; it remains with men in its full power, by night and by day; at all times fixed, as with bands of iron and brass, until their nature is changed by converting grace; and it remains even with the godly, until the death of the body, though not in its reigning power. Pride, envy, covetousness, and the like, are not always stirring in you—but the proud, envious, carnal nature, is still with you; even as the clock that is wrong is not always striking wrong—but the wrong bent continues with it without intermission.

5. Original sin is the reigning sin, Romans 6:12, "Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof. " There are three things which you may observe in the corrupt heart—

(1. ) There is in the corrupt nature the corrupt bent of the heart, whereby men are unapt for all good, and fitted for all evil. This the apostle calls here "sin which reigns. "

(2. ) There are particular lusts, or dispositions of corrupt nature, which the apostle calls "the lusts thereof;" such as pride, covetousness, etc.

(3. ) There is one among these, which is, like Saul among the people, higher by far than the rest, namely, "the sin which does so easily beset us, " Heb. 12:1. This we usually call the "predominant sin, " because it does, as it were, reign over other particular lusts; so that other lusts must yield to it.

These three are like a river which divides itself into many streams, whereof one is greater than the rest—the corruption of nature is the river head, that has many particular lusts in which it runs; but it chiefly disburdens itself into what is commonly called one's predominant sin. Now, all of these being fed by the sin of our nature, it is evident that it is the reigning sin, which never loses its superiority over particular lusts, which live and die with it, and by it. But, as in some rivers, the main stream runs not always in one and the same channel, so particular ruling sins may be changed, as lust in youth may be succeeded by covetousness in old age. Now, what does it avail to reform in other things, while the reigning sin remains in its full power? What though some particular lusts are broken? If sin, the sin of our nature, keeps the throne--it will set up another in its stead; as when a water-course is stopped in one place, if the fountain is not closed up, it will stream forth another way. Thus some cast off their prodigality—but covetousness comes up in its stead; some cast away their profanity, and the corruption of nature sends not its main stream that way, as before—but it runs in another channel, namely, in that of a legal disposition, self-righteousness, or the like. So that people are ruined, by their not contemplating the sin of their nature.

6. Original sin is a hereditary evil, Psalm 51:5, "In sin did my mother conceive me. " Particular lusts are not so—but in the virtue of their cause. A prodigal father may have a frugal son; but this disease of original sin is necessarily propagated in nature, and therefore hardest to cure. Surely, then, the word should be given out against this sin, as against the king of Israel, 1 Kings 22:31, "Fight neither with small nor great, but only with this sin!" For this sin being broken, all other sins are broken with it; and while it stands entire, there is no victory.

IV. How to get a view of the corruption of nature.

That you may get a view of the corruption of your nature, I would recommend to you three things:

1. Study to know the spirituality and extent of the law of God, for that is the mirror wherein you may see yourselves.

2. Observe your hearts at all times—but especially under temptation. Temptation is the fire which brings up the scum of the vile heart. Carefully mark the first risings of corruption.

3. Go to God, through Jesus Christ, for illumination by his Spirit. Lay out your soul before the Lord, as willing to know the vileness of your nature—say unto him, "That which I know not--teach me. " And be willing to take light in from the word. Believe, and you shall see. It is by the word that the Spirit teaches; but without the Spirit's teaching, all other teaching will be to little purpose. Though the gospel were to shine about you like the sun at noon-day, and this great truth were ever so plainly preached, you would never see yourselves aright, until the Spirit of the Lord lights his candle within your bosom! The fullness and glory of Christ, and the corruption and vileness of our nature, are never rightly learned—but where the Spirit of Christ is the teacher.

To shut up this weighty point, let the consideration of what has been said, commend Christ to you all. You who are brought out of your natural state of corruption, unto Christ, be humble; still come to Christ, and improve your union with him, to the further weakening of your natural corruption. Is your nature changed? It is but in part so. If you are cured, remember the cure is not yet perfected, you still go halting. Though it were better with you than it is, the remembrance of what you are by nature should keep you humble.

You who are yet in your natural state, take this with you—believe the corruption of your nature; and let Christ and his grace be precious in your eyes. O, that you would at length be serious about the state of your souls! What do you intend to do? You must die; you must appear before the judgment-seat of God. Will you lie down and sleep another night at ease in this case? Do it not—for, before another day, you may be summoned before God's dread tribunal, in the grave-clothes of your corrupt state; and your vile souls be cast into the pit of destruction, as a corrupt lump, to be forever buried out of God's sight. For I testify unto you all, there is no peace with God, no pardon, no heaven, for you, in your natural state—there is but a step between you and eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord! If the brittle thread of your life, which may break with a touch before you are aware, be broken while you are in this state, you are ruined forever, without remedy! Come speedily to Jesus Christ—he has cleansed souls as vile as yours! "Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon!" Joel 3:21

Thus far of the sinfulness of man's natural state.

2. The MISERY of man's natural state

"We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. " Ephesians 2:3

Having shown you the sinfulness of man's natural state, I come now to lay before you the misery of it. A sinful state cannot but be a miserable state. If sin goes before, wrath follows of course. Corruption and destruction are so knit together, that the Holy Spirit calls destruction, even eternal destruction, "corruption, " Gal. 6:8, "He who sows to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption, " that is, everlasting destruction; as is clear from its being opposed to life everlasting, in the following clause.

The apostle, having shown the Ephesians their real state by nature, namely, that they were dead in sins and trespasses, altogether corrupt; he tells them, in the words of the text, their relative state, namely, that the pit was dug for them, while in that state of corruption—being dead in sins, they "were by nature children of wrath, even as others. "

In the words we have four things:

1. The MISERY of a natural state;

it is a state of wrath, as well as a state of sin. "We were, " says the apostle, "children of wrath, " bound over and liable to the wrath of God; under wrath in some measure; and, in wrath, bound over to more, even the full measure of it, in hell, where the floods of it go over the prisoners forever. Thus Saul, in his wrath, adjudging David to die 1 Sam. 20:31; and David, in his wrath, passing sentence of death against the man in the parable, 2 Sam. 12:5, says, each of them, of his supposed criminal, "He shall surely die;" or, as the words in the original language are, "He is a son of death. " So the natural man is "a child of wrath, a son of death. " He is a malefactor, dead in law, lying in chains of guilt; a criminal, held fast in his fetters, until the day of execution; which will not fail to come, unless a pardon be obtained from his God, who is his judge and his opponent too. By that means, indeed, children of wrath may become children or the kingdom. The phrase in the text, however common in the holy language, is very significant. And as it is evident that the apostle, calling natural men the "children of disobedience, " verse 2, means more than that they were disobedient children; for such may the Lord's own children be—no, to be children of wrath, is more than simply to be liable to, or under wrath. Jesus Christ was liable to, and under wrath; but I doubt whether we have any warrant to say he was a child of wrath.

The phrase seems to intimate, that men are, whatever they are in their natural state, under the wrath of God; that they are wholly under wrath—wrath is, as it were, woven into their very nature, and mixes itself with the whole of the man, who is, if I may so speak, a very lump of wrath, a child of hell, as the iron in the fire is all fire. For men naturally are children of wrath; they come forth, so to speak, out of the womb of wrath—as Jonah's gourd was the "son of a night, " which we render, "came up in a night, " Jonah 4:10; as if it had come out of the womb of the night, as we read of the "womb of the morning, " Psalm 110:3. Thus sparks of fire are called "sons of the burning coal, " Job 5:7, Isaiah 21:10, "O my thrashing, and the corn" or son "of my floor, " thrashed in the floor of wrath, and, as it were, brought forth by it. Thus the natural man is a "child of wrath;" it "entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil, " Psalm 109:18. For, though Judas was the only son of perdition among the apostles; yet all men, by nature, are of the same family.

2. Here is the ORIGIN of this misery;

men have it by nature. They owe it to their nature, as vitiated and corrupted by the fall; to the wicked quality, or corruption of their nature, as before noticed, which is their principle of action, and, ceasing from action, the only principle in an unregenerate state. Now, by this nature, men are children of wrath; as, in time of pestilential infection, one draws in death with the disease then raging. Therefore seeing, from our first being as children of Adam, we are corrupt children, shaped in iniquity, conceived in sin, we are also from that moment children or wrath.

3. The UNIVERSALITY of this misery.

All are by nature children of wrath—"we, " says the apostle, "even as others;" Jews as well as Gentiles. Those who are now, by grace, the children of God were, by nature, in no better case than those who are still in their natural state.

4. Here is a glorious and happy CHANGE intimated

—we were children of wrath—but are not so now; grace has brought us out of that state. This the apostle says of himself, and other believers. And thus, it well becomes the people of God to be often standing on the shore, and looking back to the Red Sea, or the state of wrath, which they were once weltering in, even as others.

DOCTRINE. The state of nature is a state of wrath. Everyone, in a natural unregenerate state, is in a state of wrath. We are born children of wrath; and continue so, until we be born again. Nay, as soon as we are children of Adam, we are children of wrath.

I shall introduce what I am to say on this point, with a few observations, as to the universality of this state of wrath, which may serve to prepare the way for the word into your consciences.

Wrath has gone as wide as ever sin went. When angels sinned, the wrath of God broke in upon them like a flood. "God spared not the angels who sinned—but cast them down to hell, " 2 Pet. 2:4. It was thereby demonstrated, that no natural excellence in the creature can shield it from the wrath of God, if it once becomes a sinful creature. The finest and nicest piece of the workmanship of heaven, if once the Creator's image upon it be defaced by sin, God can and will dash in pieces in his wrath, unless satisfaction be made to justice, and that image be restored; neither of which the sinner himself can do. Adam sinned; and the whole lump of mankind was leavened, and bound over to the fire of God's wrath. From the text you may learn,

1. That ignorance of this state, cannot free men from it. The Gentiles, that know not God, "were by nature children of wrath, even as others. " A man's house may be on fire, his wife and children perishing in the flames, while he knows nothing of it; and therefore is not concerned about it. Such is your case, O you who are ignorant of these things! Wrath is silently sinking into your souls while you are blessing yourselves, saying, "We shall have peace. " You need not a more certain token that you are children of wrath, than that you never saw yourselves such. You cannot be the children of God, who never yet saw yourselves the children of the devil. You cannot be in the way to heaven, who never saw yourselves by nature in the high road to hell. You are grossly ignorant of your state by nature; and so ignorant of God and of Christ, and your need of him—and though you look on your ignorance as a covert from wrath—yet take it out of the mouth of God himself, that it will ruin you if it be not removed; Isaiah 27:11, "For this is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favour. " See also 2 Thess. 1:8; Hos. 4:6.

2. No outward privileges can exempt men from this state of wrath, for the Jews, the children of the kingdom, God's peculiar people, were "children of wrath, even as others. " Though you be church members, partakers of all church privileges; though you be descended of godly parents, of great and honourable families; be what you will, you are by nature heirs of hell, children of wrath.

3. No profession, no attainments in a profession of religion, do or can exempt men from this state of wrath. Paul was one of the strictest sect of the Jewish religion, Acts 26:5; yet a child of wrath, even as others, until he was converted. The religious hypocrite, and the profane, are alike as to their state, however different their conversation be; and they will be alike in their fatal end, Psalm 125:5, "As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. "

4. Young ones, who are but setting out in the world, have nothing to do to make themselves children of wrath, by following the graceless multitude—they are children of wrath by nature; so it is done already. They were born heirs of hell; and they will indeed make themselves more so, if they do not, while they are young, flee from that wrath to which they are born, by fleeing to Jesus Christ.

5. Whatever men are now by grace, they were even as others by nature. This may be a sad meditation to those who have been at ease from their youth, and have had no changes.

Now these things being premised, I shall, in the first place, show what this state of wrath is; secondly, confirm the doctrine; and, thirdly, apply it.

I. I am to show WHAT the state of wrath is.

But who can fully describe the wrath of an angry God? None can do it. Yet so much of it may be discovered, as may serve to convince men of the absolute necessity of fleeing to Jesus Christ, out of that state of wrath. Anger, in men, is a passion and commotion of the spirit, for an injury received; with a desire to resent the same. When it comes to a height, and is fixed in one's spirit, it is called wrath. Now there are no passions in God, properly speaking; they are inconsistent with his absolute unchangeableness, and independency—therefore, Paul and Barnabas, to remove the mistake of the Lycaonians, who thought they were gods, tell them, "they were men of like passions with themselves, " Acts 14:15. Wrath, when it is attributed to God, must not be considered in respect of the passion of wrath—but the effects thereof. Wrath is a fire in the affections of men; tormenting the man himself—but there is no perturbation in God. His wrath does not in the least mar that infinite repose and happiness which he has in himself. It is a most pure and undisturbed act of his will, producing dreadful effects against the sinner. It is little that we know of the infinite God; but, condescending to our weakness, he is pleased to speak of himself to us after the manner of men. Let us therefore notice man's wrath—but remove everything in our consideration of the wrath of God, that implies imperfection; and so we may attain to some view of it, however scanty. By this means we are led to consider the wrath of God against the natural man in these three particulars.

1. There is wrath in the HEART of God against him. The Lord approves him not—but is displeased with him. Every natural man lies under the displeasure of God; and that is heavier than mountains of brass. Although he be pleased with himself, and others be pleased with him too—yet God looks down on him displeased.

(1. ) His person is under God's displeasure; "You hate all workers of iniquity, " Psalm 5:5. A godly man's sin is displeasing to God—yet his person is still "accepted in the Beloved, " Eph. 1:6. But "God is angry with the wicked every day, " Psalm 7:11. There is a fire of wrath which burns continually against him in the heart of God. They are as dogs and swine—most abominable creatures in the sight of God. Though their natural state be gilded over with a shining profession—yet they are abhorred of God; and are to him as smoke in his nose, Isaiah 65:5, and lukewarm water, to be spewed out of his mouth, Revelation 3:16; whited sepulchres, Matt. 23:27; a generation of vipers, Matt. 12:34; and a people of his wrath, Isaiah 10:6.

(2. ) He is displeased with all they do—it is impossible for them to please him, being unbelievers, Heb. 11:6. He hates their persons; and so has no pleasure in—but is displeased with their best works, Isaiah 66:3, "he who sacrifices a lamb, is as if he cut off a dog's neck, " etc. Their duty as done by them, is "an abomination to the Lord, " Proverbs 15:8. And as men turn their back on those with whom they are angry, so when the Lord refuses communion with the natural man in his duties, it is a plain indication of his wrath.

2. There is wrath in the WORD of God against him. When wrath is in the heart, it seeks a vent by the lips—so God fights against the natural man with the sword of his mouth, Revelation 2:16. The Lord's word never speaks good of him—but always curses and condemns him. Hence it is, that when he is awakened, the word read or preached often increases his horror. It condemns all his actions, together with his corrupt nature. There is nothing he does—but the law declares it to be sin. It is a rule of perfect obedience, from which he always, in all things, declines; and so it rejects everything he does, as sinful. It pronounces his doom, and denounces God's curse against him, Gal. 3:10, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse—for it is written, Cursed in everyone who continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. " However well he may be in the world, it pronounces a woe from heaven against him, Isaiah 3:11. The Bible is a quiver filled with arrows of wrath against him, ready to be poured in on his soul. God's threatenings, in his word, hang over his head as a black cloud, ready to shower down on him every moment. The word is, indeed, the saint's security against wrath—but it binds the natural man's sin and wrath together, as a certain pledge of his ruin, if he continues in that state. So the conscience being awakened, and perceiving this tie made by the law, the man is filled with terrors in his soul.

3. There is wrath in the HAND of God against the natural man. He is under heavy strokes of wrath already, and is liable to more.

(1. ) There is wrath on his BODY. It is a piece of cursed clay, which wrath is sinking into by virtue of the threatening of the first covenant, Gen. 2:17, "In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die. " There is not a disease or pain that affects him—but it comes on him with the sting of God's indignation in it. They are all cords of death, sent before to bind the prisoner.

(2. ) There is wrath upon his SOUL.

[1. ] He can have no communion with God; he is "foolish, and shall not stand in God's sight, " Psalm 5:5. When Adam sinned, God turned him out of paradise—and natural men are, as Adam left them, banished from the gracious presence of the Lord; and can have no access to him in that state. There is war between heaven and them; and so all commerce is cut off. "They are without God in the world, " Eph. 2:12. The sun is gone down on them, and there is not the least glimpse of favour towards them from heaven.

[2. ] Hence the soul is left to pine away in its iniquity—the natural darkness of their minds, the averseness to good in their wills, the disorder of their affections, and distemper of their consciences, and all their natural plagues, are left upon them in a penal way; and, being so left, increase daily. God casts a portion of this world's goods to them, more or less, as a bone is thrown to a dog—but alas! his wrath against them appears, in that they get no grace. The Physician of souls comes by them, and goes by them, and cures others on each side of them, while they are consuming away in their iniquity, and ripening daily for utter destruction.

[3. ] They lie open to fearful additional plagues on their souls, even in this life. Sometimes they meet with deadening strokes, silent blows from the hand of an angry God; arrows of wrath, that enter into their souls without noise. Isaiah 6:10, "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, " etc. God strives with them for a while, and convictions enter their consciences; but they rebel against the light—and by a secret judgment they receive a blow on the head; so that, from that time, they do as it were live and rot above ground. Their hearts are deadened; their affections withered; their consciences stupefied; and their whole souls blasted; "cast forth as a branch, and withered, " John 15:6. They are plagued with judicial blindness. They shut their eyes against the light; and they are given over to the devil, the god of this world, to be blinded more, 2 Cor. 4:4. Yes, "God sends them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie, " 2 Thess. 2:11. Even conscience, like a false light on the shore, leads them upon rocks—by which they are broken in pieces.

They harden themselves against God, and he leaves them to Satan and their own hearts, whereby they are hardened more and more. They are often given up unto "vile affections, " Romans 1:26. They are left to run into all excess, as their furious lusts drive them. Sometimes they meet with sharp fiery strokes, whereby their souls become like mount Sinai, where nothing is seen but fire and smoke; nothing heard but the thunder of God's wrath, and the voice of the trumpet of a broken law, waxing louder and louder—which makes them, like Pashur, Jer. 20:4, "a terror to themselves. " God takes the filthy garments of their sins, which they were accustomed to sleep in securely, overlays them with brimstone, and sets them on fire about their ears—so they have a hell within them.

(3. ) There is wrath on the natural man's enjoyments. Whatever is lacking in his house, there is one thing that is never lacking there, Proverbs 3:33, "The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked. " Wrath is on all that he has, on the bread that he eats, the water he drinks, the clothes which he wears. "His basket and kneading bowl are cursed, " Deut. 28:17. Some things fall wrong with him; and that comes to pass by virtue of this wrath—other things go according to his wish, and there is wrath in that too; for it is a snare to his soul, Proverbs 1:32, "The prosperity of fools shall destroy them. " This wrath turns his blessings into curses, Mal. 2:2, "I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them. " The holy law is "a killing letter to him, " 2 Cor. 3:6. The ministry of the gospel "a savour of death unto death, " chapter 2:16. In the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, "he eats and drinks damnation to himself, " 1 Cor. 11:29. Nay, more than all that, Christ himself is to him a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, " 1 Pet. 2:8. Thus wrath follows the natural man, as his shadow does his body. "The ploughing of the wicked, is sin. " Proverbs 21:4

(4. ) He is under the power of Satan, Acts 24:18. The devil has overcome him, so he is his by conquest, his lawful captive, Isaiah 49:24. The natural man is condemned already, John 3:18, and therefore under the heavy hand of "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil. " He keeps his prisoners in the prison of a natural state, bound hand and foot, Isaiah 61:1, laden with various lusts, as chains with which he holds them fast. You need not, as many do, call on the devil to capture you; for he has a fast hold of you already, as a child of wrath. "Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil's trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. " 2 Timothy 2:26

(5. ) The natural man has no security for a moment's safety, from the wrath of God coming on him to the uttermost. The curse of the law, denounced against him, has already tied him to the stake—so that the arrows of justice may pierce his soul; and, in him, may meet all the miseries and plagues which flow from the avenging wrath of God. See how he is set as a mark to the arrows of wrath, Psalm 7:11-13, "God is angry with the wicked every day. If he does not repent, God will sharpen His sword; He has strung His bow and made it ready. He has prepared His deadly weapons; He tips His arrows with fire. " Does he lie down to sleep? There is not a promise that he knows of, or can know, to secure him that he shall not be in hell before he awakens. Justice pursues, and cries for vengeance on the sinner; the law casts the fire-balls of its curses continually upon him. The abused and long-tired patience of God, is that which sustains his life. He walks amidst enemies armed against him—his name may rightly be called Magor-missabib, that is, terror round about, Jer. 20:3. Angels, devils, men, beasts, stones, heaven and earth, are in readiness, on a word of command from the Lord—to put him to death.

Thus the natural man lives—but he must die too; and DEATH is a dreadful messenger to him. It comes upon him armed with wrath, and puts three sad charges in his hand.

(1. ) Death charges him to bid an eternal farewell to all things in this world; to leave it, and haste away to another world. Ah, what a dreadful charge must this be to a child of wrath! He can have no comfort from heaven, for God is his enemy—as for the things of the world, and the enjoyment of his lusts, which were the only springs of his comfort, these are in a moment dried up to him forever. He is not ready for another world—he was not thinking of dying so soon; or, if he was—yet he has no portion secured to him in the other world—but that which he was born to, and was increasing all his days, namely, a treasury of wrath. But go he must; his clay-god, the world, must be parted with, and what more does he have? There was never a glimmering of light, or favour from heaven, to his soul—the wrath which hung in the threatening, as a cloud like a man's hand, is darkening the whole heaven above him; if he "looks unto the earth, " from whence all his light was accustomed to come, "behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and he shall be driven to darkness, " Isaiah 8:22.

(2. ) Death charges soul and body to part, until the great day of judgment. His soul is required of him, "You fool! This very night your soul will be demanded from you. " Luke 12:20. O, what a miserable parting must this be to a child of wrath! Care was indeed taken to provide for the body things necessary for this life; but, alas! there is nothing laid up for another life, nothing to be a seed of a glorious resurrection—as it lived, so it must die, and rise again—sinful flesh, fuel for the fire of God's wrath! As for the soul, he was never solicitous to provide for it. It lay in the body, dead to God, and all holy things; and so must be carried out into the pit, in the grave-clothes of its natural state—for now that death comes, the companions in sin must part.

(3. ) Death charges the soul to appear before the tribunal of God, while the body lies to be carried to the grave, Eccl. 12:7, "The spirit shall return unto God who gave it. " Heb. 9:27, "It is appointed unto all men once to die—but after this the judgment. " Well were it for the sinful soul, if it might be buried together with the body. But that cannot be; it must go, and receive its sentence; and shall be shut up in the prison of hell—while the cursed body lies imprisoned in the grave, until the day of the general judgment.

When the end of the world, as appointed by God, is come, the trumpet shall sound, and the dead arise. Then shall the weary earth, at the command of the Judge, cast forth the bodies, the cursed bodies, of those who lived and died in their natural state. "The sea, death, and hell, shall deliver up their dead, " Revelation 20:13. Their miserable bodies and souls shall be reunited, and they summoned before the tribunal of Christ. Then shall they receive that fearful sentence, "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, " Matt. 25:41. Whereupon "they shall go away into everlasting punishment, " ver. 46. They shall be eternally shut up in hell, never to get the least drop of comfort, nor the smallest alleviation of their torment!

There they will be punished with the punishment of loss, being excommunicated forever from the presence of God, his angels, and saints. All means of grace, all hopes of a delivery, will be forever cut off from their eyes. They shall not have a drop of water to cool their tongues, Luke 16:24, 25. They will be punished with a punishment of sense. They must not only depart from God—but depart into fire; into everlasting fire! There the worm which shall gnaw them will never die; the fire which will scorch them, shall never be quenched. God will, through eternity, hold them up with the one hand, and pour the full vials of wrath into them with the other!

"The wrath of God abides on him. " John 3:36. This is that state of wrath natural men live in; being under much of the wrath of God, and liable to more. But, for a farther view of it, let us consider the QUALITIES of this wrath:

1. The wrath of God is IRRESISTIBLE, there is no standing before it; "Who can stand in your sight, when once You are angry?" Psalm 76:7. Can the worm or the moth defend itself against him who designs to crush it? Can the worm, man, stand before an angry God? Foolish man, indeed, practically bids a defiance to Heaven; but the Lord often, even in this world, opens such sluices of wrath upon them, as all their might cannot stop—they are carried away thereby, as with a flood! How much more will it be so in hell!

2. The wrath of God is INSUPPORTABLE. What a man cannot resist, he will try to endure—but who shall dwell in devouring fire? Who shall dwell with everlasting burnings? God's wrath is a weight that will sink men into the lowest hell. It is a burden which no man can stand under.

3. The wrath of God is UNAVOIDABLE to such as continue impenitently, and die in their sinful course. "He who, being often reproved, hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy, " Proverbs 29:1. We may now flee from it, indeed, by fleeing to Jesus Christ. But such as flee from Christ, will never be able to avoid it. Where can men flee from the avenging God? Where will they find a shelter? The hills will not bear them. The mountains will be deaf to their loudest supplications, when they cry to them to "hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. "

4. The wrath of God is POWERFUL and FIERCE wrath, Psalm 90:11, "Who can comprehend the power of Your anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear You deserve. " We are apt to fear the wrath of man more than we ought; but no man can apprehend the wrath of God to be more dreadful than it really is. The power of God's wrath can never be known to the utmost; for it is infinite, and, properly speaking, has no utmost limit. However fierce it is, either on earth or in hell, God can still carry it farther. Everything in God is most perfect in its kind; and therefore no wrath is so fierce as his. O sinner! how will you be able to endure that wrath, which will tear you in pieces, Psalm 50:22, and grind you to powder! Luke 20:18. The history of the two bears, which came out of the woods and mauled forty-two boys, is an awful one, 2 Kings 2:23, 24. But the united force of the rage of lions, leopards, and bears bereaved of their cubs, is not sufficient to give us even a faint view of the power of the wrath of God; Hos. 13:7, 8, "So now I will attack you like a lion, or like a leopard that lurks along the road. I will rip you to pieces like a bear whose cubs have been taken away. I will tear you apart and devour you like a hungry lion!"

5. The wrath of God is PENETRATING and PIERCING wrath. It is burning wrath, and fiery indignation. There is no pain more intense than that which is caused by fire; and no fire so piercing as the fire of God's indignation, which burns unto the lowest hell, Deut. 32:22. The arrows of men's wrath can pierce flesh, blood, and bones—but cannot reach the soul; but the wrath of God will sink into the soul, and so pierce a man in the most tender part. Like as, when a person is thunderstruck, oft-times there is not a wound to be seen in the skin; yet life is gone, and the bones are melted, as it were—so God's wrath can penetrate into, and melt a man's soul within him, when his earthly comforts stand about him entire and untouched; as in Belshazzar's case, Dan. 5:6.

6. The wrath of God is CONSTANT wrath, running parallel with the man's continuance in an unregenerate state; constantly attending him from the womb to the grave. There are few days so dark—but the sun sometimes looks out from under the clouds. But the wrath of God is an abiding cloud on the objects of it; John 3:36, "The wrath of God abides on him" who believes not.

7. The wrath of God is ETERNAL. O, miserable soul! if you flee not from this wrath unto Jesus Christ; though your misery had a beginning—yet it will never have an end! Should devouring death wholly swallow you up, and forever hold you fast in the grave, it would be kind—but your body must be reunited to your immortal soul, and live again, and never die; that you may be ever dying, in the hands of the living God. Death will quench the flame of man's wrath against us, if nothing else does. But God's wrath, when it has come on the sinner for millions of ages, will still be the wrath to come, Matt. 3:7; 1 Thess. 1:10; as the water of a river is still coming, however much has passed. While God is, He will pursue the quarrel.

8. However dreadful it is, and though it be eternal—yet it is most JUST wrath! It is a clear fire, without the least smoke of injustice. The sea of wrath, raging with greatest fury against the sinner, is clear as crystal. The Judge of all the earth can do no wrong—He knows no passion, for they are inconsistent with the perfection of his nature. "Is God unrighteous to inflict wrath? Absolutely not! Otherwise, how will God judge the world?" Romans 3:5, 6.

II. I shall CONFIRM the doctrine of the state of wrath.

Consider,

1. How decided the threatening of the first covenant is. "In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die, " Gen. 2:17. Hereby sin and punishment being connected, the veracity of God makes the execution of the threatening certain. Now, all men being by nature under this covenant, the breach of it lays them under the curse.

2. The justice of God requires that a child of sin be a child of wrath; that the law being broken, the sanction thereof should take place. God, as man's ruler and judge, cannot but do right, Gen. 18:25. Now, it is "a righteous thing with God to recompense sin" with wrath, 2 Thess. 1:6. He "is of purer eyes than to behold evil, " Hab. 1:13. And "he hates all the workers of iniquity, " Psalm 5:5.

3. The horrors of a natural conscience prove this. Conscience, in the breasts of men, tells them that they are sinners, and therefore liable to the wrath of God. Let men, at any time, soberly commune with themselves, and they will find that they have the witness in themselves, "knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, " Romans 1:32.

4. The pangs of the new birth, the work of the Spirit on elect souls, in order to their conversion, demonstrate this. Hereby their natural sinfulness and misery, as liable to the wrath of God, are plainly taught them, filling their hearts with fear of that wrath. As it is the Spirit's work to "convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment, " John 16:8, this testimony must needs be true; for the Spirit of truth cannot witness an untruth. But true believers, being freed from the state of wrath, "receive not the spirit of bondage again to fear—but receive the Spirit of adoption, " Romans 8:15. Therefore, if fears of that nature do arise, after the soul's union with Christ, they come from the saint's own spirit, or from a worse.

5. The sufferings of Christ plainly prove this doctrine. Why was the Son of God a son under wrath—but because the children of men were children of wrath? He suffered the wrath of God; not for himself—but for those who were liable to it in their own persons. Nay, this not only shows us to have been liable to wrath—but also that wrath must have a vent, in the punishment of sin. If this was done in the green tree, what will become of the dry? What a miserable case must a sinner be in, who is out of Christ; that is not vitally united to Christ, and partakes not of his Spirit! God, who spared not his own Son, surely will not spare such a one!

But the unregenerate man, who has no great value for the honour of God, will be apt to rise up against this Judge, and in his own heart condemn his procedure. Nevertheless, the Judge being infinitely just—the sentence must be righteous. Therefore, to stop your mouth, O proud sinner! and to still your clamour against your righteous Judge, consider,

1. You are a sinner by nature; and it is just, that wrath be as old as sin and guilt. Why should not God begin to vindicate his honour, as soon as vile worms attempt to impair it? Why shall not a serpent bite the thief, as soon as he leaps over the hedge? Why should not the threatening take hold of the sinner, as soon as he casts away the command? The poisonous nature of the serpent affords a man sufficient ground to kill it, as soon as ever he can reach it; and by this time you may be convinced that your nature is a very compound of enmity against God.

2. You have not only enmity against God in your nature—but have revealed it by actual sins, which are, in his eye, acts of hostility. You have brought forth your lusts into the field of battle against your sovereign Lord. And because you are such a criminal, your condemnation is just—for, besides the sin of your nature, you have done that against Heaven, which if you had done against men, you must have suffered the penalty for it; and shall not wrath from Heaven overtake you?

(1. ) You are guilty of high treason and rebellion against the King of heaven. The thought and wish of your heart, which he knows as well as the language of your mouth, has been, "No God, " Psalm 14:1. You have rejected his government, blown the trumpet, and set up the standard of rebellion against him, being one of those that say, "We will not have this man to reign over us!" Luke 19:14. You have striven against, and quenched his Spirit; practically disowned his laws proclaimed by his messengers; stopped your ears at their voice, and sent them away mourning for your pride. You have conspired with his grand enemy, the devil. Although you are a servant of the King of glory, daily receiving of his favours, and living on his bounty, you are holding a correspondence, and have contracted a friendship, with his greatest enemy, and are acting for him against your Lord; for "the lusts of the devil you will do, " John 8:44.

(2. ) You are a murderer before the Lord. You have laid the stumbling-block of your iniquity before the blind world, and have ruined the souls of others by your sinful course. Though you do not see now, the time may come when you shall see the blood of your relations, neighbours, acquaintances, and others upon your head, Matt. 18:7, "Woe unto the world because of offences. Woe to that man by whom the offence comes. " Yes, you are a self-murderer before God; Proverbs 8:36, "He who sins against me, wrongs his own soul—all they that hate me, love death. " Ezek. 18:31, "Why will you die?" The laws of men mark the self-murderer; what wonder is it, that the law of God is so severe against soul-murderers?

Is it unjust, that those who depart from God now, cost what it will, should be forced to depart from him at last, into everlasting fire? But, what is yet more criminal, you are guilty of the murder of the Son of God; for the Lord will reckon you among those that pierced him, Revelation 1:6. You have rejected him, as the Jews did; and by rejecting him, you have justified their deed. They, indeed, did not acknowledge him to be the Son of God—but you do. What they did against him, was in his state of humiliation; but you have acted against him, in his state of exaltation. These things will aggravate your condemnation. What wonder, then, if the voice of the lamb change to the roaring of the lion, against the traitor and murderer!

OBJECTION. But some will say, "Is there not a vast disproportion between our sin, and that wrath you talk of?"

I answer, "No! God punishes no more than the sinner deserves. " To rectify your mistake in this matter, consider,

1. The vast rewards which God has annexed to obedience. His word is no more full of fiery wrath against sin, than it is of gracious rewards to the obedience it requires. If heaven be in the promises, it is altogether equal that hell is in the threatenings. If death were not in the balance with life, eternal misery with eternal happiness, where would be the proportion? Moreover, sin deserves the misery—but our best works do not deserve the happiness—yet both are set before us; sin and misery, holiness and happiness. What reason is there, then, to complain?

2. However severe the threatenings be—yet all have enough to do to reach the end of the law. "Fear him, " says our Lord, "who after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say unto you, Fear him, " Luke 12:5. This bespeaks our dread of divine power and majesty; yet how few fear him indeed! The Lord knows the hearts of sinners to be exceedingly intent upon fulfilling their lusts; they cleave so fondly to their beloved sins, that a small force does not suffice to draw them away from them. Those who travel through deserts, where they are in hazard from wild beasts, have need to carry fire along with them—so a holy law must be fenced with dreadful wrath in a world lying in wickedness. But who are those who complain of that wrath as too great—but those to whom it is too little to draw them off from their sinful courses? It was the man who pretended to fear his Lord, because he was an austere man, who kept his money laid up in a napkin; and so he was condemned out of his own mouth, Luke 19:20-22. You are that man, even you whose objection I am answering. How can the wrath which you are under, and liable to, be too great, when as yet it is not sufficient to awaken you to flee from it? Is it time to relax the penalties of the law, when men are trampling the commands of it under foot?

3. Consider how God dealt with his own Son, whom he spared not, Romans 8:32. The wrath of God seized on his soul and body both, and brought him into the dust of death. That his sufferings were not eternal, flowed from the quality of the Sufferer, who was infinite; and therefore able to bear at once the whole load of wrath; and, upon that account, his sufferings were infinite in value. But as the sufferings of a mere creature cannot be infinite in value, they must be protracted to an eternity. And what confidence can a rebel subject, have to quarrel with his part of a punishment executed on the King's Son?

4. The sinner does against God all that he can—"Behold, you have done evil things as you could, " Jer. 3:5. That you have not done more, and worse, thanks to him who restrained you; to the chain by which the wolf was kept in, not to yourself. No wonder that God shows his power on the sinner, who puts forth his power against God, as far as it will reach. The unregenerate man puts no period to his sinful course; and would put no bounds to it either, if he were not restrained by divine power, for wise ends—therefore, it is just that he be forever under wrath.

5. It is infinite majesty which sin strikes against; and so it is, in some sort, an infinite evil. Sin rises in its demerit, according to the quality of the party offended. If a man wound his neighbour, his goods must pay for it; but if he wound his prince, his life must pay for that. The infinity of God makes infinite wrath the just demerit of sin. God is infinitely displeased with sin; and when he acts, he must act like himself, and show his displeasure by proportionable means.

6. Those who shall lie forever under this wrath will be eternally sinning, and therefore must eternally suffer; not only in respect of divine judicial procedure—but because sin is its own punishment, in the same manner as holy obedience is its own reward.

III. I now proceed to APPLY this doctrine of the misery of man's natural state.

Use 1. Of INFORMATION.

Is our state by nature a state of wrath? Then,

1. Surely we are not born innocent. Those chains of wrath, which by nature are upon us, show us to be born criminals. The swaddling-bands, wherewith infants are bound hand and foot as soon as they are born, may put us in mind of the cords of wrath, with which they are held prisoners, as children of wrath.

2. What desperate madness is it, for sinners to go on in their sinful course! What is it but to heap coals of fire on your own head! To lay more and more fuel to the fire of wrath! To "treasure up unto yourself wrath against the day of wrath!" Rom 2:5. You may perish, "when his wrath is kindled but a little, " Psalm 2:12. Why will you increase it yet more? You are already bound with such cords of death, as cannot easily be loosened; what need is there of more? Stand, careless sinner, and consider this.

3. You have no reason to complain, as long as you are out of hell. "Why does a living man complain?" Lam. 3:39. If one, who has forfeited his life, is banished from his native country, and exposed to many hardships, he may well bear all patiently, seeing his life is spared. Do you murmur, because you are under pain and sickness? Nay, bless God, you are not there where the worm never dies! Do you grudge, that you are not in so good a condition in the world as some of your neighbours are? Be thankful, rather, that you are not in the condition of the damned! Is your substance gone from you? Wonder that the fire of God's wrath has not consumed you! Kiss the rod, O sinner! and acknowledge mercy; for God "punishes us less than our iniquities deserve, " Ezra 9:13.

4. Here is a memorandum, both for poor and rich.

(1. ) The POOREST, who go from door to door, and have not one penny left them by their parents, were born to an inheritance. Their first father Adam left them "children of wrath:" and, continuing in their natural state, they cannot escape it; for "this is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed to him by God, " Job 20:29. An heritage that will furnish them with a habitation, who have no where to lay their head; they shall be "cast into outer darkness, " Matt. 25:30, for to them "is reserved the blackness of darkness forever, " Jude, ver. 13, where their bed shall be sorrow; "they shall lie down in sorrow, " Isaiah 50:11; their food shall be judgment, for God will "feed them with judgment, " Ezekiel 34:16; and their drink shall be the red wine of God's wrath, "the dregs whereof all the wicked of the earth shall wring out, and drink them, " Psalm 75:8.

I know that those who are destitute of worldly goods, and also void of the knowledge and grace of God, who therefore may be called the devil's poor, will be apt to say, "We hope God will make us suffer all our misery in this world, and that we shall be happy in the next world;" as if their miserable outward condition, in time, would secure their happiness in eternity. A gross and fatal mistake! there is another inheritance which they have, namely, "Lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit, " Jer. 16:19. But, "the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, " Isaiah 28:17. Do you think, O sinner, that God, who commands judges on earth "not to respect the person of the poor in judgment, " Lev. 19:15, will pervert judgment for you? No! Know for certain, that however miserable you are here, you shall be eternally miserable hereafter, if you live and die in your natural state.

(2. ) Many that have plenty in the world, have far more than they know of. You have, it may be, O unregenerate man! an estate, a good portion, a large stock, left you by your father; you have improved it, and the sun of prosperity shines upon you; so that you can say, with Esau, Gen. 33:9, "I have enough. " But know, you have more than all that, an inheritance which you do not think of—you are a child of wrath, an heir of hell! That is a heritage which will abide with you amidst all the changes in the world, as long as you continue in an unregenerate state. When you shall leave your substance to others, this will go along with you into another world. It is no wonder a slaughter ox is fed to the full, and is not set to work as others are, Job 21:30, "The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction; they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath. "

Well then, "Rejoice, let your heart cheer you, walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes. " Live above reproofs and warning from the word of God; show yourself a man of learning, by casting off all fear of God; mock at seriousness; live like yourself, "a child of wrath, " "an heir of hell. " "But know, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment!" Eccl. 11:9. Assure yourself, your "breaking shall come suddenly at an instant, " Isaiah 30:13. "For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of a fool, " Eccl. 7:6. The fair blaze, and the great noise which they make, are quickly gone—so shall your mirth be. Then that wrath, which is now silently sinking into your soul, shall make a fearful hissing.

5. Woe to him, that like Moab, "has been at ease from his youth, Jer. 48:11, and never saw the black cloud of wrath hanging over his head. There are many who "have no changes, therefore they fear not God, " Psalm 55:19. They have lived in a good hope, as they call it, all their days; that is, they never had power to believe an ill report of their soul's state. Many have come by their religion too easily—and as it came lightly to them, so it will go from them, when the trial comes. Do you think men flee from wrath in a morning dream? Or will they flee from the wrath which they never saw pursuing them?

6. Think it not strange, if you see one in great distress about his soul's condition, who was accustomed to be as jovial, and as little concerned for salvation as any of his neighbours. Can one get a right view of himself, as in a state of wrath, and not be pierced with sorrows, terrors, and anxiety? When a weight quite above a man's strength, lies upon him, and he is alone, he can neither stir hand nor foot; but when one comes to lift it off him, he will struggle to get from under it. Thunderclaps of wrath from the word of God, conveyed to the soul by the Spirit of the Lord, will surely keep a man awake.

7. It is no wonder that wrath comes upon churches and nations, and upon us in this land, and that infants and children smart under it. Most of the society are yet children of wrath; few are fleeing from it, or taking the way to prevent it—but people of all ranks are helping it on. The Jews rejected Christ; and their children have been smarting under wrath these eighteen hundred years. God grant that the bad treatment given to Christ and his gospel, by this generation, be not pursued with wrath on the succeeding one.

Use 2. Of EXHORTATION.

Here I shall drop a word,

1. To those who are yet in an unregenerate state.

2. To those who are brought out of it.

3. To all equally.

1. To you who are yet in an UNREGENERATE state,

I would sound the alarm, and warn you to see to yourselves, while there is yet hope. O, you children of wrath take no rest in this dismal state; but flee to Christ, the only refuge; hasten and make your escape there. The state of wrath is too hot a climate for you to live in, Micah 2:10, "Arise and depart, for this is not your rest. " O sinner, do you know where you are? Do you not see your danger? The curse has entered into your soul—wrath is your covering; the heavens are growing blacker and blacker above your head; the earth is weary of you, the pit is opening her mouth for you, and should the thread of your life be cut this moment, you are thenceforth past all hope forever!

Sirs, if we saw you putting a cup of poison to your mouth, we would run to you and snatch it out of your hands. If we saw the house on fire about you, while you were fast asleep in it, we would run to you, and drag you out of it. But alas! you are in ten thousand times greater hazard—yet we can do no more than tell you your danger; invite, exhort, and beseech you to look to yourselves; and lament your stupidity and obstinacy, when we cannot prevail with you to take warning. If there were no hope of your recovery, we would be silent, and would not torment you before the time—but though you be lost and undone, there is hope concerning this thing. Therefore, I cry unto you, in the name of the Lord, and in the words of the prophet, Zech. 9:12, "Turn to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. " Flee to Jesus Christ out of this, your natural state of sin and wrath.

Motive 1. While you are in this state, you must stand or fall according to the law, or covenant of works. If you understood this aright, it would strike through your hearts as a thousand darts. One had better be a slave to the Turks, condemned to the galleys, or under Egyptian bondage—than be under the covenant of works! All mankind were brought under it in Adam, as we heard before; and you, in your unregenerate state, are still where Adam left you. It is true, there is another covenant brought in—but what is that to you, who are not brought into it?

You must needs be under one of the two covenants; either under the law, or under grace. That you are not under grace, the dominion of sin over you manifestly proves; therefore, you are under the law, Romans 6:14. Do not think God has laid aside the first covenant, Matt. 5:17, 18; Gal. 3:10. No, he will "magnify the law, and make it honourable. " It is broken indeed on your part; but it is absurd to think, that therefore your obligation is dissolved. Nay, you must stand and fall by it, until you can produce your discharge from God himself, who is the party in that covenant; and this you cannot pretend to, seeing you are not in Christ.

Now, to give you a view of your misery, in this respect, consider these following things:

(1. ) Hereby you are bound over to death, in virtue of the threatening of death in the covenant, Gen. 2:17. The condition being broken you fall under the penalty. So it concludes you under wrath.

(2. ) There is no salvation for you under this covenant—but on a condition impossible to be performed by you. The justice of God must be satisfied for the wrong which you have done already. God has written this truth in characters of the blood of his own Son. Yes, and you must perfectly obey the law for the time to come. So says the law, Gal. 3:12, "The man who does them, shall live in them. " Come then, O sinner! see if you can make a ladder, whereby you may reach the throne of God—stretch forth your arms, and try if you can fly on the wings of the wind, catch hold of the clouds, and pierce through these visible heavens; and then either climb over, or break through, the jasper walls of the city above. These things you may do, as well as be able to reach heaven in your natural state, under this covenant.

(3. ) There is no pardon under this covenant. Pardon is the benefit of another covenant, with which you have nothing to do, Acts 13:39, "By him, all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. " As for you, you are in the hands of a merciless creditor, who will take you by the throat, saying, "Pay what you owe!" and cast you into prison, there to remain until you have paid the utmost farthing—unless you be so wise as to get a surety in time, who is able to answer for all your debt, and get up your discharge. This Jesus Christ alone can do. You abide under this covenant, and plead mercy; but what is your plea founded on? There is not one promise of mercy or pardon in that covenant. Do you plead mercy for mercy's sake? Justice will step in between it and you, and plead God's covenant threatening, which he cannot deny.

(4. ) There is no place for repentance in this covenant, so as the sinner can be helped by it. For as soon as ever you sin, the law lays its curse on you, which is a dead weight you can by no means throw off; no, not though your "head were waters, and your eyes a fountain of tears, to weep day and night" for your sin. That is what the law cannot do, in that it is "weak through the flesh, " Romans 8:3. You are another profane Esau, who has sold the blessing; and there is no place for repentance, though you seek it carefully with tears, while under the covenant.

(5. ) There is no acceptance of the will for the deed under this covenant, which was not made for good will—but good works. The mistake in this point ruins many. They are not in Christ—but stand under the first covenant; and yet they will plead this privilege. This is just like a man having made a feast for those of his own family, and when they sit down at table, another man's servant, who has run away from his master, presumptuously comes forward and sits down among them—would not the master of the feast give such a stranger that check, "Friend, why do you come in here?" and since he is none of his family, commanded him to be gone quickly. Though a master accept the good-will of his own child for the deed, can a hired servant expect that privilege?

(6. ) You have nothing to do with Christ while under that covenant. By the law of God, a woman cannot be married to two husbands at once—either death or divorce must dissolve the first marriage, before she can marry another. So we must first be dead to the law, before we can be married to Christ, Romans 7:4. The law is the first husband; Jesus Christ, who raises the dead, marries the widow, who was heartbroken, and slain by the first husband. But while the soul is in the house with the first husband, it cannot plead a marriage relation to Christ; nor the benefits of a marriage covenant, which is not yet entered into, Gal. 5:4, "Christ is become of no effect to you; whoever of you are justified by the law, you are fallen from grace. " Peace, pardon, and such like benefits, are all benefits of the covenant of grace. You must not think to stand off from Christ, and the marriage covenant with him, and yet plead these benefits, any more than one man's wife can plead the benefit of a contract of marriage passed between another man and his wife.

(7. ) See the bill of exclusion, passed in the court of Heaven, against all under the covenant of works, Gal. 4:30, "The son of the bond-woman shall not be heir. " Compare ver. 24. Heirs of wrath must not be heirs of glory. Whom the first covenant has power to exclude out of heaven, the second covenant cannot bring into it.

OBJECTION. Then it is impossible for us to be saved.

Answer. It is so while you are in that state; but if you would be out of that dreadful condition, hasten out of that state. If a murderer be under sentence of death, so long as he lives within the kingdom, the laws will reach his life; but if he can make his escape, and get over the sea, into the dominions of another prince, our laws cannot reach him there. This is what we would have you to do; flee out of the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of God's dear Son; out of the dominion of the law, into the dominion of grace—then all the curses of the law, or covenant of works, shall never be able to reach you.

Motive 2. O, you children of wrath, your state is wretched, for you have lost God, and that is an unspeakable loss. You are without God in the world, Eph. 2:12. Whatever you may call yours, you cannot call God yours. If we look to the earth, perhaps you can tell us, that land, that house, or that herd of cattle—is yours. But let us look upward to heaven; is that God, that grace, that glory, yours? Truly, you have neither part no lot in this matter. When Nebuchadnezzar talks of cities and kingdoms, O how big does he speak! "Great Babylon, that I have built – my power – my majesty;" but he tells a poor tale, when he comes to speak of God, saying, "Your God, " Dan. 2:47, and 4:30. Alas, sinner! whatever you have, God is gone from you. O, the misery of a godless soul! Have you lost God? Then,

(1. ) The sap and substance of all you have in the world is gone. The godless man, have what he will, is one who really has nothing, Matt. 25:29. I defy the unregenerate man to attain to soul satisfaction, whatever he possesses, since God is not his God. All his days he eats in darkness; in every condition there is a secret dissatisfaction which haunts his heart, like a Spirit. The soul wants something, though perhaps it knows not what; and so it will be always, until the soul returns to God, the fountain of satisfaction.

(2. ) You can do nothing to purpose for yourself; for God is gone, his soul is departed from you, Jer. 6:8, like a leg out of joint hanging by, whereof a man has no use, as the word there used signifies. Losing God, you have lost the fountain of good; and so all grace, all goodness, all the saving influences of his Spirit. What can you do then? What fruit can you bring forth, more than a branch cut off from the stock? John 15:5. You are become unprofitable, Romans 3:12, as a filthy rotten thing, fit only for the ash-heap.

(3. ) Death has come up into your windows, yes, and has settled on your face; for God, in whose favour life is, Psalm 30:5, is gone from you, and so the life of your soul is departed. What a loathsome lump is the body, when the soul is gone! Far more loathsome is your soul in this case. You are dead while you live. Do not deny it, seeing your speech is laid, your eyes closed, and all spiritual motion in you ceased. Your true friends who see your case, lament, because you are gone into the land of silence.

(4. ) You have not a steady friend among all the creatures of God; for now that you have lost the master's favour, all the family is set against you. Conscience is your enemy; the word never speaks good of you; God's people loathe so far as they see what you are, Psalm 15:4. The beasts and stones of the field are banded together against you, Job 5:23; Hos. 2:18. Your food, drink, and clothes, grudge being serviceable to the wretch that has lost God, and abuses them to his dishonour. The earth groans under you; yes, "the whole creation groans, and travails in pain together, " because of you, and such as you are, Romans 8:22. Heaven will have nothing to do with you; for "there shall never enter into it, anything that defiles, " Revelation 21:27. Only "hell from beneath, is eager to greet your coming, " Isaiah 14:9.

(5. ) Your hell is begun already. What makes hell—but exclusion from the presence of God? "Depart from me, you cursed. " You are gone from God already, with the curse upon you. That which is now your choice, shall be your punishment at length, if you do not repent. As a gracious state is a state of glory in the bud; so a graceless state is hell in the bud, which, if it continue, will come at length to perfection.

Motive 3. Consider the dreadful instances of the wrath of God, and let them serve to awaken you to flee out of this state. Consider,

(1. ) How it is fallen on men. Even in this world, many have been set up as monuments of Divine vengeance—that others might fear. Wrath has swept away multitudes, who have fallen together by the hand of an angry God. Consider how the Lord "spared not the old world – bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly. And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those who after would live ungodly, " 2 Pet. 2:5, 6. But it is yet more dreadful to think of that weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, among those who in hell lift up their eyes—but cannot get a drop of water to cool their tongues. Believe these things and be warned by them, lest destruction come upon you, for a warning to others.

(2. ) Consider how wrath fell upon the fallen angels, whose case is absolutely hopeless. They were the first that ventured to break the hedge of the Divine law; and God set them up for monuments of his wrath against sin. They once "left their own habitation, " and were never allowed to look in again at the keyhole of the door; but they are "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day, " Jude, ver. 6.

(3. ) Behold how an angry God dealt with his own Son, standing in the place of elect sinners, Romans 8:32, "God spared not his Son. " Sparing mercy might have been expected here—if any place at all. If any person could have obtained it, surely his own Son would have got it—but he spared him not. The Father's delight—is made a man of sorrows! He who is the wisdom of God—becomes sore amazed, ready to faint away in a fit of horror. The weight of this wrath makes him sweat great drops of blood. By the fierceness of this fire, his heart was melted like wax.

Behold, here, how severe God is against sin! The sun was struck blind with this terrible sight, rocks were rent, graves opened; death, as it were, in the excess of astonishment, letting its prisoners slip away. What is a deluge, a shower of fire and brimstone, on the people of Sodom, the terrible noise of a dissolving world, the whole fabric of heaven and earth disuniting at once, and angels cast down from heaven into the bottomless pit! What are all these, I say, in comparison with this—God in human nature suffering! groaning! dying upon a cross! Infinite holiness did it, to make sin look like itself, that is, infinitely odious. And will men live at ease, while exposed to this wrath?

Motive 4. Unrepentant sinner! Consider what a God he is—with whom you have to do, and whose wrath you are liable unto. He is the God of infinite knowledge and wisdom; so that none of your sins, however secret, can be hidden from him. He infallibly finds out all means, whereby wrath may be executed, toward the satisfying of justice. He is of infinite power, and so can do what he will against the sinner. How heavy must the strokes of wrath be, which are laid on by an omnipotent hand! Infinite power can make the sinner its prisoner, even when he is in his greatest rage against Heaven. It can bring again the several parcels of dust out of the grave, put them together again, reunite the soul and body, summon them before the tribunal, hurry them away to the pit, and hold them up with the one hand, through eternity, while they are lashed with the other! He is infinitely just, and therefore must punish. It would be acting contrary to his nature—to allow the rebellious sinner to escape wrath. Hence the executing of this wrath is pleasing to him—for though the Lord has no delight in the death of a sinner, as it is the destruction of his own creature—yet he delights in it, as it is the execution of justice. "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest. " Mark the reason—"For the righteous Lord loves righteousness, " Psalm 11:6, 7. "I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted, " Ezek. 5:13. "I also will laugh at your calamity, " Proverbs 1:26. Finally, He lives forever, to pursue the quarrel. Let us therefore conclude, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"

Be awakened then, O young sinner! be awakened, O old sinner! You are yet in the state of wrath, in which you were born in! Your security is the sleep of death; rise out of it, before the pit closes its mouth upon you. It is true, you may put on a breastplate of iron, make your brow brass, and your heart as hard as adamant. But God will break that brazen brow, and make that adamantine heart at last to fly into a thousand pieces! You may, if you will, labour to put these things out of your heads, that you may sleep in fancied safety, though in a state of wrath. You may run away, with the arrows sticking in your consciences, to your job, to work them away. You may go to your beds, to sleep them out; or to company, to sport and laugh them away—but convictions, so stifled, will have a fearful resurrection; and the day is coming, unless you take warning in time, when the arrows of wrath shall so stick in your soul, as you shall never be able to pluck them out through the ages of eternity!

But if any desire to flee from the wrath to come, and, for that end, to know what course to take—I offer them these few ADVICES; and implore and beseech them, as they love their own souls, to comply with them.

(1. ) Retire to some secret place and there meditate on this, your misery. Believe it, and fix your thoughts on it. Let each put the question to himself, How can I live in this state? How can I die in it? How shall I rise again, and stand before the tribunal of God in it?

(2. ) Consider seriously the sin of your nature, heart, and life. A proper sight of wrath flows from a deep sense of sin. Those who see themselves exceedingly sinful, will find no great difficulty to perceive themselves to be heirs of wrath.

(3. ) Labour to justify God in this matter. To quarrel with God about it, and to rage like a wild bull in a net, will but fix you the more in it. Humiliation of soul before the Lord is necessary for an escape. God will not sell deliverance—but freely gives it to those who see themselves altogether unworthy of his favour.

(4. ) Turn your eyes, O prisoners of hope, towards the Lord Jesus Christ; and embrace him, as he offers himself in the gospel. "There is no salvation in any other, " Acts 4:12. God is a consuming fire; you are children of wrath—if the Mediator does not interpose between him and you—you are undone forever! If you would be safe, come under his shadow—one drop of that wrath cannot fall there, for he "delivers us from the wrath to come, " 1 Thess. 1:10. Accept of him in this covenant, wherein he offers himself to you; so you shall, as the captive woman, redeem your life, by marrying the conqueror. His blood will quench that fire of wrath which burns against you—in the white raiment of his righteousness you will be safe; for no storm of wrath can pierce it.

2. I shall drop a few words to the SAINTS.

"Remember that at that time you were without Christ . . . having no hope and without God in the world. " Ephesians 2:12

(1. ) "REMEMBER—that at that time, " namely, when you were in your natural state, "you were without Christ – having no hope, and without God in the world. " Call to mind the state you were in formerly; and review the misery of it. There are five memorials which I may thence give in to the whole assembly of the saints, who are no longer children of wrath—but "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, " though as yet in their minority.

[1. ] Remember—that in the day our Lord first took you by the hand, you were in no better a condition than others. O, what moved Him to take you—when He passed by your neighbours? He found you children of wrath, even as others—but He did not leave you so. He came into the common prison, where you lay in fetters, even as others. From among the multitude of condemned malefactors, He picked you out, commanded your fetters to be taken off, put a pardon in your hand, and brought you into the glorious liberty of the children of God—while He left others in the devil's fetters!

[2. ] Remember—there was nothing in you to engage Him to love you, in the day he appeared for your deliverance. You were children of wrath, even as others; fit for hell, and altogether unfit for heaven! Yet the King brought you into the palace; the King's Son made love to you, a condemned criminal, and espoused you to Himself, on the day in which you might have been led forth to execution! "Even so, Father, for so it seems good in Your sight!" Matt. 11:26.

[3. ] Remember—you were fitter to be loathed, than loved, in that day. Be amazed and wonder! that when He saw you in your blood, that He did not look upon you with abhorrence, and pass you by. Wonder, that ever such a time could be a time of love, Ezek. 16:8.

[4. ] Remember—you are decked with borrowed garments. It is His loveliness which is upon you, ver. 14. It was He who took off your prison garments, and clothed you with robes of righteousness, garments of salvation; garments with which you are arrayed as the lilies, which toil not, neither do they spin. He took the chains from off your arms, the rope from about your neck; put you in such a dress, as you might be fit for the court of heaven, even to eat at the King's table!

[5. ] Remember your faults this day, as Pharaoh's butler, who had forgotten Joseph. Mind how you have forgotten, and how unkindly you have treated Him who remembered you in your dreadful estate. Is this your kindness to your friend? In the day of your deliverance, did you think you could have thus requited Him, your Lord?

(2. ) PITY the children of wrath—the world which lies in wickedness. Can you be unconcerned for them, you who were once in the same condition? You have got ashore, indeed—but your companions are yet in hazard of perishing; and will not you afford them all possible help for their deliverance? What they are—you formerly were. This may draw pity from you, and engage you to use all means for their recovery. See Titus 3:1-3.

(3. ) Admire that matchless love which brought you out of the state of wrath. Christ's love was active love; He brought your soul from the pit of corruption! It was no easy work to purchase the life of the condemned sinner; but He gave His life for your life. He gave His precious blood to quench the flame of wrath, which otherwise would have consumed you! Men get the best view of the stars from the bottom of a deep pit; from this pit of misery, into which you were cast by the fall of the first Adam, you may get the best view of the Sun of Righteousness, in all his dimensions. He is the second Adam, who took you out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay. How broad was that love, which covered such a multitude of sins! Behold the length of it, reaching from everlasting to everlasting, Psalm 103:17. The depth of it, going so low as to deliver you from the lowest hell, Ps. 86:13. The height of it, raising you up to sit in heavenly places, Eph. 2:6.

(4. ) Be HUMBLE, carry low sails, walk softly all your years. Be not proud of your gifts, graces, privileges, or attainments; but remember you were children of wrath, even as others. The peacock walks slowly, hangs down his lovely feathers, while he looks to his black feet. "Look to the hole of the pit whence you are dug;" and walk humbly, as it becomes free grace's debtors.

(5. ) Be wholly for your Lord. Every wife is obliged to be dutiful to her husband; but double ties lie upon her who was taken from a prison, or an ash-heap. If your Lord has delivered you from wrath, you ought, on that very account, to be wholly his; to act for him, to suffer tor him, and to do whatever he calls you to. The saints have no reason to complain of their lot in the world, whatever it is. Well may they bear the cross for Him—by whom the curse was borne away from them. Well may they bear the wrath of men in his cause—who has freed them from the wrath of God; and cheerfully go to a fire for him, by whom hell-fire is quenched as to them.

Soul and body, and all you had in the world, were formerly under wrath—he has removed that wrath; shall not all these be at his service? That your soul is not overwhelmed with the wrath of God, is owing purely to Jesus Christ; and shall it not be a temple for his Spirit? That your heart is not filled with horror and despair is owing to Him only; to whom then should it be devoted—but to him alone? That your eyes are not blinded with the smoke of the pit; your hands not fettered with chains of darkness; your tongue is not broiling in the fire of hell; and your feet are not standing in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone—is owing purely to Jesus Christ! and shall not these eyes be employed for him, these hands act for him, this tongue speak for him, and these feet speedily run his errands? To him who believes that he was a child of wrath, even as others—but is now delivered by the blessed Jesus, nothing will appear too much, to do or suffer for his Deliverer, when he has a fair call to it.

3. To conclude with a word to ALL.

Let no man think lightly of sin—which lays the sinner open to the wrath of God. Let not the sin of our nature—which wreathes the yoke of God's wrath so early about our necks—seem a small thing in our eyes. Fear the Lord because of his dreadful wrath. Tremble at the thought of sin, against which God has such fiery indignation. Look on his wrath—and stand in awe—and sin not! Do you think this is to press you to slavish fear? If it were so, one had better be a slave to God with a trembling heart, than a free man to the devil, with a seared conscience and a heart of adamant. But it is not so; you may love him, and thus fear him too; yes, you ought to do it, though you were saints of the first magnitude. See Psalm 119:120; Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5; Heb. 12:28, 29. Although you have passed the gulf of wrath, being in Jesus Christ—yet it is but reasonable that your hearts should shiver when you look back to it. Your sin still deserves wrath, even as the sins of others; and it would be terrible to be in a fiery furnace, although by a miracle we were so protected against it, as that it could not harm us.

I. The State of GRACE

1. REGENERATION

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed—but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever. " 1 Peter 1:23

We proceed now to the state of grace, the state of begun recovery of human nature, into which all who shall partake of eternal happiness are translated, sooner or later, while in this world. It is the result of a gracious change made upon those who shall inherit eternal life: which change may be taken up in these two particulars:

1. In opposition to their natural real state, the state of corruption, there is a change made upon them in regeneration; whereby their nature is changed.

2. In opposition to their natural relative state, the state of wrath, there is a change made upon them in their union with the Lord Jesus Christ; by which they are placed beyond the reach of condemnation.

These, therefore, regeneration and union with Christ, I desire to treat on as the great and comprehensive changes on a sinner, bringing him into the state of grace.

The first of these we have in the text; together with the outward and ordinary means by which it is brought about. The apostle here, to excite the saints to the study of holiness, and particularly of brotherly love, puts them in mind of their spiritual original. He tells them that they were born again; and that of incorruptible seed, the word of God. This shows them to be brethren, partakers of the same new nature: which is the root from which holiness, and particularly brotherly love, springs. We have been once born sinners: we must be born again, that we may be saints.

The simple word signifies "to be begotten;" and so it may be read, Matt. 11:11; "to be conceived, " Matt. 1:20; and "to be born, " Matt. 2:1. Accordingly, the compound word, used in the text, may be taken in its full latitude, the last idea presupposing the two former: so regeneration is a supernatural real change on the whole man, fitly compared to the natural birth, as will afterwards appear. The ordinary means of regeneration, called the "seed, " whereof the new creature is formed, is not corruptible seed. Of such, indeed, our bodies are generated: but the spiritual seed of which the new creature is generated, is incorruptible; namely, "the word of God, which lives and abides forever. " The sound of the word of God passes, even as other sounds do; but the word lasts, lives, and abides, in respect of its everlasting effects, on all upon whom it operates. This "word, which by the gospel is preached unto you, " ver. 25, impregnated by the Spirit of God, is the means of regeneration: and by it dead sinners are raised to life.

Doctrine. All men in the state of grace, are born again. All gracious people, namely, such as are in a state of favour with God, and endowed with gracious qualities and dispositions, are regenerate people. In discoursing on this subject, I shall show,

1. What regeneration is.

2. Why it is so called.

3. Apply the doctrine.

I. Of the Nature of regeneration.

For the better understanding of the nature of regeneration, take this along with you, that as there are false conceptions in nature, so there are also in grace: by these many are deluded, mistaking some partial changes made upon them, for this great and thorough change. To remove such mistakes, let these few things be considered:

(1. ) Many call the church their mother, whom God will not own to be his children, Cant. 1:6, "My mother's children, " that is, false brethren, "were angry with me. " All that are baptized, are not born again. Simon was baptized—yet still "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity, " Acts 8:13, 23. Where Christianity is the religion of the country, many are called by the name of Christ, who have no more of him than the name: and no wonder, for the devil had his goats among Christ's sheep, in those places where but few professed the Christian religion, 1 John 2:19, "They went out from us—but they were not of us. "

(2. ) Good education is not regeneration. Education may chain up men's lusts—but cannot change their hearts. A wolf is still a ravenous beast, though it be in chains. Joash was very devout during the life of his good tutor Jehoiada; but afterwards he quickly showed what spirit he was of, by his sudden apostasy, 2 Chron. 24:2-18. Good example is of mighty influence to change the outward man: but that change often goes off, when a man changes his company; of which the world affords many sad instances.

(3. ) A turning from open profanity, to civility and sobriety, falls short of this saving change. Some are, for a while, very loose, especially in their younger years; but at length they reform, and leave their profane courses. Here is a change—yet only such as may be found in men utterly void of the grace of God, and whose righteousness is so far from exceeding, that it does not come up to the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.

(4. ) One may engage in all the outward duties of religion, and yet not be born again. Though lead be cast into various shapes, it remains still but a base metal. Men may escape the pollutions of the world, and yet be but dogs and swine, 2 Pet. 2:20-22. All the external acts of religion are within the compass of natural abilities. Yes, hypocrites may have the counterfeit of all the graces of the Spirit: for we read of "true holiness, " Eph. 4:24, and "sincere faith, " 1 Tim. 1:5; which shows us that there is counterfeit holiness, and a feigned faith.

(5. ) Men may advance to a great deal of strictness in their own way of religion, and yet be strangers to the new birth, Acts 26:5, "After the most straightest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee. " Nature has its own unsanctified strictness in religion. The Pharisees had so much of it, that they looked on Christ as little better than a mere libertine. A man whose conscience has been awakened, and who lives under the felt influence of the covenant of works, what will he not do that is within the compass of natural abilities? It is a truth, though it came out of a hellish mouth, that "skin for skin, yes all that a man has will he give for his life, " Job 2:4.

(6. ) A person may have sharp soul-exercises and pangs, and yet die in the birth. Many "have been in pain, " that have but, "as it were, brought forth wind. " There may be sore pangs of conscience, which turn to nothing at last. Pharaoh and Simon Magus had such convictions, as made them to desire the prayers of others for them. Judas repented: and, under terrors of conscience, gave back his ill-gotten pieces of silver. All is not gold that glitters. Trees may blossom fairly in the spring, on which no fruit is to be found in the harvest: and some have sharp soul-exercises, which are nothing but foretastes of hell.

The new birth, however in appearance hopefully begun, may be MARRED two ways.

(1. ) Some have sharp convictions for a while: but these go off, and they become as careless about their salvation, and as profane as ever, and usually worse than ever; "their last state is worse than their first, " Matt. 12:45. They get awakening grace—but not converting grace; and that goes off by degrees, as the light of the declining day, until it issues in midnight darkness.

Others come forth too soon; they are born, like Ishmael, before the time of the promise, Gen. 16:2; compare Gal. 4:22, etc. They take up with a mere law work, and stay not until the time of the promise of the gospel. They snatch at consolation, not waiting until it be given them; and foolishly draw their comfort from the law which wounded them. They apply the healing plaster to themselves, before their wound is sufficiently searched. The law, that rigorous husband, severely beats them, and throws in curses and vengeance upon their souls; then they fall to reforming, praying, mourning, promising, and vowing; which done, they fall asleep again in the arms of the law: but they are never shaken out of themselves and their own righteousness, nor brought forward to Jesus Christ.

(2. ) There may be a wonderful moving of the affections in souls that are not at all touched with regenerating grace. When there is no grace, there may, notwithstanding, be a flood of tears, as in Esau, who "found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears, " Heb. 12:17. There may be great flashes of joy; as in the hearers of the word, represented in the parable of the stony ground, who "with joy receive it, " Matt. 13:20. There may be also great desires after good things, and great delight in them too; as in those hypocrites described in Isa. 58:2, "Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways – they take delight in approaching to God. " See how high they may sometimes stand—who yet fall away, Heb. 6:4-6. They may be "enlightened, taste of the heavenly gift, " "be partakers of the Holy Spirit, taste the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come. " Common operations of the divine Spirit, like a land-flood, make a strange turning of things upside down: but when they are over, all runs again in the ordinary channel. All these things may be, where the sanctifying Spirit of Christ never rests upon the soul—but the stony heart still remains; and in that case these affections cannot but wither, because they have no root.

But regeneration is a real, thorough change, whereby the man is made a new creature, 2 Cor. 5:17. The Lord God makes the creature a new creature, as the goldsmith melts down a vessel of dishonour, and makes it a vessel of honour. Man is, in respect of his spiritual state, altogether disjointed by the fall; every faculty of the soul is, as it were, dislocated. In regeneration, the Lord loosens every joint, and sets it right again. Now this change made in regeneration, is,

1. A change of qualities or DISPOSITIONS.

It is not a change of the substance—but of the qualities of the soul. Vicious qualities are removed, and the contrary dispositions are brought in, in their place. "The old man is put off, " Eph. 4:22; "the new man is put on, " ver. 24. Man lost none of the rational faculties of his soul by sin. He had an understanding still—but it was darkened; he had still a will—but it was contrary to the will of God. So in regeneration, there is not a new substance created—but new qualities or dispositions are infused; light instead of darkness, righteousness instead of unrighteousness.

2. It is a SUPERNATURAL change.

He who is born again, is born of the Spirit, John 3:5. Great changes may be made by the power of nature, especially when assisted by external revelation. Nature may be so elevated by the common influences of the Spirit, that a person may thereby be turned into another man, as Saul was, 1 Sam. 10:6, who yet never becomes a new man. But in regeneration, nature itself is changed, and we become partakers of the divine nature; and this must needs be a supernatural change. How can we, who are dead in trespasses and sins, renew ourselves, any more than a dead man can raise himself out of his grave? Who but the sanctifying Spirit of Christ can form Christ in a soul, changing it into his same image? Who but the Spirit of sanctification can give the new heart? Well may we say, when we see a man thus changed, "This is the finger of God!"

3. It is a change into the LIKENESS OF GOD.

2 Cor. 3:18, "We beholding, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord—are changed into the same image. " Everything generates its like: the child bears the image of the parent; and they who are born of God, bear God's image. Man aspiring to be as God, made himself like the devil. In his natural state he resembles the devil, as a child does his father, John 8:44, "You are of your father the devil. " But when this happy change comes, that image of Satan is defaced, and the image of God is restored. Christ himself, who is the brightness of his Father's glory, is the pattern after which the new creature is made, Rom. 8:29, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. " Hence Christ is said to be formed in the regenerate, Gal. 4:19.

4. It is a UNIVERSAL change.

"All things become new, " 2 Cor. 5:17. It is a blessed leaven—which leavens the whole lump—the whole spirit, and soul, and body. Original sin infects the whole man; and regenerating grace, which is the cure, goes as far as the disease. This fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness; goodness of the mind, goodness of the will, goodness of the affections, goodness of the whole man. He gets not only a new head, to know and understand true religion; or a new tongue, to talk of it; but a new heart, to love and embrace it, in the whole of his life. When the Lord opens the sluice of grace, on the soul's new-birth day, the waters run through the whole man, to purify and make him fruitful. In those natural changes spoken of before, there are, as it were, pieces of new cloth put into an old garment; new life to an old heart: but the gracious change is a thorough change; a change both of heart and life.

5. Yet, though every part of the man is renewed, there is no part of him which is perfectly renewed.

As an infant has all the parts of a man—but none of them come to a perfect growth; so regeneration brings a perfection of parts, to be brought forward in the gradual advances of sanctification, 1 Pet. 2:2, "As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. " Although, in regeneration, there is heavenly light let into the mind; yet there is still some darkness there. Though the will is renewed, it is not perfectly renewed; there is still some of the old inclination to sin remaining: and thus it will be, until that which is in part is done away, and the light of glory come. Adam was created at his full stature; but those who are born, must have their time to grow up; so those who are born again, come forth into the new world of grace as new-born babes: Adam being created upright, was at the same time perfectly righteous, without the least mixture of sinful imperfection.

6. Nevertheless, it is a LASTING change, which never entirely dies off.

The seed is incorruptible, says the text; and so is the creature who is formed of it. The life given in regeneration, whatever decays it may fall under, can never be utterly lost. "His seed remains in him" who "is born of God, " 1 John 3:9. Though the branches should be cut down, the root abides in the earth; and being watered with the dew of heaven, shall spout again: for "the root of the righteous shall not be moved, " Prov. 12:3.

But to come to particulars.

1. In regeneration the MIND is savingly enlightened.

There is a light let into the understanding; so that those who were "once darkness, are now light in the Lord, " Eph. 5:8. The beams of the light of life make their way into the dark dungeon of the heart: then the night is over, and the morning light is come, which will shine more and more unto the perfect day.

(1. ) Now the man is illuminated, in the knowledge of GOD. He has far other thoughts of God, than ever he had before, Hos. 2:20, "I will even betroth you unto me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord. " The Spirit of the Lord brings him back to this question, "What is God?" and catechises him anew upon that grand point, so that he is made to say, "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees you, " Job 42:5. The spotless purity of God, his exact justice, his all-sufficiency, and other glorious perfections revealed in his word, are by this new light discovered to the soul, with a plainness and certainty, which as far exceed the knowledge it had of these things before, as ocular viewing exceeds common report. For now he sees, what he only heard of before.

(2. ) He is enlightened in the knowledge of SIN. He has different thoughts of it than he used to have. Formerly his sight could not pierce through the cover Satan laid over it: but now the Spirit of God removes it, wipes off the paint and varnish: and so he sees it in its natural colours, as the worst of evils, exceedingly sinful, Rom. 7:13. O, what deformed monsters—do formerly beloved lusts appear! Were they right eyes, he would pluck them out; were they right hands, he would consent to their being cut off. He sees how offensive sin is to God, how destructive it is to the soul; and calls himself a fool, for fighting so long against the Lord, and harbouring that destroyer as a bosom friend!

(3. ) He is instructed in the knowledge of HIMSELF. Regenerating grace brings the prodigal to himself, Luke 15:17, and makes men full of eyes within, knowing the plague of his own heart. The mind being savingly enlightened, the man sees how desperately corrupt his nature is; what enmity against God, and his holy law, has long lodged there: so that his soul loathes itself. No open sepulchre so vile and loathsome, in his eyes—as himself, Ezek. 36:31, "Then shall you remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight. " He is no worse than he was before—but the sun is now shining; and so those pollutions are seen, which he could not discern before—when there was no dawning in him, as the word is, Isa. 8:20, while as yet there was no breaking of the day of grace with him.

(4. ) He is enlightened in the knowledge of JESUS CHRIST. 1 Cor. 1: 23, 24, "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness: but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. " The truth is, unregenerate men, though capable of preaching Christ, have not, properly speaking, the knowledge of him—but only an opinion, a good opinion, of him; as one has of many controverted points of doctrine, wherein he is far from certainty. As when you meet with a stranger on the road, who behaves himself discretely, you conceive a good opinion of him, and therefore willingly converse with him: but yet you will not commit your money to him; because, though you have a good opinion of the man, he is a stranger to you, you do not know him. So may they think well of Christ; but they will never commit themselves to him, seeing they know him not.

But saving illumination carries the soul beyond opinion, to the certain knowledge of Christ and his excellency, 1 Thess. 1:5, "For our Gospel came not unto you in word only—but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance. " The light of grace thus discovers the suitableness of the mystery of Christ to the divine perfections, and to the sinner's case. Hence the regenerate admire the glorious plan of salvation, through Christ crucified; rest their whole dependence upon it, heartily acquiesce therein; for whatever he is to others, he is to them, "Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. " But unrenewed men, not seeing this, are offended in him: they will not venture their souls in that vessel—but betake themselves to the broken boards of their own righteousness.

The same light convincingly discovers a superlative worth, a transcendent glory and excellence in Christ, which darkens all created excellencies—as the rising sun makes the stars hide their heads. It engages the "merchantman to sell all that he has, to buy the one pearl of great price, " Matt. 12:45, 46; makes the soul heartily content to take Christ for all, and instead of all. An unskilful merchant, to whom one offers a pearl of great price, for all his petty wares, dares not venture on the bargain; for though he thinks that one pearl may be worth more than all he has—yet he is not sure of it: but when a jeweller comes to him and assures him it is worth double all his wares, he then eagerly makes the bargain, and cheerfully parts with all he has, for that pearl.

Finally, this illumination in the knowledge of Christ, convincingly discovers to men a fullness in him, sufficient for the supply of all their needs, enough to satisfy the boundless desires of an immortal soul. And they are persuaded that such fullness is in him, and that in order to be communicated: they depend upon it as a certain truth; and therefore, their souls take up their eternal rest in him.

(5. ) The man is instructed in the knowledge of the vanity of the WORLD. Psalm 119:96, "I have seen an end of all perfection. " Regenerating grace elevates the soul, translates it into the spiritual world, from whence this earth cannot but appear a little, yes, a very little thing; even as heaven appeared before, while the soul was grovelling in the earth. Grace brings a man into a new world: where this earthly world is reputed but a stage of vanity, a howling wilderness, a valley of tears.

God has hung the sign of vanity at the door of all created enjoyments: yet how do men throng into the house, calling and looking for something that is satisfying; even after it has been a thousand times told them, that there is no such thing in it, it is not to be found there, Isa. 57:10, "You are wearied in the greatness of your way: yet said you not, There is no hope. " Why are men so foolish? The truth of the matter lies here—they do not see by the light of grace, they do not spiritually discern that sign of vanity. They have often, indeed, made a rational discovery of it: but can that truly wean the heart from the world? Nay, no more than painted fire can burn off the prisoner's bands. But the light of grace, is the light of life, powerful and efficacious.

(6. ) To sum up all. In regeneration, the mind is enlightened in the knowledge of spiritual things. 1 John 2:20, "You have an unction from the Holy One, " that is, from Jesus Christ, Revelation 3:18. It is an allusion to the sanctuary, whence the holy oil was brought to anoint the priest, "and you know all things" necessary to salvation. Though men be not book-learned, if they are born again, they are Spirit-learned; for all such are taught of God, John 6:45. The Spirit of regeneration teaches them what they did not know before. And what they knew by the ear only, he teaches them over again as by the eye.

The light of grace is an overcoming light, determining men to assent to divine truths on the mere testimony of God. It is no easy thing for the mind of man to acquiesce in divine revelation. Many pretend great respect to the Scriptures; whom, nevertheless, the clear Scripture testimony will not divorce from their preconceived opinions. But this illumination will make men's minds run, as willing captives, after Christ's chariot wheels, which they are ready to allow to drive over, and "cast down" their "imaginations, and every high thing which exalts itself against the knowledge of God, " 2 Cor. 10:5. It will bring them to "receive the kingdom of God as a little child, " Mark 10:15, who thinks he has sufficient ground to believe anything—if his father do but say it is so.

2. The WILL is renewed.

The Lord takes away the stony heart, and gives a heart of flesh, Ezek. 36:26, and so from stones—he raises up children to Abraham. Regenerating grace is powerful and efficacious, and gives the will a new turn. It does not indeed force it—but sweetly, yet powerfully draws it, so that his people are willing in the day of his power, Psalm 110:3. There is heavenly oratory in the Mediators lips to persuade sinners, Psalm 45:2, "Grace is poured into your lips. " There are cords of a man, and bands of love in his hands, to draw them after him, Hosea 11:4. Love makes a net for elect souls, which will infallibly catch them, and bring them to land. The cords of Christ's love are strong cords: and they need to be so, for every sinner is heavier than a mountain of brass; and Satan, together with the heart itself, draws the contrary way. But love is strong as death; and the Lord's love to the soul he died for, is the strongest love; which acts so powerfully, that it must come off victorious.

(1. ) The will is cured of its utter inability to will what is good. While the opening of the prison to those who are bound, is proclaimed in the gospel, the Spirit of God comes and opens the prison door, goes to the prisoner, and, by the power of his grace, makes his chains fall off; breaks the bonds of iniquity, with which he was held in sin, so as he could neither will nor do anything truly good; and brings him forth into a large place, "working in him both to will and to do of his good pleasure, " Phil. 2:13. Then it is that the soul, that was fixed to the earth, can move heavenward; the withered hand is restored, and can be stretched out.

(2. ) There is wrought in the will a fixed aversion to evil. In regeneration, a man gets a new spirit put within him, Ezek. 36:26; and that spirit strives against the flesh, Gal. 5:17. The sweet morsel of sin, so greedily swallowed down—he now loathes, and would sincerely be rid of it, even as willingly as one who had drunk a cup of poison would vomit it up again. When the spring is stopped, the mud lies in the well unmoved; but when once the spring is cleared, the waters, springing up, will work the mud away by degrees. Even so, while a man continues in an unregenerate state, sin lies at ease in the heart; but as soon as the Lord strikes the rocky heart with the rod of his strength, in the day of conversion, grace is "in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life, " John 4:14, working away natural corruption, and gradually purifying the heart, Acts 15:9. The renewed will rises up against sin, strikes at the root thereof, and the branches too. Lusts are now grievous, and the soul endeavours to starve them; the corrupt nature is the source of all evil, and therefore the soul will be often laying it before the great Physician. O, what sorrow, shame, and self-loathing fill the heart, in the day that grace makes its triumphant entrance into it! For now the madman has come to himself, and the remembrance of his follies cannot but cut him to the heart.

(3. ) The will is endowed with an inclination, bent, and propensity to good. In its depraved state, it lay quite another way, being prone and bent to evil only: but now, by the operation of the omnipotent, all-conquering arm, it is drawn from evil to good, and gets another turn. As the former was natural, so this is natural too, in regard to the new nature given in regeneration, which has its holy strivings, as well as the corrupt nature has its sinful lustings, Gal. 5:17. The will, as renewed, points towards God and godliness.

When God made man, his will, in respect of its intention, was directed towards God, as his chief end. In respect of its choice, it pointed towards that which God willed.

When man unmade himself, his will was framed to the very reverse hereof: he made himself his chief end, and his own will his law.

But when man is new made, in regeneration, grace rectifies this disorder in some measure, though not perfectly. because we are but renewed in part, while in this world. It brings back the sinner out of himself, to God, as his chief end, Psalm 73:25, "Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides you. " Phil. 1:21, "For me to live is Christ. " It makes him to deny himself, and whatever way he turns, to point habitually towards God, who is the centre of the gracious soul, its home, its "dwelling place in all generations, " Psalm 90:1.

By regenerating grace, the will is brought into a conformity to the will of God. It is conformed to his perceptive will, being endowed with holy inclinations, agreeable to every one of his commands. The whole law is impressed on the gracious soul: every part of it is written on the renewed heart. Although remaining corruption makes such blots in the writing, that oft-times the man himself cannot read it—yet he who wrote it can read it at all times; it is never quite blotted out, nor can be. What he has written, he has written; and it shall stand: "For this is the covenant – I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts, " Heb. 8:10. It is a covenant of salt, a perpetual covenant.

By regenerating grace, the will is also conformed to his providential will; so that the man would no more be master of his own direction, nor carve out his lot for himself. He learns to say, from his heart, "The will of the Lord be done. " "He shall choose our inheritance for us, " Psalm 47:4. Thus the will is disposed to fall in with those things which, in its depraved state, it could never be reconciled to. Particularly,

[1. ] The soul is reconciled to the covenant of peace. The Lord God proposes a covenant of peace to sinners, a covenant which he himself has framed, and registered in the Bible: but they are not pleased with it. Nay, unregenerate hearts cannot be pleased with it. Were it put into their hands to frame it according to their minds, they would blot many things out of it which God has put in, and put in many things which God has kept out. But the renewed heart is entirely satisfied with the covenant, 2 Sam. 23:5, "He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; this is all my salvation, and all my desire. " Though the covenant could not be brought down to their depraved will, their will is, by grace, brought up to the covenant: they are well pleased with it; there is nothing in it which they would have out, nor is anything left out of it which they would have in.

[2. ] The will is disposed to receive Christ Jesus the Lord. The soul is content to submit to him. Regenerating grace undermines, and brings down the towering imaginations of the heart, raised up against its rightful Lord; it breaks the iron sinew, which kept the sinner from bowing to him; and disposes him to be no more stiff-necked—but to yield. He is willing to have on the yoke of Christ's commands, to take up the cross, and to follow him. He is content to take Christ on any terms, Psalm 110:3, "Your people shall be willing in the day of your power. "

The mind being savingly enlightened, and the will renewed, the sinner is thereby determined and enabled to answer the gospel call. So the chief work in regeneration is done; the fort of the heart is taken; there is room made for the Lord Jesus Christ in the inmost parts of the soul; the inner door of the will being now opened to him, as well as the outer door of the understanding.

In one word, Christ is passively received into the heart; he is come into the soul, by his quickening Spirit, whereby spiritual life is given to the man, who in himself was dead in sin. His first vital act we may conceive to be an active receiving of Jesus Christ, discerned in his glorious excellencies; that is a believing on him, a closing with him, as discerned, offered and exhibited in the word of his grace, the glorious Gospel: the immediate effect of which is union with him, John 1:12, 13, "To as many as received him to them gave he power, " or privilege, "to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man—but of God. " Eph. 3:17, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. "

Christ having taken the heart by storm, and triumphantly entered into it, in regeneration, the soul by faith yields itself to him, as it is expressed, 2 Chron. 30:8. Thus, this glorious King who came into the heart, by his Spirit, dwells in it by faith. The soul, being drawn, runs; and being effectually called, comes.

3. In regeneration there is a happy change made on the AFFECTIONS; they are both rectified and regulated.

(1. ) Regeneration rectifies the affections, placing them on suitable objects. 2 Thess. 3:5, "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God. " The regenerate man's desires are rectified; they are set on God himself, and the things above. He, who before cried with the world, "Who will show us any good?" has changed his note, and says, "Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us, " Psalm 4:6. Before, he saw no beauty in Christ, for which he was to be desired; but now Christ is all he desires, he is altogether lovely, Cant. 5:16. The main stream of his desires is turned to run towards God; for there is the one thing he desires, Psalm 27:4.

He desires to be holy as well as happy; and rather to be gracious than great.

His hopes, which before were low, and fastened down to things on earth—are now raised, and set on the glory which is to be revealed. He entertains the hope of eternal life, grounded on the word of promise, Tit. 1:2. Which hope he has, as an anchor of the soul, fixing the heart under trials, Heb 6:19. It puts him upon purifying himself, even as God is pure, 1 John 3:3. For he is begotten again unto a lively hope, 1 Pet. 1:3.

His love is raised, and set on God himself, Psalm 18:1; on his holy law, Psalm 119:97. Though it strikes against his most beloved lust, he says, "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good, " Rom. 7:12. He loves the ordinances of God, " Psalm 84:1, "How amiable are your tabernacles, O Lord Almighty!" Being passed from death unto life, he loves the brethren, 1 John 3:14, the people of God, as they are called, 1 Pet. 2:10. He loves God for himself; and what is God's, for his sake. Yes, as being a child of God, he loves his own enemies. His heavenly Father is compassionate and benevolent; "He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good; and sends rain on the just and on the unjust:" therefore, he is in like manner disposed, Matt. 5:44, 45.

His hatred is turned against sin—both in himself and others, Psalm 101:3, "I hate the work of those who turn aside, it shall not cleave to me. " He groans under the body of it, and longs for deliverance, Rom. 7:24, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

His joys and delights are in God the Lord, in the light of his countenance, in his law, and in his people, because they are like him.

Sin is what he chiefly fears: it is a fountain of sorrow to him now, though formerly a spring of pleasure.

(2. ) Regeneration regulates the affections, which are placed on SUITABLE objects. Our affections, when placed on the creature, are naturally exorbitant. When we joy in it, we are apt to overjoy; and when we sorrow, we are ready to sorrow overmuch: but grace bridles these affections, clips their wings, and keeps them within bounds, that they don't overflow all their banks. It makes a man "hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children; yes, and his own life also, " comparatively; that is, to love them less than he loves God, Luke 14:26.

Grace also rectifies LAWFUL affections; bringing them forth from right principles, and directing them to right ends. There may be unholy desires after Christ and his grace; as when men desire Christ, not from any love to him—but merely out of love to themselves. "Give us of your oil, " said the foolish virgins, "for our lamps are gone out, " Matt. 25:8. There may be an unsanctified sorrow for sin; as when one sorrows for it, not because it is displeasing to God—but only because of the wrath annexed to it, as did Pharaoh, Judas, and others. So a man may love his father and mother from mere natural principles, without any respect to the command of God binding him thereto. But grace sanctifies the affections, in such cases, making them to run in a new channel of love to God, respect to his commands, and regard to his glory.

Again, grace raises the affections where they are too low. It gives the chief seat in them to God, and pulls down all other rivals, whether people or things, making them lie at his feet. Psalm 73:25, "Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides you. " He is loved for himself, and other people or things for his sake. What is lovely in them, to the renewed heart, is some ray of the divine goodness appearing in them: for unto gracious souls they shine only by borrowed light. This accounts for the saints loving all men; and yet hating those who hate God, and despising the wicked as vile people. They hate and despise them for their wickedness; there is nothing of God in that, and therefore nothing lovely nor honourable in it: but they love them for their commendable qualities or perfections, whether natural or moral; because, in whomever these things are, they are from God, and can be traced to him as their fountain.

Finally, regenerating grace sets the affections so firmly on God, that the man is disposed, at God's command, to leave his hold of everything else, in order to keep his hold of Christ; to hate father and mother, in comparison with Christ, Luke 14:26. It makes even lawful enjoyments, like Joseph's mantle to hang loose about a man, that he may leave them, when he is in danger of being ensnared by holding them.

If the stream of our affections has never been turned, we are, doubtless, going down the stream into the pit. If "the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, " have the throne in our hearts, which should be possessed by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; if we never had so much love to God, as to ourselves; if sin has been somewhat bitter to us—but never so bitter as suffering, never so bitter as the pain of being weaned from it: truly we are strangers to this saving change of regeneration. For grace turns the affections upside down, whenever it comes into the heart.

4. The CONSCIENCE is renewed.

As a new light is set up in the soul, in regeneration, conscience is enlightened, instructed and informed. That candle of the Lord, Proverbs 20:27, is now snuffed and brightened; so that it shines, and sends forth its light into the most retired corners of the heart: discovering sins which the soul was not aware of before; and, in a special manner, discovering the corruption or depravity of nature—that seed and spawn whence all actual sins proceed. This produces the new complaint, Romans 7:24, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

Conscience, which lay sleeping in the man's bosom before, is now awakened, and makes its voice to be heard through the whole soul; therefore, there is no more rest for him in the sluggard's bed; he must get up and be doing, arise, "haste, and escape for his life. " It powerfully incites to obedience, even in the most spiritual acts, which lie not within the view of the natural conscience; and powerfully restrains from sin, even from those sins which do not lie open to the observation of the world. It urges the sovereign authority of God, to which the heart is now reconciled, and which it willingly acknowledges. And so it engages the man to his duty, whatever be the hazard from the world; for it fills the heart so with the fear of God—that the force of the fear of man is broken. This has engaged many to put their life in their hand, and follow the cause of Christ, which they once despised, and resolutely walk in the path they formerly abhorred, Galatians 1:23, "He who persecuted us in times past, now preaches the faith which once he destroyed. "

Guilt now makes the conscience smart. It has bitter remorse for sins past—which fills the soul with anxiety, sorrow, and self-loathing. And every new reflection on these sins is apt to affect, and make its wounds bleed afresh with regret. It is made tender, in point of sin and duty, for the time to come: being once burnt, it dreads the fire, and fears to break the hedge where it was formerly bitten by the serpent.

Finally, the renewed conscience drives the sinner to Jesus Christ, as the only Physician who can draw out the sting of guilt; and whose blood alone can purge the conscience from dead works, Heb. 9:14, refusing all ease offered to it from any other hand. This is an evidence that the conscience is not only awakened—as it may be in an unregenerate state; but oiled also, with regenerating grace.

5. As the MEMORY

lacked not its share of depravity, it is also bettered by regenerating grace. The memory is weakened, with respect to those things that are not worth their room therein; and men are taught to forget injuries, and drop their resentments, Matt. 5:44, 45, "Do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you – that you may be, " that is, appear to be, "the children of your Father who is in heaven. "

It is strengthened for spiritual things. We have Solomon's receipt for an ill memory, Prov. 3:1, "My son, " says he, "forget not my law. " But how shall it be kept in mind? "Let your heart keep my commandments. " Grace makes a heart-memory, even where there is no good head-memory, Psalm 119:11, "Your word have I hid in my heart. " The heart, truly touched with the powerful sweetness of truth, will help the memory to retain what is so relished. If divine truths made deeper impressions on our hearts, they would impress themselves with more force on our memories, Psalm 119:93, "I will never forget your precepts, for with them you have quickened me. "

Grace sanctifies the memory. Many have large—but unsanctified memories, which serve only to gather knowledge, whereby to aggravate their condemnation: but the renewed memory serves to "remember his commandments—to do them, " Psalm 103:18. It is a sacred storehouse, from whence a Christian is furnished in his way to Zion; for faith and hope are often supplied out of it, in a dark hour. It is the storehouse of former experiences; and these are the believer's way-marks, by noticing of which he comes to know where he is, even in a dark time. Psalm 42:6, "O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember you from the land of Jordan, " etc. It also helps the soul to godly sorrow and self-loathing, presenting old guilt anew before the conscience, and making it bleed afresh, though the sin be already pardoned; Psalm 25:7, "Remember not the sins of my youth. " Where unpardoned guilt is lying on the sleeping conscience, it is often employed to bring in a word, which in a moment sets the whole soul on the stir; as when "Peter remembered the words of Jesus – he went out and wept bitterly, " Matt. 26:75. The word of God laid up in a sanctified memory, serves a man to resist temptations, puts the sword in his hand against his spiritual enemies, and is a light to direct his steps in the way of true religion and righteousness.

6. There is a change made on the BODY,

and the members thereof, in respect of their use; they are consecrated to the Lord. Even "the body is – for the Lord, " 1 Cor. 6:13. It is "the temple of the Holy Spirit, " ver. 19. The members thereof, which were formerly "instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, " become "instruments of righteousness unto God, " Rom. 6:13, "servants to righteousness unto holiness, " ver. 19. The eye, that conveyed sinful imaginations into the heart, is under a covenant, Job 31:1, to do so no more; but to serve the soul, in viewing the works of God, and reading the word of God. The ear, that had often been death's porter, to let in sin, is turned to be the gate of life, by which the word of life enters the soul. The tongue, that set on fire the whole course of nature, is restored to the office it was designed for by the Creator; namely, to be an instrument of glorifying him, and setting forth his praise. In a word, the whole man is for God, in soul and body, which by this blessed change are made his.

7. This gracious change shines forth in the LIFE.

Even the outward man is renewed. A new heart makes newness of life. When "the king's daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold, " Psalm 45:13. "The single eye" makes "the whole body full of light, " Matthew 6:22. This change will appear in every part of a man's life; particularly in the following things.

(1. ) In the change of his COMPANY. Formerly, he despised the company of the saints—but now they are "the excellent, in whom is all his delight, " Psalm 16:3. "I am a companion of all who fear you, " says the royal psalmist, Psalm 119:63. A renewed man joins himself with the saints; for he and they are like-minded, in that which is their main work and business; they have all one new nature: they are all traveling to Immanuel's land, and converse together in the language of Canaan. In vain do men pretend to true religion, while ungodly company is their choice; for "a companion of fools shall be destroyed, " Proverbs 13:20. Religion will make a man shy of throwing himself into an ungodly family, or any unnecessary familiarity with wicked men; as one who is healthy will beware of going into an infected house.

(2. ) In his RELATIVE capacity, he will be a new man. Grace makes men gracious in their several relations, and naturally leads them to the conscientious performance of relative duties. It does not only make good men and good women—but makes good subjects, good husbands, good wives, children, servants, and, in a word, good relatives in the church, commonwealth, and family. It is a just exception made against the religion of many, namely, that they are bad relatives, they are bad husbands, wives, masters, servants, etc. How can we prove ourselves to be new creatures, if we be just such as we were before, in our different relations? 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. "

Real godliness will gain a testimony to a man, from the consciences of his nearest relations; though they know more of his sinful infirmities than others do, as we see in the case, 2 Kings 4:1, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he did fear the Lord. "

(3. ) In the way of his following his worldly BUSINESS, there is a great change. It appears to be no more his all, as it was before. Though saints apply themselves to worldly business, as well as others—yet their hearts are not swallowed up in it. It is evident that they are carrying on a trade with heaven, as well as a trade with earth, Phil. 3:20, "For our conversation is in heaven. " They go about their employment in the world, as a duty laid upon them by the Lord of all, doing their lawful business as the will of God, Eph. 6:7, working, because he has said, "You shall not steal. "

(4. ) Such have a special concern for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ in the world: they espouse the interests of religion, and "prefer Jerusalem above their chief joy, " Psalm 137:6. However privately they live, grace gives them a public spirit, will concern itself in the ark and work of God, in the Gospel of God, and in the people of God, even in those of them whom they never saw. As children of God, they naturally care for these things. They have a new concern for the spiritual good of others: no sooner do they taste of the power of grace themselves—but they are inclined to set up to be agents for Christ and holiness in the world; as appears in the case of the woman of Samaria, who when Christ had manifested himself to her, "went her way into the city, and said unto the men, Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" John 4:28, 29.

They have seen and felt the evil of sin, and therefore pity the world lying in wickedness. They would gladly pluck the brands out of the fire, remembering that they themselves were plucked out of it. They labour to commend religion to others, both by word and example; and rather deny themselves the liberty in indifferent things, than, by the uncharitable use of it, destroy others; 1 Cor. 8:13, "Therefore, if meat make my brother to sin, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to sin. "

(5. ) In their use of LAWFUL COMFORTS, there is a great change. They rest not in them, as their end; but use them as means to help them in their way. They draw their satisfaction from the higher springs—even while lower springs are running. Thus Hannah, having obtained a son, rejoiced not so much in the gift, as in the giver, 1 Sam. 2:1, "And Hannah prayed and said, My heart rejoices in the Lord. " Yes, when the comforts of life are gone, they can exist without them, and "rejoice in the Lord although the fig-tree do not blossom, " Hab. 3:17, 18.

Grace teaches to use the conveniences of the present life as pilgrims; and to show a holy moderation in all things. The heart, which formally revelled in these things without fear, is now shy of being over much pleased with them. Being apprehensive of danger, it uses them warily; as the dogs of Egypt run, while they lap their water out of the river Nile, for fear of the crocodiles that are in it.

(6. ) This change shines forth in the man's performance of PIOUS DUTIES. He who lived in the neglect of them will do so no more, if once the grace of God enter into his heart. If a man be new-born, he will desire the sincere milk of the word 1 Pet. 2:2, 3. Whenever the prayerless person gets the Spirit of grace, he will be in him a Spirit of supplication, Zech. 12:10. It is as natural for one that is born again to pray, as for the new-born babe to cry. Acts 9:11, "Behold, he prays!" His heart will be a temple for God, and his house a church. His devotion, which before was superficial and formal, is now spiritual and lively; for as much as heart and tongue are touched with a live coal from heaven: and he rests not in the mere performance of duties, as careful only to get his task done—but in every duty seeks communion with God in Christ; justly considering them as means appointed of God for that end, and reckoning himself disappointed if he miss of it.

Thus far of the NATURE of regeneration.

II. I come to show WHY this change is called regeneration, a being born again.

It is so called, because of the resemblance between natural and spiritual birth, which lies in the following particulars.

1. Natural birth is a MYSTERIOUS thing: and so is spiritual birth.

John 3:8, "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof—but can not tell whence it comes and where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. " The work of the Spirit is felt; but his way of working is a mystery we cannot comprehend. A new light is let into the mind, and the will is renewed; but how that light is conveyed there, how the will is fettered with cords of love, and how the rebel is made a willing captive—we can no more tell, than we can tell "how the bones grow in the womb of her that is with child, " Eccl. 11:5. As a man hears the sound of the wind, and finds it stirring—but knows not where it begins, and where it ends, "so is every one that is born of the Spirit. " He finds the change that is made upon him; but how it is produced he knows not. One thing he may know, that whereas he was blind, now he sees. But "the seed of grace" "springs and grows up—he knows not how, " Mark 4:26, 27.

2. In both, the creature comes to a being it had not before.

The child is not, until it be born; and a man has no gracious being, no being in grace, until he is re-born. Regeneration is not so much the curing of a sick man, as "the quickening of a dead man, " Eph. 2:1-5. Man in his depraved state, is a mere nonentity in grace, and is brought into a new being by the power of Him "who calls things that are, not as though they were;" being "created in Jesus Christ unto good works, " Eph. 2:10. Therefore, our Lord Jesus, to give ground of hope to the Laodiceans, in their wretched and miserable state, proposes himself as "the beginning of the creation of God, " Revelation 3:14, namely, the active beginning of it; "for all things were made by him" at first, John 1:3. From whence they might gather, that as he made them when they were nothing, he could make them over again, when worse than nothing; the same hand that made them his creatures, could make them new creatures.

3. As the child is PASSIVE in birth, so is the child of God in regeneration.

The one contributes nothing to its own birth; neither does the other contribute anything, by way of efficiency, to its own regeneration: for though a man may lay himself down at the pool—yet he has no hand in moving the water, no power in performing the cure. One is born the child of a king, another the child of a beggar: the child has no hand at all in this difference. God leaves some in their depraved state; others he brings into a state of grace, or regeneracy. If you be thus honoured, no thanks to you; for "who makes you to differ from another? and what have you that you did not receive?" 1 Corinthians 4:7.

4. There is a wonderful combination of parts in both births.

Admirable is the structure of man's body, in which there is such a variety of organs; nothing lacking, nothing superfluous. The psalmist, considering his own body, looks on it as a piece of marvellous work; "I am fearfully and wonderfully made, " says he, Psalm 139:14, "and marvellously wrought in the womb, " ver. 15; where I know not how the bones grow, any more than I know what is doing in the lowest parts of the earth. In natural birth we are marvellously wrought, like a piece of needle-work; as the word imports: even so it is in regeneration. Psalm 45:14, "She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needle-work, " raiment marvellously wrought. It is the same word in both texts. What that raiment is, the apostle tells us, Eph. 4:24. It is "the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. " This is the raiment which he says, in the same place, we must put on; not excluding the imputed righteousness of Christ. Both are marvellously wrought, as masterpieces of the manifold wisdom of God. O the wonderful combination of graces in the new creature! O glorious creature, new-made after the image of God! It is grace for grace in Christ, which makes up this new man, John 1:16; even as in bodily birth, the child has member for member in the parent; has every member which the parent has in a certain proportion.

5. All this, in both cases, has its rise from that which is in itself very small and inconsiderable.

O the power of God, in making such a creature of the corruptible seed, and much more in bringing forth the new creature from such small beginnings! It is as "the little cloud, like a man's hand, " which spread, until "heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain, " 1 Kings 18:44, 45. A man gets a word from God at a sermon, which hundreds besides him hear, and let slip: but it remains with him, works in him, and never leaves him, until the little world is turned upside down by it; that is, until he becomes a new man. It is like the dream which got up into Ahasuerus's head, and cut off sleep from his eyes, Esther 6:1, which proved a spring of such motions as never ceased, until Mordecai, in royal pomp, was brought on horseback through the streets, proud Haman trudging at his foot; the same Haman afterwards hanged, Mordecai advanced, and the church delivered from Haman's hellish plot. "The grain of mustard seed becomes a tree, " Matt. 13:31, 32. God loves to bring great things out of small beginnings.

6. Natural birth is carried on by degrees.

So is regeneration. It is with the soul, ordinarily, in regeneration, as with the blind man cured by our Lord, who first "saw men as trees walking, " afterward "saw every man clearly, " Mark 8:23-25. It is true, regeneration being, strictly speaking, a passage from death to life, the soul is quickened in a moment; like as when the embryo is brought to perfection in the womb, the soul is infused into the lifeless lump. Nevertheless, we may imagine somewhat like conception in spiritual regeneration, whereby the soul is prepared for quickening; and the new creature is capable of growth, 1 Peter 2:2, and of having life more abundantly, John 10:10.

7. In both there are new relations.

The regenerate may call God, Father; for they are his children, John 1:12, 13, "begotten of him, " 1 Pet. 1:3. The bride, the Lamb's wife, that is, the church, is their mother, Gal. 4:26. They are related, as brethren and sisters, to angels and glorified saints; "the family of heaven. " They are of the heavenly stock: the lowest of them, "the base things of the world, " 1 Cor. 1:28, the kinless things, as the word imports, who cannot boast of the blood that runs in their veins, are yet, by their new birth, near of kin with the excellent in the earth.

8. There is a likeness between the parent and the child.

Everything that generates, generates its like; and the regenerate are "partakers of the divine nature, " 2 Peter 1:4. The moral perfections of the divine nature are, in measure and degree, communicated to the renewed soul: thus the divine image is restored; so that, as the child resembles the father, the new creature resembles God himself, being holy as he is holy.

9. As there is no birth without pain, both to the mother and to the child, so there is great pain in bringing forth the new creature.

The children have more or less of these birth-pains, whereby they are "pricked in their heart, " Acts 2:37. The soul has sore pains when under conviction and humiliation. "A wounded spirit who can bear?" The mother is pained; "Zion travails, " Isaiah 66:8. She sighs, groans, cries, and has hard labour, in her ministers and members—to bring forth children to her Lord, Gal. 4:19, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you. " Never was a mother more feelingly touched with "joy, that a child is born into the world, " than she is upon the new birth of her children.

But, what is more remarkable than all this, we read not only of our Lord Jesus Christ's "travail, " or toil "of soul, " Isaiah 53:11—but, what is more directly to our purpose, of his "pains, " or pangs, as of one travailing in childbirth; so the word used, Acts 2:24, properly signifies. Well might he call the new creature, as Rachel called her dear-bought son, Benoni, that is, the son of my sorrow; and as she called another, Naphtali, that is, my wrestling: for the pangs of that travail put him to "strong crying and tears, " Heb. 5:7; yes, into an "agony and bloody sweat, " Luke 22:44. And in the end he died of these pangs; they became to him "the pains of death, " Acts 2:24.

III. I shall now APPLY this doctrine.

Use 1. By what is said, you may try whether you are in the state of grace or not.

If you are brought out of the state of wrath or ruin, into the state of grace or salvation, you are new creatures, you are born again.

Objection. But you will say, How shall we know whether we are born again, or not?

Answer. Were you to ask me, if the sun were risen, and how you should know whether it were risen or not? I would bid you look up to the heavens, and see it with your eyes. And, would you know if the light be risen in your heart? Look in, and see. Grace is light, and discovers itself.

Look into your mind, see if it has been illuminated in the knowledge of God. Have you been inwardly taught what God is? Were your eyes ever turned inward to see yourself; the sinfulness of your depraved state, the corruption of your nature; the sins of your heart and life? Were you ever led into a view of the exceeding sinfulness of sin? Have your eyes seen King Jesus in his beauty; the manifold wisdom of God in him, his transcendent excellence, and absolute fullness and sufficiency, with the vanity and emptiness of all things else?

Next, What change is there on your will? Are the fetters taken off, wherewith it was formerly bound up from moving heavenward? Has your will got a new turn? Do you find an aversion to sin, and an inclination to good, wrought in your heart? Is your soul turned towards God, as your chief end? Is your will new-moulded into some measure of conformity to the perceptive and providential will of God? Are you heartily reconciled to the covenant of peace, and fixedly disposed to the receiving of Christ, as he is offered in the gospel?

And as to a change on your affections, are they rectified, and placed on right objects? Are your desires going out after God? Are they to his name, and the remembrance of him? Isaiah 26:8.

Are your hopes in him? Is your love set upon him, and your hatred set against sin? Does your offending a good God affect your heart with sorrow, and do you fear sin more than suffering? Are your affections regulated? Are they, with respect to created comforts, brought down, as being too high; and with respect to God in Christ, raised up, as being too low? Has he the chief seat in your heart? And are all your lawful worldly comforts and enjoyments laid at his feet?

Has your conscience been enlightened and awakened, refusing all ease—but from the application of the blood of a Redeemer? Is your memory sanctified, your body consecrated to the service of God? And are you now walking in newness of life? Thus you may discover whether you are born again or not.

But, for your farther help in this matter, I will discourse a little of another sign of regeneration, namely, the love of the brethren; an evidence whereby the weakest and most timorous saints have often had comfort, when they could have little or no consolation from other marks proposed to them. This the apostle lays down, 1 John 3:14, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. " It is not to be thought that the apostle, by the brethren in this place means brethren by a common relation to the first Adam—but to the second Adam, Christ Jesus; because, however true it is, that universal benevolence, a good will to the whole race of mankind, takes place in the renewed soul, as being a lively lineament of the divine image—yet the whole context speaks of those that are "the sons of God, " ver. 1, 2; "children of God, " ver. 10; "born of God, " ver. 9; distinguishing between "the children of God, " and "the children of the devil, " ver. 10; between those that are "of the devil, " ver. 8, 12, and those that are "of God, " ver. 10.

The text itself comes in as a reason why we should not marvel that the world hates the brethren, the children of God, ver. 13. How can we marvel at it, seeing the love of the brethren is an evidence of one's having passed from death to life? Therefore, it were absurd to look for that love among the men of the world, who are dead in trespasses and sins. They cannot love the brethren; no wonder, then, that they hate them. Wherefore it is plain, that by brethren here, are meant brethren by regeneration.

Now, in order to set this mark of regeneration in a true light, consider these three things.

1. This love to the brethren, is a love to them as such. Then do we love them in the sense of the text, when the grace, or image of God in them, is the chief motive of our love to them.

When we love the godly for their godliness, the saints for their sanctity or holiness, then we love God in them, and so may conclude were born of God; for "every one that loves him that begat, loves him also that is begotten of him, " 1 John 5:1. Hypocrites may love saints, on account of civil relations to them; because of their obliging conversation; for their being of the same opinion as to outward religious matters; and on many other such like accounts, whereby wicked men may be induced to love the godly. But happy they who love them merely for grace in them; for their heaven-born temper and disposition; who can pick this pearl even out of infirmities in and about them; lay hold of it, and love them for it.

2. It is a love that will be given to all in whom the grace of God appears.

Those who love one saint, because he is a saint, will have "love to all the saints, " Eph. 1:15. They will love all, who, in their view, bear the image of God. Those who cannot love a gracious person in rags—but confine their love to those who wear rich clothing, have not this love to the brethren in them. Those who confine their love to a church party, to whom God has not confined his grace, are souls too narrow to be put among the children. In whatever points men differ from us, in their judgment or way; yet if they appear to agree with us, in love to God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, and in bearing his image, we shall love them as brethren, if we are of the heavenly family.

3. If this love be in us, the more grace any person appears to be possessed of, he will be the more beloved by us.

The more vehemently the holy fire of grace does flame in any, the hearts of true Christians will be the more warmed in love to them. It is not with the saints as with many other men, who make themselves the standards for others; and love them so far as they think they are like themselves. But, if they seem to outshine and darken them, their love is turned to hatred and envy, and they endeavour to detract from the due praise of their exemplary piety; because nothing is liked with them, in the practice of religion, that goes beyond their own measure; what of the life and power of religion appears in others, serves only to raise the serpentine grudge and envy in their Pharisaical hearts.

But as for those who are born again, their love and affection to the brethren bears proportion to the degrees of the divine image they discern in them.

Now, if you would improve these to the knowledge of your state, I would advise you,

1. To set apart some time, when you are at home, for a review of your case, to try your state by what has been said.

Many have comfort and clearness as to their state, at a sermon, who in a little time lose it again; because while they hear the word preached, they make application of it; but do not consider these things more deliberately and leisurely when alone. The impression is too sudden and short to give lasting comfort; and it is often so inconsiderate, that it has bad consequences. Therefore, set about this work at home, after earnest and serious prayer to God for his help in it. Complain not of your lack of time while the night follows the busy day; nor of place, while fields and houses are to be got.

2. Renew your repentance before the Lord.

Guilt lying on the conscience, unrepented of, may darken all your evidences and marks of grace. It provokes the Spirit of grace to withdraw; and when he goes, our light ceases. It is not a fit time for a saint to read his evidences, when the candle is blown out by some conscience-wounding guilt.

3. Exert the powers of the new nature; let the graces of the divine Spirit discover themselves in you by action.

If you would know whether there is sacred fire in your bosom, or not, you must blow the coal; for although it exist, and be a live coal—yet if it be under the ashes, it will give you no light. Settle in your hearts a firm purpose, through the grace that is in Christ Jesus, to comply with every known duty, and watch against every known sin, having readiness of mind to be instructed in what you know not.

If gracious souls would thus manage their inquiries into their state, it is likely that they would have a comfortable outcome. And if others would take such a solemn review, and make trial of their state, impartially examining themselves before the tribunal of their consciences, they might have a timely discovery of their own sinfulness; but the neglect of self-examination leaves most men under sad delusions as to their state, and deprives many saints of the comfortable sight of the grace of God in them.

But that I may afford some farther help to true Christians in their inquiries into their state, I shall propose and briefly answer some cases or doubts, which may possibly hinder some people from the comfortable view of their happy state. The children's bread must not be withheld; though, while it is held forth to them, the dogs should snatch at it.

Case 1. "I doubt if I be regenerate, because I know not the precise time of my conversion; nor can I trace the particular steps of the way in which it was brought to pass. "

Answer. Though it is very desirable to be able to give an account of the beginning, and the gradual advances, of the Lord's work upon our souls, as some saints can distinctly do, the manner of the Spirit's working being still a mystery—yet this is not necessary to prove the truth of grace. Happy he who can say, in this case, as the blind man in the Gospel, "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see. " As, when we see flame, we know there is fire, though we know not how or when it began; so the truth of grace may be discerned in us, though we know not how or when it was dropped into our hearts. If you can perceive the happy change which is wrought on your soul; if you find your mind is enlightened, your will inclined to comply with the will of God in all things; especially to fall in with the divine plan of salvation, through a crucified Redeemer; in vain do you trouble yourself, and refuse comfort, because you know not how and what way it was brought about.

Case 2. "If I were a new creature, sin could not prevail against me as it does. "

Answer. Though we must not lay pillows for hypocrites to rest their heads upon, who indulge themselves in their sins, and make the doctrine of God's grace subservient to their lusts, lying down contentedly in the bond of iniquity like men that are fond of golden chains; yet it must be owned, "the just man falls seven times a day;" and iniquity may prevail against the children of God.

But if you are groaning under the weight of the body of death, the corruption of your nature; loathing yourself for the sins of your heart and life; striving to mortify your lusts; fleeing daily to the blood of Christ for pardon; and looking to his Spirit for sanctification: though you may be obliged to say with the Psalmist, "Iniquities prevail against me;" yet you may add with him, "As for our transgressions you shall purge them away, " Psalm 65:3. The new creature does not yet possess the house alone: it dwells by the side of an ill neighbour, namely, remaining corruption, the relics of depraved nature. They struggle together for the mastery. "The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, " Gal. 5:17. And sometimes corruption prevails, bringing the child of God into captivity to the law of sin, Rom. 7:23. Let not therefore the prevailing of corruption make you, in this case, conclude you are none of God's children: but let it humble you, to be the more watchful, and to thirst the more intensely after Jesus Christ, his blood and Spirit; and that very disposition will evidence a principle of grace in you, which seeks the destruction of sin that prevails so often against you.

Case 3. "I find the motions of sin in my heart more violent since the Lord began his work on my soul, than they were before that time. Can this consist with a change of my nature?"

Answer. Dreadful is the case of many, who, after God has had a remarkable dealing with their souls, tending to their reformation, have thrown off all bonds, and have become grossly and openly immoral and profane; as if the devil had returned into their hearts with seven spirits worse than himself. All I shall say to such people is, that their state is exceedingly dangerous; they are in danger of sinning against the Holy Spirit: therefore, let them repent, before it be too late.

But if it be not thus with you; though corruption is stirring itself more violently than formerly, as if all the forces of hell were raised, to hold fast, or bring back, a fugitive; yet these stirrings may consist with a change of your nature. When the restraint of grace is newly laid upon corruption, it is no wonder if it acts more vigorously than before, "warring against the law of the mind, " Rom. 7:23. The motions of sin may really be most violent, when the new principle is brought in to cast it out. The sun sending its beams through the window, discovers the motes in the house, and their motions, which were not seen before; so the light of grace may discover the risings and actings of corruption, in another manner than ever the man saw them before, though they really do not rise nor act more vigorously.

Sin is not quite dead in the regenerate soul; it is but dying, and dying a lingering death, being crucified: no wonder there are great fightings, when it is sick at the heart, and death is at the door. Besides, temptations may be more in number, and stronger, while Satan is striving to bring you back, who are escaped, than while he only endeavoured to retain you: "After you were illuminated, you endured a great fight of affliction, " says the apostle to the Hebrews, chap. 10:32. But "cast not away your confidence, " ver. 35. Remember his "grace is sufficient for you, " and "the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. "

Pharaoh and his Egyptians never made such a formidable appearance against the Israelites, as at the Red Sea, after they were brought out of Egypt: but then were the pursuers nearest to a total overthrow, Exod. , chap. 14. Let not this case, therefore, make you raze the foundations of your trust; but be you emptied of self, and strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, and you shall come off victorious.

Case 4. "But when I compare my love to God with my love to some created enjoyments, I find the pulse of my affections beat stronger to the creature than to the Creator.

How then can I call him Father? Nay, alas! those turnings of heart within me, and glowings of affection to him, which I had, are gone; so that I fear all the love which I ever had to the Lord has been but a fit and flash of affection, such as hypocrites often have.

Answer. It cannot be denied, that the predominant love of the world is a certain mark of an unregenerate state, 1 John 2:15, "If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. " Nevertheless, those are not always the strongest affections which are most violent. A man's affections may be more moved, on some occasions, by an object that is little regarded, than by another that is exceedingly beloved; even as a little brook sometimes makes more noise than a great river. The strength of our affections is to be measured by the firmness and fixedness of the root, not by the violence of their actings.

Suppose a person meeting with a friend, who has been long abroad, finds his affections more vehemently acting towards his friend on that occasion, than towards his own wife and children; will he therefore say, that he loves his friend more than them? Surely not. Even so, although the Christian may find himself more moved in his love to the creature, than in his love to God; yet it is not therefore to be said, that he loves the creature more than God, seeing love to God is always more firmly rooted in a gracious heart, than love to any created enjoyment whatever: as appears when competition arises in such a manner, that the one or other is to be foregone.

Would you, then, know your case? Retire into your own hearts, and there lay the two in the balance, and try which of them weighs down the other. Ask yourself, as in the sight of God, whether you would part with Christ for the creature, or part with the creature for Christ, if you were left to your choice in the matter? If you find your heart disposed to part with what is dearest to you in the world for Christ at his call, you have no reason to conclude you love the creature more than God; but, on the contrary, that you love God more than the creature, although you do not feel such violent motions in the love of God, as in the love of some created thing, Matt. 10:37, "He who loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. " Luke 14:26, "If any man comes to me, and hates not his father and mother – he cannot be my disciple. " From which texts compared, we may infer, that he who hates, that is, is ready to part with, father and mother for Christ, is, in our Lord's account, one that loves them less than him, and not one who loves father and mother more than him.

Moreover, you are to consider that there is a twofold love to Christ.

1. There is a SENSIBLE love to him,

which is felt as a dart in the heart, and makes a holy love-sickness in the soul, arising from lack of enjoyment, as in that case of the spouse, Cant. 5:8, "I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him that I am sick of love:" or else from the fullness of it, as in Cant. 2:5, "Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love. " These glowings of affection are usually wrought in young converts, who are ordinarily made "to sing in the days of their youth, " Hos. 2:15.

While the fire-edge is upon the young convert, he looks upon others, reputed to be godly, and not finding them in such a temper or disposition as himself, he is ready to censure them; and to think there is far less religion in the world than indeed there is. But when his own cup comes to settle below the brim, and he finds that in himself which made him question the state of others, he is more humbled, and feels more and more the necessity of daily recourse to the blood of Christ for pardon, and to the Spirit of Christ for sanctification; and thus grows downwards in humiliation, self-loathing, and self-denial.

2. There is a RATIONAL love to Christ,

which, without these sensible emotions felt in the former case, evidences itself by a dutiful regard to the divine authority and command. When one bears such a love to Christ, though the vehement stirrings of affection be lacking—yet he is truly tender of offending a gracious God; endeavours to walk before him unto all well pleasing; and is grieved at the heart for what is displeasing unto him, 1 John 5:3, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. "

Now, although that sensible love does not always continue with you, you have no reason to deem it a hypocritical fit, while the rational love remains with you; any more than a loving and faithful wife needs question her love to her husband, when her fondness is abated.

Case 5. "The attainments of hypocrites and apostates are a terror to me, and come like a shaking storm on me, when I am about to conclude, from the marks of grace, which I seem to find in myself, that I am in the state of grace. "

Answer. These things should, indeed, stir us up to a most serious and impartial examination of ourselves; but ought not to keep us in a continued suspense as to our state. Sirs, you see the outside of hypocrites, their duties, their gifts, their tears, and so on—but you see not their inside; you do not discern their hearts, the bias of their spirits. Upon what you see of them, you found a judgment of charity as to their state; and you do well to judge charitably in such a case, because you cannot know the secret springs of their actions: but you are seeking, and ought to have, a judgment of certainty as to your own state; and therefore are to look into that part of religion, which none in the world but yourselves can discern in you, and which you can as little see in others.

A hypocrite's region may appear far greater than that of a sincere soul: but that which makes the greatest figure in the eyes of men, is often of least worth before God. I would rather utter one of those groans which the apostle speaks of, Rom. 8:26, than shed Esau's tears, have Balaam's prophetic spirit, or the joy of the stony-ground hearer. "The fire that shall try every man's work, " will try, not of what bulk it is—but "of what kind it is, " 1 Cor. 3:13. Though you may know what bulk of religion another has, and that it is more bulky than your own—yet God does not regard that; why, then, do you make such a matter of it? It is impossible for you, without divine revelation, certainly to know of what sort another man's religion is: but you may certainly know what sort your own is of, without extraordinary revelation; otherwise the apostle would not exhort the saints to "give diligence to make their calling and election sure, " 2 Peter 1:10. Therefore, the attainments of hypocrites and apostates should not disturb you, in your serious inquiry into your own state.

I will tell you two things, wherein the lowest saints go beyond the most refined hypocrites:

1. In denying themselves; renouncing all confidence in themselves, and their own works; acquiescing in, being well pleased with, and venturing their souls upon, God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, Matt. 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. " And, chap. 11:6, "Blessed is he who shall not be offended in me. " Phil. 3:3, "We are the true circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Jesus Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh. "

2. In a real hatred of all sin; being willing to part with every lust, without exception, and to comply with every duty which the Lord makes, or shall make known to them, Psalm 119:6, "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all your commandments. " Try yourselves by these.

Case 6. "I see myself fall so far short of the saints mentioned in the Scriptures, and of several excellent people of my own acquaintance, that, when I look on them, I can hardly look on myself as one of the same family with them. "

Answer. It is, indeed, matter of humiliation, that we do not get forward to that measure of grace and holiness which we see is attainable in this life. This should make us more vigorously press towards the mark: but surely it is from the devil, that weak Christians make a rack for themselves, of the attainments of the strong. To yield to the temptation, is as unreasonable as for a child to dispute away his relation to his father, because he is not of the same stature with his elder brethren. There are saints of several sizes in Christ's family; some fathers, some young men, and some little children, 1 John 2:13, 14.

Case 7. "I never read in the word of God, nor did I ever know of a child of God, so TEMPTED, and so left of God, as I am; and therefore, no saint's case being like mine, I can only conclude that I am none of their number.

Answer. This objection arises to some from their ignorance of the Scriptures, and the experience of Christians. It is profitable, in this case, to impart the matter to some experienced Christian friend, or to some godly minister. This has been a blessed means of peace to some people; while their case, which appeared to them to be singular, has been proved to have been the case of other saints. The Scriptures give instances of very horrid temptations, wherewith the saints have been assaulted. Job was tempted to blaspheme; this was the great thing the devil aimed at in the case of that great saint, Job 1:11, "He will curse you to your face. " Chap. 2:9, "Curse God and die. " Asaph was tempted to think it was in vain to be pious, which was in effect to throw off all religion, Psalm 73:13, "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain. " Yes, Christ himself was tempted to "cast himself down from a pinnacle of the temple, " and to "worship the devil, " Matt. 4:6-9. And many of the children of God have not only been attacked with—but have actually yielded to very gross temptation for a time. Peter denied Christ, and cursed and swore that he knew him not, Mark 14:71. Paul, when a persecutor, compelled even saints to blaspheme, Acts 26:10, 11.

Many of the saints can, from their sad experience, bear witness to very gross temptations, which have astonished their spirits, made their very flesh to tremble, and sickened their bodies. Satan's fiery darts make terrible work; and will cost some pains to quench them, by a vigorous managing of the shield of faith, Eph. 6:16. Sometimes he makes such desperate attacks, that never was one more put to it, in running to and fro; without intermission, to quench the fire-balls incessantly thrown into his house by an enemy, designing to burn the house about him, than the poor tempted saint is, to repel Satanical injections. But these injections, these horrid temptations, though they are a dreadful affliction, they are not the sins of the tempted, unless they make them theirs by consenting to them. They will be charged upon the tempter alone, if they be not consented to; and will no more be laid to the charge of the tempted party, than a bastard's being laid down at a chaste man's door will fix guilt upon him.

But suppose neither minister nor private Christian, to whom you go, can tell you of any who has been in your case; yet you ought not thence to infer that your case is singular, far less to give up hope: for it is not to be thought, that every godly minister, or private Christian, has had experience of all the cases which a child of God may be in. We need not doubt that some have had distresses known only to God and their own consciences; and so to others these distresses are as if they had never been. Yes, and though the Scriptures contain suitable directions for every case which a child of God can be in, and these illustrated with a sufficient number of examples; yet it is not to be imagined that there are in the Scriptures perfect instances of every particular case incident to the saints. Therefore, though you cannot find an instance of your case in the Scripture—yet bring your case to it, and you shall find suitable remedies prescribed there for it.

Study rather to make use of Christ for your case, who has a remedy for all diseases, than to know if ever any was in your case. Though one should show you an instance of your case, in an undoubted saint; yet none could promise that it would certainly give you ease: for a scrupulous conscience would readily find out some difference. And if nothing but a perfect conformity of another's case to yours will satisfy, it will be hard, if not impossible, to satisfy you; for it is with people's cases, as with their natural faces: though the faces of all men are of one make, and some are so very like others, that, at first view, we are ready to take them for the same; yet if you view them more accurately, you will see something in every face, distinguishing it from all others; though possibly you cannot tell what it is. Therefore I conclude, that if you can find in yourselves the marks of regeneration, proposed to you from the word, you ought to conclude you are in the state of grace, though your case were singular, which is indeed unlikely.

Case 8. "The AFFLICTIONS I meet with are strange and unusual. I doubt if ever a child of God was tried with such dispensations of providence as I am. "

Answer. Much of what was said on the preceding case, may be helpful in this. Holy Job was assaulted with this temptation, Job 5:1, "To which of the saints will you turn?" But he rejected it, and held fast his integrity. The apostle supposes that Christians may be tempted to "think it strange concerning the fiery trial, " 1 Pet. 4:12. But they have need of larger experience than Solomon's, who will venture to say, "See this is new, " Eccl. 1:10. What though, in respect of the outward dispensations of providence, "it happen to you according to the work of the wicked?" yet you may be just notwithstanding; according to Solomon's observation, Eccl. 8:14. Sometimes we travel in ways where we can neither perceive the prints of the foot of man or beast; yet we cannot from thence conclude that there was never any there before us: so, though you can not perceive the footsteps of the flock, in the way of your affliction, you must not therefore conclude that you are the first that ever travelled that road.

But what if it were so? Some one saint or other must be first, in drinking of each bitter cup the rest have drunk of. What warrant have you or I to limit the Holy One of Israel to one trodden path, in his dispensations towards us? "Your way is in the sea, and your path in the great waters; and your footsteps are not known, " Psalm 77:19. If the Lord should carry you to heaven by some retired road, so to speak, you would have no ground of complaint. Learn to allow sovereignty a latitude; be at your duty; and let no affliction cast a veil over any evidences you otherwise have for your being in the state of grace: for "no man knows either love or hatred by all that is before him, " Eccl. 9:1.

Use 2.

You who are strangers to this new birth, be convinced of the absolute necessity of it. Are all who are in the state of grace born again? then you have neither part nor lot in it, who are not born again. I must tell you in the words of our Lord and Saviour, and O that he would speak them to your hearts! "You must be born again, " John 3:7. For your conviction, consider these few things.

1. Regeneration is absolutely necessary to qualify you to do anything really good and acceptable to God.

While you are not born again, your best works are but glittering sins; for though the matter of them is good, they are quite marred in the performance. Consider,

(1. ) That without regeneration there is no faith, and "without faith it is impossible to please God, " Heb. 11:6. Faith is a vital act of the new-born soul. The evangelist, showing the different treatment which our Lord Jesus had from different people, some receiving him, some rejecting him, points at regenerating grace as the true cause of that difference, without which, never any one would have received him. He tells us, that "as many as received him, " were those "who were born – of God, " John 1:11-13. Unregenerate men may presume; but true faith they cannot have. Faith is a flower that grows not in the field of nature. As the tree cannot grow without a root, neither can a man believe without the new nature, whereof the principle of believing is a part.

(2. ) Without regeneration a man's works are dead works. As is the principle, so must the effects be: if the lungs are rotten, the breath will be unsavoury; and he who at best is dead in sin, his works at best will be but dead works. "Unto those who are defiled and unbelieving, is nothing pure – being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate, " Tit. 1:15, 16. Could we say of a man, that he is more blameless in his life than any other in the world; that he reduces his body with fasting; and has made his knees as hard as horns with continual praying; but he is not born again: that exception would mar all. As if one should say, There is a well proportioned body—but the soul is gone; it is but a dead lump. This is a melting consideration. You do many things materially good; but God says, All these things avail not—as long as I see the old nature reigning in the man. Gal. 6:15, "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision—but a new creature. "

If you are not born again,

(1. ) All your REFORMATION is nothing in the sight of God. You have shut the door—but the thief is still in the house. It may be you are not what once you were; yet you are not what you must be, if ever you would see heaven; for "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, " John 3:3.

(2. ) Your PRAYERS are an "abomination to the Lord, " Prov. 15:8. It may be, others admire your seriousness; you cry as for your life; but God accounts of the opening of your mouth, as one would account of the opening of a grave full of rottenness, Rom. 3:13, "Their throat is an open sepulchre. " Others are affected with your prayers; which seem to them, as if they would rend the heavens; but God accounts them but as the howling of a dog: "They have not cried unto me with their hearts, when they howled upon their beds, " Hos. 7:14. Others take you for a wrestler and prevailer with God; but he can take no delight in you nor your prayers, Isaiah 66:3, "Their offerings will not be accepted. When such people sacrifice an ox, it is no more acceptable than a human sacrifice. When they sacrifice a lamb or bring an offering of grain, it is as bad as putting a dog or the blood of a pig on the altar! When they burn incense, it is as if they had blessed an idol. " Why, because you are yet "in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity!"

(3. ) All you have DONE for God, and his cause in the world, though it may be followed with temporal rewards—yet it is lost as to divine acceptance. This is clear from the case of Jehu, who was indeed rewarded with a kingdom, for his executing due vengeance upon the house of Ahab; as being a work good for the matter of it, because it was commanded of God, as you may see, 2 Kings 9:7; yet was he punished for it in his posterity, because he did it not in a right manner, Hos. 1:4, "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu. " God looks chiefly to the heart: and if so, truly, though the outward appearance be fairer than that of many others—yet the hidden man of your heart is loathsome; you look well before men—but are not, as Moses was, fair to God, as the margin has it, Acts 7:20. O, what a difference is there between the characters of Asa and Amaziah! "The high places were not removed; nevertheless, Asa's heart was perfect with the Lord all his days, " 1 Kings 15:14. "Amaziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord—but not with a perfect heart, " 2 Chron. 25:2. It may be you are zealous against sin in others, and do admonish them of their duty, and reprove them for their sin; and they hate you, because you do your duty: but I must tell you, God hates you too, because you do it not in a right manner; and that you can never do, while you are not born again.

(4. ) All your STRUGGLES AGAINST SIN in your own heart and life, are nothing. The proud Pharisee afflicted his body with fasting, and God struck his soul, in the mean time, with a sentence of condemnation, Luke 18. Balaam struggled with his covetous temper, to that degree, that though he loved the wages of unrighteousness—yet he would not win them by cursing Israel: but he died the death of the wicked, Numb. 31:8. All you do, while in an unregenerate state, is for yourself: therefore, it will fare with you as with a subject, who having reduced the rebels, puts the crown on his own head, and loses all his good service and his head too.

Objection. "If it be thus with us, then we need never perform any religious duty at all. "

Answer. The conclusion is not just. No inability of yours can excuse from the duty which God's law lays on you: and there is less evil in doing your duty, than there is in the omission of it. But there is a difference between omitting a duty, and doing it as you do it. A man orders the masons to build him a house. If they quite neglect the work, that will not be accepted; if they build on the old rotten foundation, neither will that please: but they must raze the foundation, and build on firm ground. "Go and do likewise. " In the mean time, it is not in vain even for you to seek the Lord: for though he regards you not—yet he may have respect to his own ordinances, and do you good thereby, as was said before.

2. Without regeneration there is no communion with God.

There is a society on earth, whose "fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, " 1 John 1:3. But out of that society, all the unregenerate are excluded; for they are all enemies to God, as you heard before at large. Now, "can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Amos 3:3. They are all unholy: and "what communion has light with darkness – Christ with Belial?" 2 Cor. 6:14, 15. They may have a show and semblance of holiness; but they are strangers to true holiness, and therefore "without God in the world. " How sad is it, to be employed in religious duties—yet to have no fellowship with God in them! You would not be content with your food, unless it nourished you; nor with your clothes, unless they kept you warm: and how can you satisfy yourselves with your duties, while you have no communion with God in them?

3. Regeneration is absolutely necessary to qualify you for heaven.

None go to heaven but those who are made meet for it, Col. 1:12. As it was with Solomon's temple, 1 Kings 6:7, so is it with the temple above. It is "built of stone made ready before it is brought there;" namely, of "living stones, " 1 Pet. 2:5, "wrought for the self-same thing, " 2 Cor. 5:5; for they cannot be laid in that glorious building just as they come out of the quarry of depraved nature. Jewels of gold are not fit for swine, and far less jewels of glory for unrenewed sinners. Beggars, in their rags, are not fit for kings' houses; nor sinners to enter into the King's palace, without the raiment of needlework, Psalm 45:14, 15. What wise man would bring fish out of the water to feed in his meadows? or send his oxen to feed in the sea? Just as little are the unregenerate fit for heaven, or heaven fit for them. It would never be relished by them.

The unregenerate would find fault with heaven on several accounts. As,

(1. ) That it is a strange country. Heaven is the renewed man's native country: his Father is in heaven; his mother is Jerusalem, which is above, Gal. 4:26. He is born from above, John 3:3. Heaven is his home, 2 Cor. 5:1; therefore, he looks on himself as a stranger on this earth, and his heart is homeward, Heb. 11:16, "They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly country. " But the unregenerate man is the man of the earth, Psalm 10:18; written in the earth, Jer. 17:13. Now, "Home is home, be it ever so homely:" therefore, he minds earthly things, Phil. 3:19. There is a peculiar sweetness in our native soil; and with difficulty are men drawn to leave it, and dwell in a strange country. In no case does that prevail more than in this; for unrenewed men would forfeit their pretensions to heaven, were it not that they see they cannot make a better bargain.

(2. ) There is nothing in heaven that they delight in, as agreeable to the carnal heart, Revelation 21:27, "For there shall never enter into it anything that defiles. " When Mahomet explained his paradise to be a place of sensual delights, his religion was greedily embraced; for that is the heaven men naturally choose. If the covetous man could get bags full of gold there, and the voluptuous man could promise himself his sensual delights, they might be reconciled to heaven, and fitted for it too; but since it is not so, though they may utter fair words about it, truly it has little of their hearts.

(3. ) Every corner there is filled with that which of all things they have the least liking for; and that is holiness, true holiness, perfect holiness. Were one who abhors swine's flesh, bidden to a feast where all the dishes were of that sort of meat—but variously prepared, he would find fault with every dish at the table, notwithstanding all the art used to make them palatable. It is true, there is joy in heaven—but it is holy joy; there are pleasures in heaven—but they are holy pleasures; there are places in heaven—but it is holy ground: that holiness which in every place, and in everything there—would mar all to the unregenerate.

(4. ) Were they carried there, they would not only change their place, which would be a great heart-break—but they would change their company too. Truly, they would never like the company there, who care not for communion with God here; nor value the fellowship of his people, at least in the vitals of practical godliness. Many, indeed, mix themselves with the godly on earth, to procure a name to themselves, and to cover the sinfulness of their hearts; but that trade cannot be managed there.

(5. ) They would never like the employment of heaven, they care so little for it now. The business of the saints there would be an intolerable burden to them, seeing it is not agreeable to their nature. To be taken up in beholding, admiring, and praising him that sits on the throne, and the Lamb, would be work unsuitable, and therefore unsavoury to an unrenewed soul.

(6. ) They would find this fault with it, that the whole is of everlasting continuance. This would be a killing ingredient in it to them. How would such as now account the Sabbath day a burden, brook the celebration of an everlasting Sabbath in the heavens!

4. Regeneration is absolutely necessary to your being admitted into heaven,

John 3:3. No heaven without it. Though carnal men could digest all those things which make heaven so unsuitable for them—yet God will never bring them there. Therefore, born again you must be, else you shall never see heaven; you shall perish eternally. For,

(1. ) There is a bill of exclusion against you in the court of heaven, and against all of your sort; "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, " John 3:3. Here is a bar before you, that men and angels cannot remove. To hope for heaven, in the face of this peremptory sentence, is to hope that God will recall his word, and sacrifice his truth and faithfulness to your safety; which is infinitely more than to hope that "the earth shall be forsaken for you, and the rock removed out of its place. "

(2. ) There is no holiness without regeneration. It is "the new man which is created in true holiness, " Eph. 4:24. And no heaven without holiness; for "without holiness no man shall see the Lord, " Heb. 12:14. Will the gates of pearl be opened, to let in dogs and swine? No; their place is outside, Revelation 22:15. God will not admit such into the holy place of communion with him here; and will he admit them into the holiest of all hereafter? Will he take the children of the devil, and permit them to sit with him in his throne? Or, will he bring the unclean into the city, whose street is pure gold? Be not deceived; grace and glory are but two links of one chain, which God has joined, and no man shall put asunder. None are transplanted into the paradise above—but out of the nursery of grace below. If you are unholy while in this world, you will be forever miserable in the world to come.

(3. ) All the unregenerate are without Christ, and therefore have no hope while in that case, Eph. 2:12. Will Christ prepare mansions of glory for those who refuse to receive him into their hearts? Nay, "Since you neglected all my counsel and did not accept my correction, I, in turn, will laugh at your calamity. I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when trouble and stress overcome you. Proverbs 1:25-27

(4. ) There is an infallible connection between a finally unregenerate state and damnation, arising from the nature of the things themselves; and from the decree of heaven which is fixed and immovable, as mountains of brass, John 3:3; Rom. 8:6, "To be carnally minded is death. " An unregenerate state is hell in the bud. It is eternal destruction in embryo, growing daily, though you do not discern it. Death is painted on many a fair face, in this life. Depraved nature makes men fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the damned, in utter darkness.

[1. ] The heart of stone within you, is a sinking weight. As a stone naturally goes downward, so the hard stony heart tends downward to the bottomless pit. You are hardened against reproof; though you are told your danger—yet you will not see it, you will not believe it. But remember that the conscience being now seared with a hot iron, is a sad presage of everlasting burnings.

[2. ] Your unfruitfulness under the means of grace, fits you for the axe of God's judgments, Matt. 3:10, "Every tree that brings not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire. " The withered branch is fuel for the fire, John 15:6. Tremble at this, you despisers of the Gospel: if you be not thereby made fit for heaven, you will be like the barren ground, bearing briers and thorns, "near unto cursing, whose end is to be burned, " Heb. 6:8.

[3. ] The hellish dispositions of mind, which discover themselves in profanity of life, fit the guilty for the regions of horror. A profane life will have a miserable end. "Those who do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God, " Gal. 5:19-21. Think on this, you prayerless people, you mockers of religion, you cursers and swearers, you unclean and unjust people, who have not so much as moral honesty to keep you from lying, cheating, and stealing. What sort of a tree do you think it is, upon which these fruits grow? Is it a tree of righteousness, which the Lord has planted? Or is it not such a one as cumbers the ground, which God will pluck up for fuel to the fire of his wrath?

[4. ] Your being dead in sin, makes you fit to be wrapped in flames of brimstone, as a winding-sheet; and to be buried in the bottomless pit, as in a grave. Great was the cry in Egypt, when the first-born in each family was dead; but are there not many families, where all are spiritually dead together? Nay, many there are who are twice dead, plucked up by the root. Sometimes in their life they have been roused by apprehensions of death, and its consequences; but now they are so far on in their way to the land of darkness, that they hardly ever have the least glimmering of light from heaven.

[5. ] The darkness of your minds presages eternal darkness. O, the horrid ignorance with which some are plagued; while others, who have got some rays of the light of reason in their heads, are utterly void of spiritual light in their hearts! If you knew your case, you would cry out, Oh! darkness! darkness! darkness! making way for the blackness of darkness forever! The face-covering is upon you already, as condemned people; so near are you to everlasting darkness. It is only Jesus Christ who can stop the execution, pull the napkin off the face of the condemned malefactor, and put a pardon in his hand; Isa. 25:7, "He will destroy, in this mountain, the face of covering cast over all people, " that is, the face-covering cast over the condemned, as in Haman's case, Esther. 7:8, "As the word went out of the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. "

[6. ] The chains of darkness you are bound with in the prison of your depraved state, Isa. 61:1, fits you to be cast into the burning fiery furnace. Ah, miserable men! Sometimes their consciences stir within them, and they begin to think of amending their ways. But alas! they are in chains, they cannot do it. They are chained by the heart: their lusts cleave so fast to them, that they cannot, nay, they will not shake them off. Thus you see what affinity there is between an unregenerate state, and the state of the damned, the state of absolute and irretrievable misery. Be convinced, then, that you must be born again; put a high value on the new birth, and eagerly desire it.

The text tells you, that the word is the seed, whereof the new creature is formed: therefore, take heed to it, and entertain it, as it is your life. Apply yourself to the reading of the Scriptures. You who cannot read, get others to read it to you. Wait diligently on the preaching of the word, as by divine appointment the special mean of conversion; "for – it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save those who believe, " 1 Cor. 1:21. Therefore cast yourselves in Christ's way; reject not the means of grace, lest you be found to judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life. Attend carefully to the word preached. Hear every sermon, as if you were hearing for eternity; take heed that the fowls of the air steal away this seed from you, as it is sown. "Give yourself wholly to it, " 1 Tim. 4:15. "Receive it not as the word of men—but, as it is in truth, the word of God, " 1 Thess. 2:13. Hear it with application, looking on it as a message sent from heaven, to you in particular; though not to you only, Revelation 3:22, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches. " Lay it up in your hearts; meditate upon it; and be not as the unclean beasts, which chew not the cud. But by earnest prayer, beg that the dew of Heaven may fall on your heart, that the seed may spring up there.

More particularly,

(1. ) Receive the testimony of the word of God, concerning the misery of an unregenerate state, the sinfulness thereof, and the absolute necessity of regeneration.

(2. ) Receive its testimony concerning God, what a holy and just One he is.

(3. ) Examine your ways by it; namely, the thoughts of your heart, the expressions of your lips, and the tenor of your life. Look back through the several periods of your life; and see your sins from the precepts of the word, and learn, from its threatening, what you are liable to on account of these sins.

(4. ) By the help of the same word of God, view the corruption of your nature, as in a mirror which manifests our ugly face in a clear manner. Were these things deeply rooted in the heart, they might be the seed of that fear and sorrow, on account of your soul's state, which are necessary to prepare and stir you up to look after a Saviour. Fix your thoughts upon him offered to you in the Gospel, as fully suited to your case; having, by his obedience unto death, perfectly satisfied the justice of God, and brought in everlasting righteousness. This may prove the seed of humiliation, desire, hope and faith; and move you to stretch out the withered hand unto him, at his own command.

Let these things sink deeply into your hearts, and improve them diligently. Remember, whatever you are, you must be born again; else it had been better for you, that you had never been born. Therefore, if any of you shall live and die in an unregenerate state, you will be inexcusable, having been fairly warned of your danger.

2. MYSTICAL UNION between Christ and Believers

"I am the vine you are the branches. " John 15:5

Having spoken of the change made by regeneration, on all those who will inherit eternal life, in opposition to their natural real state, the state of degeneracy; I proceed to speak of the change made on them, in their union with the Lord Jesus Christ, in opposition to their natural relative state, the state of misery. The doctrine of the saints' union with Christ, is very plainly and fully insisted on, from the beginning to the eighth verse of this chapter; which is a part of our Lord's farewell sermon to his disciples. Sorrow had now filled their hearts; they were apt to say, Alas! what will become of us, when our Master is taken from our head? Who will then instruct us? Who will solve our doubts? How shall we be supported under our difficulties and discouragements? How shall we be able to live without our accustomed communication with him? Therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ seasonably teaches them the mystery of their union with him, comparing himself to the vine, and them to the branches.

1. He compares himself to a VINE.

"I am the vine. " He had been celebrating, with his disciples, the sacrament of his supper, that sign and seal of his people's union with him; and had told them, "That he would drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until he should drink it new with them in his Father's kingdom:" and now he shows himself to be the vine, from whence the wine of their consolation should come. The vine has less beauty than many other trees—but it is exceedingly fruitful; fitly representing the low condition in which our Lord was in, bringing many sons to glory. But that which is chiefly aimed at, in his comparing himself to a vine, is to represent himself as the supporter and nourisher of his people, in whom they live and bring forth fruit.

2. He compares them to BRANCHES;

you are the branches of that vine. You are the branches knit to, and growing on this stock, drawing all your life and sap from it. It is a beautiful comparison; as if he had said, I am as a vine, you are as the branches of that vine. Now there are two sorts of branches. (1. ) Natural branches, which at first spring out of the stock. These are the branches that are in the tree, and were never out of it. (2. ) There are engrafted branches, which are branches cut off from the tree that first gave them life, and put into another, to grow upon it. Thus branches come to be on a tree, which originally were not on it. The branches mentioned in the text, are of the latter sort; branches broken off, as the word in the original language denotes, namely, from the tree which first gave them life. None of the children of men are natural branches of the second Adam, that is, Jesus Christ, the true vine; they are the natural branches of the first Adam, that degenerate vine: but the elect are all of them, sooner or later, broken off from their natural stock, and engrafted into Christ, the true vine.

DOCTRINE. They who are in the state of grace, are engrafted in, and united to, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are taken out of their natural stock, cut off from it; and are now engrafted into Christ, as the new stock.

In general, for understanding the union between the Lord Jesus Christ and his elect, who believe in him, and on him, I observe,

1. It is a SPIRITUAL union.

Man and wife, by their marriage-union, become one flesh; Christ and true believers, by this union, become one spirit, 1 Cor. 6:17. As one soul or spirit actuates both the head and the members in the natural body, so the one Spirit of God dwells in Christ and the Christian; for, "if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his, " Romans 8:9. Earthly union is made by contact; so the stones in a building are united: but this is a union of another nature. Were it possible that we could eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, in a corporeal and carnal manner, it would profit nothing, John 6:63. It was not Mary's bearing him in her womb—but her believing on him, that made her a saint, Luke 11:27, 28, "A woman in the crowd called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you. " He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it. "

2. It is a REAL union.

Such is our weakness in our present state, so much are we sunk in sin, that in our mind, we are prone to suspect spiritual realities to be only a fiction. But nothing is more real than what is spiritual: as approaching nearest to the nature of him who is the fountain of all reality, namely, God himself. We do not see with our eyes the union between our own soul and body; neither can we represent it to ourselves truly, by imagination, as we do sensible things: yet the reality of it is not to be doubted. Faith is no fancy—but "the substance of things hoped for, " Heb. 11:1. Neither is the union thereby made between Christ and believers imaginary—but most real: "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, " Eph. 5:30.

3. It is a most close and INTIMATE union.

Believers, regenerate people, who believe in him, and rely on him, have put on Christ, Gal. 3:27. If that be not enough, he is in them, John 17:23, formed in them as the child in the womb, Gal. 4:19. He is the foundation, 1 Cor. 3:11; they are the living stones built upon him, 1 Pet. 2:5. He is the head, and they the body, Eph. 1:22, 23. Nay, he lives in them, as their very souls live in their bodies, Gal. 2:20. And what is more than all this, they are one in the Father and the Son, as the Father is in Christ, and Christ in the Father, John 17:21, "That they all may be one; as you Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us. "

4. Though it is not a mere LEGAL union—yet it is a union supported by law.

Christ, as the surety, and Christians as the principal debtors, are one in the eye of the law. When the elect had run themselves, with the rest of mankind, in debt to the justice of God, Christ became surety for them, and paid the debt. When they believe on him, they are united to him in a spiritual marriage union; which takes effect so far, that what he did and suffered for them is reckoned in law, as if they had done and suffered it themselves. Hence, they are said to be crucified with Christ, Gal. 2:20; buried with him, Col. 2:12; yes, raised up together, namely, with Christ, "and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, " Eph. 2:6. In which places, saints on earth, of whom the apostle there speaks, cannot be said to be sitting—but in the way of law reckoning.

5. It is an INDISSOLUBLE union.

Once in Christ, ever in him. Having taken up his habitation in the heart, he never leaves. None can untie this happy knot. Who will dissolve this union? Will he himself? No, he will not; we have his word for it; "I will not turn away from them, " Jer. 32:40. But perhaps the sinner will do this mischief to himself? No, he shall not; "they shall not depart from me, " says their God. Can devils do it? No, unless they be stronger than Christ and his Father too; "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand, " says our Lord, John 10:28. "And none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand, " verse 30. But what say you of death, which parts husband and wife; yes, separates the soul from the body? Will not death do it? No: the apostle, Romans 8:38, 39, is "persuaded that neither death, " terrible as it is, "nor life, " desirable as it is; "nor" devils, those evil "angels, nor" the devil's persecuting agents, though they be "principalities, nor powers" on earth; "nor" evil "things present, " already lying on us; "nor" evil "things to come" on us; "nor" the "height" of worldly felicity; "nor depth" of worldly misery; "nor any other creature, " good or evil, "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. "

As death separated Christ's soul from his body—but could not separate either his soul or body from his divine nature; so, though the saints should be separated from their nearest relations in the world, and from all their earthly enjoyments; yes, though their souls should be separated from their bodies separated in a thousand pieces, their "bones scattered, as one cuts or cleaves wood;" yet soul and body shall remain united to the Lord Christ; for even in death, "they sleep in Jesus, " 1 Thess. 4:14; and "he keeps all their bones, " Psalm 34:20. Union with Christ, is "the grace wherein we stand, " firm and stable, "as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed. "

6. It is a MYSTERIOUS union.

The gospel is a doctrine of mysteries. It discovers to us the substantial union of the three persons in one Godhead, 1 John 5:7, "These three are one;" the hypostatic union, of the divine and human natures, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Tim. 3:16, "God was manifest in the flesh;" and the mystical union, between Christ and believers; "This is a great mystery" also, Eph. 5:32. O, what mysteries are here! The head in heaven, the members on earth—yet really united! "Christ in the believer, living in him, walking in him:" and "the believer dwelling in God, putting on the Lord Jesus, eating his flesh, and drinking his blood!" This makes the saints a mystery to the world; yes, a mystery to themselves.

I come now more particularly to speak of this union with, and engrafting into, Jesus Christ.

I. I shall consider the natural stock, which the branches are taken out of.

II. The supernatural stock they are engrafted into.

III. What branches are cut off the old stock, and put into the new.

IV. How it is done. And,

V. The benefits flowing from this union and engrafting.

I. Let us take a view of the natural stock, which the branches are taken out of.

The two Adams, that is, Adam and Christ, are the two stocks: for the Scripture speaks of these two, as if there had been no more men in the world than they, 1 Cor. 15:45, "The first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit;" verse 47, "The first man is of the earth earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. " And the reason is, there never were any that were not branches of one of these two; all men being either in the one stock or in the other: for in these two sorts all mankind stand divided, verse 48, "As is the earthy, such are they also which are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. " The first Adam then, is the natural stock: on this stock are the branches found growing at first, which are afterwards cut off, and engrafted into Christ. As for the fallen angels, as they had no relation to the first Adam, so they have none to the second.

There are four things to be remembered here.

(1. ) That all mankind, the man Christ excepted, are naturally branches of the first Adam, Romans 5:12, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men. "

(2. ) The bond which knit us unto the natural stock, was the covenant of works. Adam, being our natural root, was made the moral root also, bearing all his posterity, as representing them in the covenant of works. For "by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, " Romans 5:19. It was necessary that there should be a peculiar relation between that one man and the many, as a foundation for imputing his sin to them. This relation did not arise from the mere natural bond between him and us, as a father to his children; for so we are related to our immediate parents, whose sins are not thereupon imputed to us, as Adam's sin is: but it arose from a moral bond between Adam and us; the bond of a covenant, which could be no other than the covenant of works, wherein we are united to him, as branches to a stock. Hence Jesus Christ, though a son of Adam, Luke 3:23-38, was none of these branches; for as he came not of Adam, in virtue of the blessing of marriage, which was given before the fall, Gen. 1:28, "Be fruitful, and multiply, " etc. —but in virtue of a special promise made after the fall, Gen. 3:15, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head, " he could not be represented by Adam in a covenant made before his fall.

(3. ) As it is impossible for a branch to be in two stocks at once, so no man can be at one and the same time, both in the first and second Adam.

(4. ) Hence it evidently follows, that all who are not engrafted in Jesus Christ, are yet branches of the old stock; and so partake of the nature of the same.

Now, as to the first Adam, our natural stock, consider,

First, What a stock he was originally. He was a vine of the Lord's planting, a choice vine, a noble vine, wholly good. There was a consultation of the Trinity at the planting of this vine, Gen. 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness. " There was no rottenness at the heart of it. There was sap and juice enough in it to have nourished all the branches, to bring forth fruit unto God. My meaning is, Adam was made able perfectly to keep the commandments of God, which would have procured eternal life to himself, and to all his posterity; for as all die by Adam's disobedience, all would have had life by his obedience, if he had stood. Consider,

Secondly, What that stock now is. Ah! most unlike to what it was when planted by the Author of all good. A blast from hell, and a bite with the venomous teeth of the old serpent, have made it a degenerate stock; a dead stock; nay, a killing stock.

1. It is a degenerate EVIL stock.

Therefore, the Lord God said to Adam in that dismal day, "Where are you?" Gen. 3:9. In what condition are you now? "How are you turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?" Or, "Where were you?" Why not in the place of meeting with me? Why so long in coming? What means this fearful change; this hiding of yourself from me? Alas! the stock is degenerate, quite spoiled, is become altogether evil, and brings forth wild grapes. Converse with the devil is preferred to communion with God. Satan is believed; and God, who is truth itself, disbelieved. He who was the friend of God is now in conspiracy against him. Darkness is come in the place of light; ignorance prevails in the mind, where divine knowledge shone; the will, which was righteous and regular, is now turned rebel against its Lord: and the whole man is in dreadful disorder.

Before I go farther, let me stop and observe, Here is a mirror both for saints and sinners. Sinners, stand here and consider what you are; and saints, learn what you once were. You, sinners, are branches of a degenerate stock. Fruit you may bear indeed; but now that your vine is the vine of Sodom, your grapes must of course be grapes of gall, Deut. 32:32. The Scripture speaks of two sorts of fruit which grow on the branches of the natural stock; and it is plain that they are of the nature of their degenerate stock. (1. ) The wild grapes of wickedness, Isaiah 5:2. These grow in abundance, by influence from hell. See Gal. 5:19-21. At its gates are all manner of these fruits, both new and old. Storms come from heaven to check them; but still they grow. They are struck at with the sword of the Spirit, the word of God; conscience gives them many a secret blow; yet they thrive. (2. ) Fruit to themselves, Hos. 10:1. What else are all the unrenewed man's acts of obedience, his reformation, sober deportment, his prayers, and good works? They are all done chiefly for himself, not for the glory of God. These fruits are like the apples of Sodom, fair to look at—but full of ashes when handled and tried. You think you have not only the leaves of a profession—but the fruits of a holy practice too; but if you be not broken off from the old stock, and engrafted in Christ Jesus, God accepts not, and regards not your fruits.

Here I must take occasion to tell you, there are five faults will be found in heaven with your best fruits.

(1. ) Their bitterness; your "clusters are bitter, " Deut. 32:32. There is a spirit of bitterness, wherewith some come before the Lord, in religious duties, living in malice and envy; and which some professors entertain against others, because they outshine them in holiness of life, or because they are not of their opinion. This, wherever it reigns, is a fearful symptom of an unregenerate state. But I do not so much mean this, as that which is common to all the branches of the old stock, namely, the leaves of hypocrisy, Luke 12:1, which sours and embitters every duty they perform. Wisdom, which is full of good fruits, is without hypocrisy, James 3:17.

(2. ) Their ill savour. Their works are abominable, for they themselves are corrupt, Psalm 14:1. They all savour of the old stock, not of the new. It is the peculiar privilege of the saints, that they are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, 2 Cor. 2:15. The unregenerate man's fruits savour not of love to Christ, nor of the blood of Christ, nor of the incense of his intercession; and therefore will never be accepted in heaven.

(3. ) Their unripeness. Their grape is an unripe grape, Job 15:33. There is no influence on them from the Sun of righteousness to bring them to perfection. They have the shape of fruit—but no more. The matter of duty is in them—but they lack right principles and ends: their works are not in God, John 3:21. Their prayers drop from their lips, before their hearts are impregnated with the vital sap of the Spirit of supplication: their tears fall from their eyes before their hearts are truly softened; their feet turn to new paths, and their way is altered, while their nature still is unchanged.

(4. ) Their lightness. Being weighed in the balances, they are found lacking, Dan. 5:27. For evidence whereof, you may observe that they do not humble the soul—but lift it up in pride. The good fruits of holiness bear down the branches they grow upon, making them to salute the ground, 1 Cor. 15:19, "I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I—but the grace of God which was with me. " But the blasted fruits of unrenewed men's performances, hang lightly on branches towering up to heaven, Judges 17:13, "Now know I, that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite as my priest. " They look, indeed, too high for God to behold them: "Why have we fasted, say they, and you see not" Isaiah 58:3. The more duties they do, and the better they seem to perform them, the less are they humbled, and the more are they lifted up. This disposition of the sinner is the exact reverse of what is to be found in the saint. To men, who neither are in Christ, nor are solicitous to be found in him, their duties are like floating bladders, wherewith they think to swim ashore to Immanuel's land; but these must needs break, and they consequently sink, because they take not Christ for the lifter up of their heads, Psalm 3:3, 5. They are not all manner of pleasant fruits, Cant. 7:13. Christ, as a king, must be served with variety. Where God makes the heart his garden, he plants it as Solomon did his, with trees of all kinds of fruits, Eccl. 2:5. Accordingly, it brings forth the fruit of the Spirit in all goodness, Eph. 5:9. But the ungodly are not so; their obedience is never universal; there is always some one thing or other excepted. In one word, their fruits are fruits of an evil tree, which cannot be accepted in heaven.

2. Our natural stock is a DEAD stock,

according to the threatening, Gen. 2:17, "In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die. " Our root is now rottenness; no wonder the blossom goes up as dust. The stroke has gone to the heart, the sap is let out, and the tree is withered. The curse of the first covenant, like a hot thunderbolt from heaven, has lighted on it, and ruined it. It is cursed now as that fig-tree, Matt. 21:19, "Let no fruit grow on you henceforward forever. " Now it is good for nothing—but to cumber the ground, and furnish fuel for Tophet.

Let me enlarge a little here also. Every unrenewed man is a branch of a dead stock. When you see, O sinner, a dead stock of a tree, exhausted of all its sap, having branches on it in the same condition, look on it as a lively representation of your soul's state.

(1. ) Where the stock is dead, the branches must needs be barren. Alas! the barrenness of many professors plainly discovers on what stock they are growing. It is easy to pretend to faith—but "I can't see your faith if you don't have good deeds. " James 2:18.

(2. ) A dead stock can convey no sap to the branches, to make them bring forth fruit. The covenant of works was the bond of our union with the natural stock; but now it is become weak through the flesh; that is, through the degeneracy and depravity of human nature, Romans 8:3. It is strong enough to command, and to bind heavy burdens on the shoulders of those who are not in Christ—but it affords no strength to bear them. The sap, that was once in the root, is now gone: the law, like a merciless creditor, apprehends Adam's heirs, saying to each, "Pay what you owe;" when, alas! his effects are riotously spent.

(3. ) All pains and cost are lost on the tree, whose life is gone. In vain do men labour to get fruit on the branches, when there is no sap in the root. The gardener's pains are lost: ministers lose their labour on the branches of the old stock, while they continue on it. Many sermons are preached to no purpose; because there is no life to give sensation. Sleeping men may be awakened; but the dead cannot be raised without a miracle; even so the dead sinner must remain, if he be not restored to life by a miracle of grace.

The influences of heaven are lost on such a tree: in vain does the rain fall upon it; in vain is it laid open to the winter cold and frosts. The Lord of the vineyard digs about many a dead soul—but it is not bettered. "Bruise the fool in a mortar, his folly will not depart. " Though he meets with many crosses—yet he retains his lusts: let him be laid on a sick bed, he will lie there like a sick beast, groaning under his pain—but not mourning for, nor turning from, his sin. Let death itself stare him in the face, he will presumptuously maintain his hope. Sometimes there are common operations of the divine Spirit performed on him: he is sent home with a trembling heart, and with arrows of conviction sticking in his soul; but at length he prevails against these things, and becomes as secure as ever. Summer and winter are alike to the branches on the dead stock. When others about them are budding, blossoming, and bringing forth fruit, there is no change on them: the dead stock has no growing time at all.

Perhaps it may be difficult to know, in the winter, what trees are dead, and what are alive; but the spring plainly discovers it. There are some seasons wherein there is little life to be perceived, even among saints; yet times of reviving come at length. But even when "the vine flourishes, and the pomegranates bud forth, " when saving grace is discovering itself by its lively actings wherever it is, the branches on the old stock are still withered. When the dry bones are coming together, bone to bone among saints, the sinner's bones are still lying about the grave's mouth. They are trees that cumber the ground, ready to be cut down; and will be cut down for the fire, if God in mercy does not prevent it—by cutting them off from that stock, and engrafting them into another.

3. Our natural stock is a KILLING stock.

If the stock dies, how can the branches live? If the sap is gone from the root and heart, the branches must needs wither. "In Adam all die, " 1 Cor. 15:22. The root died in Paradise, and all the branches in it, and with it. The root is poisoned, and from thence the branches are infected; "death is in the pot;" and all that taste of the pottage, are killed.

Know then, that every natural man is a branch of a killing stock. Our natural root not only gives us no life—but it has a killing power, reaching to all the branches thereof. There are four things which the first Adam conveys to all his branches, and they are abiding in, and lying on, such of them as are not engrafted in Christ.

(1. ) A corrupt nature. He sinned, and his nature was thereby corrupted and depraved; and this corruption is conveyed to all his posterity. He was infected, and the contagion spread itself over all his descendants.

(2. ) Guilt, that is, an obligation to punishment, Romans 5:12, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned. " The threatenings of the law, as cords of death, are twisted about the branches of the old stock, to draw them over the hedge into the fire. And until they be cut off from this stock by the pruning-knife, the sword of vengeance hangs over their heads, to cut them down.

(3. ) This killing stock transmits the curse into the branches. The stock, as the stock (for I speak not of Adam in his personal and private capacity), being cursed, so are the branches, Gal. 3:10, "For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse. " The curse affects the whole man, and all that belongs to him, everything he possesses; and works three ways.

[1. ] As poison, infecting; thus their blessings are cursed, Mal. 2:2. Whatever the man enjoys, it can do him no good—but evil, being thus poisoned by the curse. His prosperity in the world destroys him, Proverbs 1:32. The ministry of the gospel is a savour of death unto death to him, 2 Cor. 2:16. His seeming attainments in religion are cursed to him; his knowledge serves but to puff him up, and his duties to keep him back from Christ.

[2. ] It works as a moth, consuming and wasting by little and little, Hos. 5:12, "Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth. " There is a worm at the root, consuming them by degrees. Thus the curse pursued Saul, until it wormed him out of all his enjoyments, and out of the very show he had of religion. Sometimes they decay like the fat of lambs, and melt away as the snow in the sunshine.

[3. ] It acts as a lion rampant, Hos. 5:14, "I will be unto Ephraim as a lion. " The Lord "rains on them snares fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest, " in such a manner, that they are hurried away with the stream. He tears their enjoyments from them in his wrath, pursues them with terrors, rends their souls from their bodies, and throws the dead branch into the fire. Thus the curse devours like fire, which none can quench.

(4. ) This killing stock transmits death to the branches upon it. Adam took the poisonous cup, and drank it off: this occasioned death to himself and us. We came into the world spiritually dead, thereby exposed to eternal death, and absolutely liable to temporal death. This root is to us like the Scythian river, which, they say, brings forth little bladders every day, out of which come certain small flies, that are bred in the morning, winged at noon, and dead at night: a very lively emblem of our mortal state.

Now, sirs, is it not absolutely necessary to be broken off from this our natural stock? What will our fair leaves of a profession, or our fruits of duties, avail—if we be still branches of the degenerate, dead, and killing stock? But, alas! of the many questions among us, few are taken up about these, "Whether am I broken off from the old stock, or not? Am I engrafted in Christ, or not?" Ah! why all this waste of time? Why is there so much noise about religion among many, who can give no good account of their having laid a good foundation, being mere strangers to experimental religion? I fear, if God does not in mercy undermine the religion of many of us, and let us see that we have none at all, our root will be found rottenness, and our blossom go up as dust, in a dying hour. Therefore, let us look to our state, that we be not found fools in our latter end.

(Sorry, but we do not have the remainder of this chapter available)

IV. The ETERNAL State — 3. The ETERNAL State — 1. DEATH

Section I. MAN'S LIFE IS VANITY

"For I know that you will bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living. " Job 30:23.

I come now to discourse of man's eternal state, into which he enters by death. Of this entrance, Job takes a solemn serious view, in the words of the text, which contain a general truth, and a particular application of it. The general truth is supposed; namely, that all men must, by death, remove out of this world; they must die. But where must they go? They must go to the house appointed for all living; to the grave, that darksome, gloomy, solitary house, in the land of forgetfulness. Wherever the body is laid up until the resurrection, there, as to a dwelling-house, death brings us home. While we are in the body, we are but in a lodging-house, in an inn, on our way homeward. When we come to our grave, we come to our home, our long home, Eccl. 12:5.

All living must be inhabitants of this house, good and bad, old and young. Man's life is a stream, running into death's devouring deeps. Those who now live in palaces, must leave them, and go home to this house; and those who have not where to lay their heads, shall thus have a house at length. It is appointed for all, by Him whose counsel shall stand. This appointment cannot be shifted; it is a law which mortals cannot transgress. Job's application of this general truth to himself, is expressed in these words: "For I know that you will bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living. " He knew, that he must meet with death; that his soul and body must part; that God, who had set the time, would certainly see it kept. Sometimes Job was inviting death to come to him, and carry him home to its house; yes, he was in the hazard of running to it before the time– Job 7:15, "My soul chooses strangling, and death rather than my life. " But here he considers God would bring him to it; yes, bring him back to it, as the word imports. Whereby he seems to intimate, that we have no life in this world, but as runaways from death, which stretches out its cold arms, to receive us from the womb– but though we do then narrowly escape its clutches, we cannot escape long; we shall be brought back again to it. Job knew this, he had laid it down as a certainly, and was looking for it.

I. ALL MUST DIE.

Although this doctrine is confirmed by the experience of all former generations, ever since Abel entered into the house appointed for all living, and though the living know that they shall die, yet it is needful to discourse of the certainty of death, that it may be impressed on the mind, and duly considered.

Therefore consider,

1. There is an unalterable statute of death,

under which all men are concluded. "It is appointed unto men once to die, " Heb. 9:27. It is laid up for them, as parents lay up for their children– they may look for it, and cannot miss it; seeing God has designed and reserved it for them. There is no peradventure in it; "we must die, " II Sam. 14:14. Though some men will not hear of death, yet every man must see death, Psalm 89:48. Death is a champion all must grapple with– we must enter the lists with it, and it will have the mastery, Eccl. 8:8, "There is no man that has power over the spirit, to retain the spirit; neither has he power in the day of death. " Those indeed who are found alive at Christ's coming, shall all be changed, I Cor. 15:51. But that change will be equivalent to death, will answer the purposes of it. All other people must go the common road, the way of all flesh.

2. Let us consult daily observation.

Every man "sees that wise men die, likewise the fool and brutish person, " Psalm 49:10. There is room enough on this earth for us, notwithstanding the multitudes that were upon it before us. They are gone, to make room for us; as we must depart, to make room for others. It is long since death began to transport men into another world, and vast multitudes are gone there already– yet the work is going on still; death is carrying off new inhabitants daily, to the house appointed for all living. Who has ever heard the grave say, It is enough! Long has it been getting, but still it asks. This world is like a great fair or market, where some are coming in, others going out; while the assembly that is in it is confusion, and the most part know not why they are come together; or, like a town situated on the road to a great city, through which some travellers have passed, some are passing, while others are only coming in, Eccl. 1:4, "One generation passes away, and another generation comes– but the earth abides forever. "

Death is an inexorable, irresistible messenger, who cannot be diverted from executing his orders by the force of the mighty, the bribes of the rich, or the entreaties of the poor. It does not reverence the hoary head, nor pity the harmless babe. The bold and daring cannot outbrave it; nor can the faint-hearted obtain a discharge in this war.

3. The human body consists of perishing materials,

Genesis 3:19, "Dust you are, and unto dust you shall return. " The strongest are but brittle earthen vessels, easily broken in shivers. The soul is but basely housed, while in this mortal body, which is not a house of stone, but a house of clay, the mud walls cannot but moulder away; especially seeing the foundation is not on a rock, but in the dust; they are crushed before the moth, though this insect be so tender that the gentle touch of a finger will destroy it, Job 4:19.

These materials are like gunpowder; a very small spark lighting on them will set them on fire, and blow up the house– the seed of a raison, or a hair in milk, having choked men, and laid the house of clay in the dust. If we consider the frame and structure of our bodies, how fearfully and wonderfully we are made; and on how regular and exact a motion of the fluids, and balance of humours, our life depends; and that death has as many doors to enter in by, as the body has pores; and if we compare the soul and body together, we may justly reckon, that there is somewhat more astonishing in our life, than in our death; and that it is more strange to see dust walking up and down on the dust, than lying down in it.

Though the lamp of our life may not be violently blown out, yet the flame must go out at length for lack of oil. What are those distempers and diseases which we are liable to, but death's harbingers, that come to prepare his way? They meet us, as soon as we set our foot on earth, to tell us at our entry, that we do but come into the world to go out again. Nevertheless, some are snatched away in a moment, without being warned by sickness or disease.

4. We have sinful souls, and therefore have dying bodies–

death follows sin, as the shadow follows the body. The wicked must die, by virtue of the threatening of the covenant of works, Gen. 2:17, "In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die. " And the godly must die too, that as death entered by sin, sin may go out by death. Christ has taken away the sting of death, as to them; though he has not as yet removed death itself. Therefore, though it fastens on them, as the viper did on Paul's hand, it shall do them no harm– but because the leprosy of sin is in the walls of the house, it must be broken down, and all the materials thereof carried forth.

5. Man's life in this world, according to the Scripture account of it, is but a few degrees removed from death.

The Scripture represents it as a vain and empty thing, short in its continuance, and swift in its passing away.

First, Man's life is a vain and empty thing– while it is, it vanishes away; and lo! it is not. Job 7:6, "My days are vanity. " If we suspect afflicted Job of partiality in this matter, hear the wise and prosperous Solomon's character of the days of his life, Eccl. 7:15, "All things have I seen in the days of my vanity, " that is, my vain days. Moses, who was a very active man, compares our days to a sleep, Psalm 90:5, "They are as a sleep, " which is not noticed until it is ended. The resemblance is just– few men have right apprehensions of life, until death awaken them; then we begin to know that we were living. "We spend our years as a tale that is told, " ver. 9. When an idle tale is telling it may affect a little; but when it is ended, it is remembered no more– and so is a man forgotten, when the fable of his life is ended. It is as a dream, or vision of the night, in which there is nothing solid; when one awakes, all vanishes; Job 20:8, "He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found; yes, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night. " It is but a vain show or image; Psalm 39:6, "Surely every man walks in a vain show. " Man, in this world, is but as it were a walking statue– his life is but an image of life, there is so much of death in it.

If we look on our life, in the several periods of it, we shall find it a heap of vanities. "Childhood and youth are vanity, " Eccl. 11:10. We come into the world the most helpless of all animals– young birds and beasts can do something for themselves, but infant man is altogether unable to help himself. Our childhood is spent in pitiful trifling pleasures, which become the scorn of our after thoughts. Youth is a flower that soon withers, a blossom that quickly falls off; it is a space of time in which we are rash, foolish, and inconsiderate, pleasing ourselves with a variety of vanities, and swimming as it were through a flood of them.

But before we are aware it is past; and we are, in middle age, encompassed with a thick cloud of cares, through which we must grope; and finding ourselves beset with prickling thorns of difficulties, through them we must force our way, to accomplish the projects and contrivances of our riper thoughts. The more we solace ourselves in any earthly enjoyment we attain to, the more bitterness do we find in parting with it.

Then comes old age, attended with its own train of infirmities, labour, and sorrow, Psalm 90:10, and sets us down next door to the grave. In a word, "All flesh is like grass, " Isa. 40:6. Every stage or period in life, is vanity. "Man at his best state, " his middle age, when the heat of youth is spent, and the sorrows of old age have not yet overtaken him, "is altogether vanity, " Psalm 39:5. Death carries off some in the bud of childhood, others in the blossom of youth, and others when they are come to their fruit; few are left standing, until, like ripe corn, they forsake the ground– all die one time or other.

II. Man's life is a SHORT thing.

It is not only a vanity, but a short-lived vanity. Consider,

1. How the life of man is reckoned in the Scriptures.

It was indeed sometimes reckoned by hundreds of years– but no man ever arrived at a thousand, which yet bears no proportion to eternity. Now hundreds are brought down to scores; threescore and ten, or fourscore, is its utmost length, Psalm 90:10. But few men arrive at that length of life. Death does but rarely wait, until men be bowing down, by reason of age, to meet the grave. Yet, as if years were too big a word for such a small thing as the life of man on earth, we find it counted by months, Job 14:5. "The number of his months are with you. " Our course, like that of the moon, is run in a little time– we are always waxing or waning, until we disappear.

But frequently it is reckoned by days; and these but few, Job 14:1, "Man, that is born of a woman, is of few days. " No, it is but one day, in Scripture account; and that a hireling's day, who will precisely observe when his day ends, and give over his work, ver. 6, "Until he shall accomplish as an hireling his day. "

Yes, the Scripture brings it down to the shortest space of time, and calls it a moment, II Cor. 4:17, "Our light affliction, " though it last all our life long, "is but for a moment. " Elsewhere it is brought down yet to a lower pitch, farther than which one cannot carry it, Psalm 39:5, "My age is as nothing before you. " Agreeably to this, Solomon tells us, Eccl. 3:2, "There is a time to be born, and a time to die"; but makes no mention of a time to live, as if our life were but a skip from the womb to the grave.

2. Consider the various SIMILITUDES by which the Scripture represents the shortness of man's life.

Hear Hezekiah, Isa. 38:12, "My age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent; I am cut off like a weaver's shuttle. " The shepherd's tent is soon removed; for the flocks must not feed long in one place; such is a man's life on this earth, quickly gone. It is a web which he is incessantly working; he is not idle so much as for one moment– in a short time it is wrought, and then it is cut off. Every breathing is a thread in this web; when the last breath is drawn, the web is woven out; he expires, and then it is cut off, he breathes no more.

Man is like grass, and like a flower, Isa. 40:6. "All flesh, " even the strongest and most healthy flesh, "is grass, and all the goodness thereof is as the flower of the field. " The grass is flourishing in the morning; but, being cut down by the mowers, in the evening it is withered– so man sometimes is walking up and down at ease in the morning, and in the evening is lying a corpse, being struck down by a sudden blow, with one or other of death's weapons.

The flower, at best, is but a weak and tender thing, of short continuance wherever it grows– but observe, man is not compared to the flower of the garden; but to the flower of the field, which the foot of every beast may tread down at any time. Thus is our life liable to a thousand accidents every day, any of which may cut us off. But though we should escape all these, yet at length this grass withers, this flower fades by itself. It is carried off "as the cloud is consumed, and vanishes away, " Job 7:9. It looks big as the morning cloud, which promises great things, and raises the expectation of the husbandman; but the sun rises, and the cloud is scattered; death comes, and man vanishes!

The apostle James proposes the question, "What is your life?" chapter 4:14. Hear his answer, "It is even a vapour, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. " It is frail, uncertain, and does not last. It is as smoke, which goes out of the chimney, as if it would darken the face of the heavens; but quickly it is scattered, and appears no more– thus goes man's life, and "where is he?" It is wind, Job 7:7, "O remember that my life is wind. " It is but a passing blast, a short puff, "a wind that passes away, and comes not again, " Psalm 78:39. Our breath is in our nostrils, as if it were always upon the wing to depart; ever passing and repassing, like a traveller, until it goes away, not to return until the heavens be no more.

III. Man's life is a SWIFT thing;

not only a passing, but a flying vanity. Have you not observed how swiftly a shadow runs along the ground, in a cloudy and a windy day, suddenly darkening the places beautified before with the beams of the sun, but is suddenly disappearing? Such is the life of man on the earth, for "he flees as a shadow, and continues not, " Job 14:2. A weaver's shuttle is very swift in its motion; in a moment it is thrown from one side of the web to the other; yet "our days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, " chap. 7:6. How quickly is man tossed through time, into eternity! See how Job describes the swiftness of the time of life, chap. 9:25-26. "Now my days are swifter than a runner; they flee away, they see no good. They are passed away as the swift ships; as the eagle that hastens to the prey. " He compares his days with a runner, who runs speedily to carry tidings, and will make no stop. But though the runner were like Ahimaaz, who overrun Cushi, our days would be swifter than he; for they flee away, like a man fleeing for his life before the pursuing enemy; he runs with his utmost vigour, yet our days run as fast as he.

But this is not all; even he who is fleeing for his life, cannot run always– he must needs sometimes stand still, lie down, or turn in somewhere, as Sisera did into Jael's tent, to refresh himself– but our time never halts! Therefore it is compared to ships, that can sail night and day without intermission, until they reach their port; and to swift ships, ships of desire, in which men quickly arrive at their desired haven; or ships of pleasure, that sail more swiftly than ships of burden. Yet the wind failing, the ship's course is checked– but our time always runs with a rapid course! Therefore it is compared to the eagle flying; not with his ordinary flight, for that is not sufficient to represent the swiftness of our days; but when he flies upon his prey, which is with an extraordinary swiftness. And thus, even thus, our days flee away.

Having thus discoursed of death, let us APPLY the subject in discerning the vanity of the world; in bearing up, with Christian contentment and patience under all troubles and difficulties in it; in mortifying our lusts; in cleaving unto the Lord with full purpose of heart, at all hazards, and in preparing for death's approach.

I. Let us hence, as in a looking-glass, Behold the vanity of the world,

and of all those things in it, which men so much value and esteem; and therefore set their hearts upon. The rich and the poor are equally intent upon gaining this world; they bow the knee to it; yet it is but a clay god– they court the bulky vanity, and run eagerly to catch this shadow. The rich man is hugged to death in its embraces; and the poor man wearies himself in the fruitless pursuit. What wonder if the world's smiles overcome us, when we pursue it so eagerly, even while it frowns upon us!

But look into the grave! O man! consider and be wise; listen to the doctrine of death; and learn,

1. that, "hold as hard as you can, you shall be forced to let go your hold of the world at length. " Though you load yourself with the fruits of this earth; yet all shall fall off when you come to creep into your hole, the house, under ground, appointed for all living. When death comes, you must bid an eternal farewell to your enjoyments in this world– you must leave your goods to another; Luke 12:20, "And whose shall those things be which you have provided?"

2. Your portion of these things shall be very little before long. If you lie down on the grass, and stretch yourself at full length, and observe the print of your body when you rise, you may see how much of this earth will fall to your share at last. It may be you shall get a coffin, and a winding-sheet; but you are not sure of that; many who have had abundance of wealth, yet have not had so much when they took up their new house in the land of silence. But however that be, more you cannot expect.

It was a sobering lesson, which Saladin, when dying, gave to his soldiers. He called for his standard bearer, and ordered him to take his shroud upon a pole, and go out to the camp with it, and declare that of all his conquests, victories, and triumphs, he had nothing now left him, but that piece of linen to wrap his body in for burial.

3. "This world is a false friend, " who leaves a man in time of greatest need, and flees from him when he has most to do. When you are lying on a deathbed, all your friends and relatives cannot rescue you; all your substance cannot ransom you, nor procure you a reprieve for one day; no, not for one hour! Yes, the more you possess of this world's goods, your sorrow at death is likely to be the greater; for though one may live more commodiously in a palace than in a cottage, yet he may die more easily in the cottage, where he has very little to make him fond of life.

II. It may serve as a storehouse for Christian contentment and patience under worldly losses and crosses.

A close application of the doctrine of death is an excellent remedy against fretting, and gives some ease to a troubled heart. When Job had sustained very great losses, he sat down contented, with this meditation, Job 1:21, "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. " When Providence brings a mortality or disease among your cattle, how ready are you to fret and complain! but the serious consideration of your own death, to which you have a notable help from such providential occurrences, may be of use to silence your complaints, and quiet your spirits. Look to "the house appointed for all living, " and learn,

1. That you must suffer a more severe tragedy than the loss of worldly goods.

Do not cry out because of an illness in the leg or arm– for before long there will be a long home thrust at the heart. You may lose your dearest relations– the wife may lose her husband, and the husband his wife; the parents may lose their dear children and the children their parents; but if any of these trials happen to you, remember you must lose your own life at last; and "Why does a living man complain?" Lam. 3:39. It is always profitable to consider, under affliction, that our case might have been worse than it is. Whatever is consumed, or taken from us, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we ourselves are not consumed, " ver. 22.

2. It is but for a short space of time that we are in this world.

It is but a little that our necessities require in so short a space of time; when death comes, we shall stand in need of none of these things. Why should men rack their heads with cares how to provide for tomorrow; while they know not if they shall then need anything? Though a man's provision for his journey be nearly spent, he is not disquieted, if he thinks he is near home. Are you working by candle light, and is there little of your candle left? It may be there is as little sand in your glass; and if so, you have little use for it.

3. You have matters of great weight that challenge your care.

Death is at the door, beware that you lose not your souls. If blood breaks out at one part of the body, they often open a vein in another part of it, to turn the stream of the blood, and to stop it. Thus the Spirit of God sometimes cures men of sorrow for earthly things, by opening the heart-vein to bleed for sin. Did we pursue heavenly things more vigorously when our affairs in this life prosper not, we should thereby gain a double advantage– our worldly sorrow would be diverted, and our best treasure increased.

4. Crosses of this nature will not last long.

The world's smiles and frowns will quickly be buried together in everlasting forgetfulness. Its smiles go away like foam on the water; and its frowns are as a passing ache in a man's side. Time flies away with swift wings, and carries our earthly comforts, and crosses too, along with it– neither of them will accompany us into "the house appointed for all living. " "For in death the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest. Even prisoners are at ease in death, with no guards to curse them. Rich and poor are there alike, and the slave is free from his master. " Job 3:17-19.

Cast a look into eternity, and you will see affliction here in this world, is but for a moment. The truth is, our time is so very short, that it will not allow either our joys or griefs to come to perfection. Therefore, let them "that weep be as though they wept not; and those who rejoice as though they rejoiced not, " etc. , I Cor. 7:29-31.

5. Death will put all men on the same level.

The king and the beggar must dwell in one house, when they come to their journey's end; though their entertainment by the way may be very different. "The small and the great are there, " Job 3:19. We are all in this world as on a stage; it is no great matter, whether a man acts the part of a prince or a peasant, for when they have acted their parts, they must both get behind the curtain, and appear no more.

6. If you are not in Christ,

whatever your afflictions now be, "troubles a thousand times worse, are abiding you in another world. " Death will turn your crosses into pure unmixed curses! and then, how gladly would you return to your former afflicted state, and purchase it at any rate, were there any possibility of such a return.

7. If you are in Christ,

you may well bear your cross. Death will put an end to all your troubles. If a man on a journey is not well accommodated, where he lodges only for a night, he will not trouble himself much about the matter; because he is not to stay there, it is not his home. You are on the road to eternity! let it not distress you that you meet with some hardships in the 'inn of this world'. Fret not, because it is not so well with you as with some others. One man travels with a cane in his hand; his fellow traveller, perhaps, has but a common staff or stick– either of them will serve the turn. It is no great matter which of them be yours; both will be laid aside when you come to your journey's end.

III. It may serve for a bridle, to curb all manner of lusts,

particularly those conversant about the body. A serious visit made to cold death, and that solitary mansion, the grave, might be of good use to repress them.

(1. ) It may be of use to cause men to cease from their INORDINATE CARE FOR THE BODY; which is to many the bane of their souls. Often do these questions, "What shall we eat? what shall we drink? and with what shall we be clothed?" leave no room for another of more importance, namely, "With what shall I come before the Lord?" The soul is put on the shelf, to answer these base questions in favour of the body; while its own eternal interests are neglected. But ah! why are men so busy to repair the ruinous cottage; leaving the inhabitant to bleed to death of his wounds, unheeded, unregarded? Why so much care for the body, to the neglect of the concerns of the immortal soul? O do not be so anxious for what can only serve your bodies; since, before long, the clods of cold earth will serve for back and belly too!

(2. ) It may abate your pride on account of BODILY ENDOWMENTS, which vain man is apt to glory in. Value not yourselves on the blossom of youth; for while you are in your blooming years, you are but ripening for a grave; death gives the fatal stroke, without asking any body's age. Do not boast in your strength, it will quickly be gone– the time will soon be, when you shall not be able to turn yourselves on a bed; and you must be carried by your grieving friends to your long home. And what signifies your healthful constitution? Death does not always enter in soonest where it begins soonest to knock at the door; but makes as great dispatch with some in a few hours, as with others in many years.

Do not value yourselves on your beauty, which "shall consume in the grave, " Psalm 49:14. Remember the change which death makes on the fairest face, Job 14:20– "You always overpower them, and then they pass from the scene. You disfigure them in death and send them away. " Death makes the greatest beauty so loathsome, that it must be buried out of sight. Could a mirror be used in "the house appointed for all living, " it would be a terror to those who now look oftener into their mirrors than into their Bibles. And what though the body be gorgeously arrayed? The finest clothes are but badges of our sin and shame; and in a little time will be exchanged for a shroud, when the body will become a feast to the worms!

(3. ) It may be A CHECK UPON SENSUALITY AND FLESHLY LUSTS. 1 Peter 2:11, "I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. " It is hard to cause wet wood to take fire; and when the fire does take hold of it, it is soon extinguished. Sensuality makes men most unfit for divine communications, and is an effectual means to quench the Spirit. Intemperance in eating and drinking carries on the ruin of soul and body at once; and hastens death, while it makes the man most unfit for it. Therefore, "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. " Luke 21:34

But O how often is the soul struck through with a dart, in gratifying the senses! At these doors destruction enters in. Therefore Job "made a covenant with his eyes, " chap. 31:1. "The mouth of a strange woman is a deep pit– he that is abhorred of the Lord, shall fall therein, " Prov. 22:14. "Let him that stands, take heed lest he fall, " I Cor. 10:12. Beware of lustful pleasure; study modesty in your apparel, words, and actions. The ravens of the valley of death will at length pick out the lustful eye– the obscene filthy tongue will at length be quiet, in the land of silence; and grim death, embracing the body in its cold arms, will effectually allay the heat of all fleshly lusts!

(4. ) In a word, it may CHECK OUR EARTHLY-MINDEDNESS; and at once knock down "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. " Ah! if we must die why are we so fond of temporal things; so anxious to get them, so eager in the embraces of them, so mightily bothered with the loss of them?

Let me, upon a view of "the house appointed for all living, " address the worldling in the words of Solomon. Prov. 23:5, "Will you set your eyes upon that which is not?" For riches certainly make themselves wings, "they flee away as an eagle towards heaven. " Riches, and all worldly things are but 'a lovely nothing'; they are that which is not. They are not what they seem to be– they are but gilded vanities, that deceive the eye.

Comparatively, they are not; there is infinitely more of nothingness and non-being, than of being, or reality, in the best of them. What is the world and all that is in it, but a fashion, or fair show, such as men make on the stage– a passing show? I Cor. 7:31. Royal pomp is but gaudy show, or appearance, in God's account, Acts 25:23. The best name they get, is good things– but observe it, they are only the wicked man's good things, Luke 16:25, "You in your lifetime received your good things, " says Abraham, in the parable, to the rich man in hell. Well may the men of the world call these things their goods; for there is no other good in them, about them, nor attending them.

Now, will you set your eyes upon empty shadows and fancies? Will you cause your eyes to fly on them, as the word is? Shall men's hearts fly out at their eyes upon them, as a ravenous bird on its prey? If they do, let them know, that at length these shall flee as fast away from them, as their eyes flew upon them– like a flock of fair-feathered birds, that settle on a fool's ground; which, when he runs to catch them as his own, do immediately take wing, fly away, and sitting down on his neighbour’s ground, elude his expectation, Luke 12:20, "You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you; then whose shall these things be?"

Though you do not make wings to them, as many do; they themselves make wings, and fly away; not as a tame house-bird, which may be caught again; but as an eagle, which quickly flies out of sight, and cannot be recalled. Forbear then to seek these things. O mortal! there is no good reason to be given why you should set your eyes upon them. This world is a great inn, on the road to eternity, to which you are traveling. You are attended by those things, as servants belonging to the inn where you lodge– they wait upon you while you are there; and when you go away, they will convoy you to the door. But they are not yours, they will not go away with you; but return to wait on other strangers, as they did on you.

4. It may serve as a spring of CHRISTIAN RESOLUTION, to cleave to Christ, adhere to his truths, and continue in his ways; whatever we may suffer for so doing. It would much allay 'the fear of man, that brings a snare'. "Who are you, that you should be afraid of a man that shall die?" Isa. 51:12. Look on persecutors as pieces of brittle clay, that shall be dashed in pieces, for then shall you despise them as foes, that are mortal; whose terror to others in the land of the living, shall quickly die with themselves.

The serious consideration of the shortness of our time, and the certainty of death, will teach us, that all the advantage which we can make by our seeking the world, is not worth the while; it is not worth going out of our way to get it– and what we refuse to forgo for Christ's sake, may be quickly taken from us by death. But we can never lose it so honorably, as for the cause of Christ, and his gospel; for what glory is it, that you give up what you have in the world, when God takes it away from you by death, whether you will or not?

This consideration may teach us to undervalue life itself, and choose to forgo it, rather than to sin. The worst that men can do, is to take away that life, which we cannot long keep, though all the world should conspire to help us to retain the spirit. If we refuse to offer it up to God when he calls for it in defence of his honour, he can take it from us another way; as it fared with him, who could not burn as a martyr for Christ, but was afterwards burned by an accidental fire in his house.

5. It may serve for a spur to INCITE US TO PREPARE FOR DEATH. Consider,

(1. ) YOUR ETERNAL STATE WILL BE ACCORDING TO THE STATE IN WHICH YOU DIE– death will open the doors of heaven or hell to you. As the tree falls, so it shall lie through eternity. If the infant be dead born, the whole world cannot raise it to life again– and if one die out of Christ, in an unregenerate state, there is no more hope for him, forever.

(2. ) SERIOUSLY CONSIDER WHAT IT IS TO GO INTO THE ETERNAL WORLD; a world of spirits, with which we are very little acquainted. How frightful is converse with spirits to poor mortals in this life! and how dreadful is the case, when men are hurried away into another world, not knowing but that devils may be their companions forever! Let us then give all diligence to make and advance our acquaintance with the Lord of that world.

(3. ) IT IS BUT A SHORT TIME YOU HAVE TO PREPARE FOR DEATH– therefore now or never, seeing the time assigned for preparation will soon be over. Eccl. 9:10, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might– for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go. " How can we be idle, having so great a work to do, and so little time to do it in? But if the time is short, the work of preparation for death, though hard work, will not last long. The shadows of the evening make the labourer work cheerfully; knowing the time to be at hand, when he will be called in from his labour.

(4. ) MUCH OF OUR SHORT TIME IS OVER ALREADY; and the youngest of us all cannot assure himself, that there is as much of his time to come, as is past. Our life in the world is but a short preface to long eternity; and much of the tale is told. Oh! shall we not double our diligence, when so much of our time is spent, and so little of our great work is done?

(5. ) THE PRESENT TIME IS FLYING AWAY– and we cannot bring back time past, it has taken an eternal farewell of us– there is no kindling the fire again that is burned to ashes. The time to come is not ours– and we have no assurance of a share in it when it comes. We have nothing we can call ours, but the present moment; and that is flying away. How soon our time may be at an end, we know not. Die we must– but who can tell us when? If death kept one set time for all, we were in no hazard of a surprise– but daily observation shows us, that there is no such thing. The flying shadow of our life allows no time for loitering. The rivers run speedily into the sea, from where they came; but not so speedily as man to dust, from where he came. The stream of time is the swiftest current, and quickly runs out to eternity!

(6. ) If once death carries us off, THERE IS NO COMING BACK to mend our matters, Job 14:14, "If a man dies, shall he live again?" Dying is a thing we cannot get a trial of; it is what we can only do once, Heb. 9:27, "It is appointed unto men once to die. " And that which can be but once done, and yet is of so much importance that our all depends on our doing it right, we have need to use the utmost diligence that we may do it well. Therefore prepare for death.

If you who are unregenerate ask me, what you shall do to prepare for death, that you may die safely; I answer, I have told you already what must be done. Your nature and state must be changed– you must be united to Jesus Christ by faith. Until this is done, you are not capable of other directions, which belongs to a person's dying comfortably.

Section II. The difference between the Righteous and the Wicked in their death

"The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous has hope in his death. " Proverbs 14:32.

This text looks like the cloud between the Israelites and Egyptians; having a dark side towards the latter, and a bright side towards the former. It represents death like Pharaoh's jailor, bringing the chief butler and the chief baker out of prison; the one to be restored to his office, and the other to be led to execution. It shows the difference between the godly and ungodly in their death; who, as they act a very different part in life, so, in death, have a very different exit.

As to the death of a WICKED man, here is,

1. The MANNER of his passing out of the world.

He is "driven away;" namely, in his death, as is clear from the opposite clause. He is forcibly thrust out of his place in this world; driven away as chaff before the wind.

2. The STATE he passes away in.

He dies also in a sinful and hopeless state.

A. In a sinful state– He is driven away in his wickedness. He lived in it, and he dies in it. His filthy garments of sin in which he wrapped up himself in his life are his prison garments, in which he shall lie wrapped up forever.

B. In a hopeless state– "but the righteous has hope in his death;" which plainly imports the hopelessness of the wicked in their death. Whereby is not meant, that no wicked man shall have any hope at all when he is dying, but shall die in despair. No– sometimes it is so indeed; but frequently it is otherwise; foolish virgins may, and often do, hope to the last breath. But the wicked man has no solid hope– as for the delusive hopes he entertains himself with, death will root them up, and he shall be forever irretrievably miserable.

As to the death of a righteous man, he has hope in his death. This is ushered in with a "but, " importing the removal of these dreadful circumstances, with which the wicked man is attended, who is driven away in his wickedness; but the godly are not so.

1. Not so, in the manner of their passing out of the world. The righteous are not driven away as chaff before the wind; but led away as a bride to the marriage chamber, carried away by the angels into Abraham's bosom, Luke 16:22.

2. Not so as to their state, when passing out of this life. The righteous man dies, not in a sinful, but in a holy state. He does not go away in his sin, but out of it. In his life he was putting off the old man, changing his prison garments; and now the remaining rags of them are removed, and he is adorned with robes of glory. Not in a hopeless, but a hopeful state. He has hope in his death; he has the grace of hope, and the well-founded expectation of better things than he ever had in this world– and though, the stream of his hope at death may run shallow, yet he has still so much of it as makes him venture his eternal interests upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

DOCTRINE 1. The WICKED dying, are driven away in their wickedness, and in a HOPELESS state.

In speaking to this doctrine,

VI. I shall show how, and in what sense, the wicked are "driven away in their wickedness" at death.

VII. I shall prove the hopelessness of their state at death.

VIII. And then apply the whole.

I. How, and in what sense, the wicked are "driven away in their wickedness. "

In discoursing of this matter, I shall briefly inquire,

1. What is meant by their being "driven away. "

2. Why they shall be driven, and where.

3. In what respects they may be said to be driven away "in their wickedness. "

But before I proceed, let me remark, that you are mistaken if you think that no people are to be called wicked, but those who are avowedly vicious and profane; as if the devil could dwell in none but those whose name is Legion. In Scripture account, all who are not righteous, in the manner hereafter explained, are reckoned wicked. Therefore the the text divides the whole world into two sorts– "the righteous and the wicked, " and you will see the same thing in Malachi 3:18, "Then shall you return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked. " Therefore if you are not righteous, you are wicked. If you have not an imputed righteousness, and also an implanted righteousness, or united to Christ by faith, however moral and blameless in the eyes of men your conversation may be, you are the wicked who shall be driven away in their wickedness– if death finds you in that state. Now,

1. As to the MEANING of this phrase, "driven away, "

there are three things in it; the wicked shall be taken away suddenly, violently, and irresistibly.

(1. ) Unrenewed men shall be taken away SUDDENLY at death. Not that all wicked men die suddenly; nor that they are all wicked that die so; God forbid. But,

1. Death commonly comes upon them unexpectedly, and so surprises them, as the deluge surprised the old world, though they were forewarned of it long before it came; and as travail comes on a woman with child, with surprising suddenness, although looked for and expected, 1 Thess. 5:3. Death seizes them, as a creditor does his debtor, to drag him to prison, Psalm 55:15, and that when they are not aware. Death comes in, as a thief, at the window, and finds them full of busy thoughts about this life which that very day perish.

2. Death always seizes them unprepared for it; the old house falls down about their ears, before they have another provided. When death casts them to the door, they have not where to lay their heads; unless it be on a bed of fire and brimstone. The soul and body are as it were hugging one another in mutual embraces; when death comes like a whirlwind, and separates them.

3. Death hurries them away in a moment to destruction, and makes a most dismal change– the man for the most part never knows where he is, until "in hell he lift up his eyes, " Luke 16:23. The floods of wrath suddenly overwhelm his soul; and before he is aware, he is plunged into the bottomless pit!

(2. ) The unrenewed man is taken away out of the world VIOLENTLY. Driving is a violent action; he is "chased out of the world, " Job 18:18. Gladly would he stay, if he could; but death drags him away, like a malefactor to the execution. He sought no other portion than the profits and pleasures of this world– he has no other; he really desires no other– how can he then go away out of it, if he were not driven?

Question. "But may not a wicked man be willing to die?" Answer. He may indeed be willing to die; but observe it is only in one of three cases.

1. In a fit of passion, by reason of some trouble that he is impatient to be rid of. Thus, many people, when their passion has got the better of their reason, and when, on that account they are most unfit to die, will be ready to cry, "O to be gone!" But should their desire be granted, and death came at their call, they would quickly show they were not in earnest; and that, if they go, they must be driven away against their wills.

2. When they are brim-full of despair may they be willing to die. Thus Saul murdered himself; and Spira wished to be in hell, that he might know the uttermost of what he believed he was to suffer. In this manner men may seek after death, while it flees from them. But fearful is the violence these undergo, whom the terrors of God do thus drive.

3. When they are dreaming of happiness after death. Foolish virgins, under the power of delusion, as to their state, may be willing to die, having no fear of lying down in sorrow. How many are there, who can give no scriptural ground for their hope, who yet have no bands in their death! Many are driven to darkness 'sleeping'– they go off like lambs, who would roar like lions, did they but know what place they are going to; though the chariot in which they are, drives furiously to the depths of hell, yet they fear not, because they are fast asleep!

(3. ) The unregenerate man is taken away IRRESISTIBLY. He must go, though sore against his will. Death will lake no refusal, nor admit of any delay; though the man has not lived half his days, according to his own computation. If he will not bow, it will break him. If he will not come forth, it will pull the house down about his ears; for there he must not stay. Although the physicians help, friends groan, the wife and children cry, and he himself use his utmost efforts to retain the spirit, his soul is required of him; yield he must, and go where he shall never more see light.

2. Let us consider, WHY they are driven, and WHERE.

When the wicked die,

(1. ) They are driven out of this world, where they sinned, into the other world, where they must be judged, and receive their particular sentences, Heb. 9:27, "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. " They shall no more return to their beloved earth. Though their hearts are wedded to their earthly enjoyments, they must leave them, they can carry nothing hence. How sorrowful must their departure be, when they have nothing in view so good as that which they leave behind them!

(2. ) They are driven out of the society of the saints on earth, into the society of the damned in hell, Luke 16:22-23, "The rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell he lift up his eyes. " What a multitude of the devil's goats do now take place among Christ's sheep! but at death they shall be "led forth with the workers of iniquity, " Psalm 125:5. There is a mixed multitude in this world, but no mixture in the other; each party is there set by themselves. Though hypocrites grow here as tares among the wheat, death will root them up, and they shall be bound in bundles for the fire.

(3. ) They are driven out of time into eternity! While time lasts with them, there is hope; but when time goes, all hope goes with it. Precious time is now lavishly spent– it lies so heavy on the hands of many, that they think themselves obliged to take several ways to drive away time. But beware of being at a loss what to do in life– improve time for eternity, while you have it; for before long, death will drive it from you, and you from it, so as you shall never meet again.

(4. ) They are driven out of their specious 'pretences to piety'. Death strips them of the splendid robes of a fair profession, with which some of them are adorned; and turns them off the stage, in the rags of a wicked heart and life. The word "hypocrite" properly signifies a stage-player, who appears to be what indeed he is not. This world is the stage on which these children of the devil impersonate the children of God. Their 'show of religion' is the player's coat, under which one must look, who will judge of them aright. Death turns them out of their coat, and they appear in their native dress– it unveils them, and takes off their mask! There are none in the other world, who pretend to be better than they really are. Depraved nature acts in the regions of horror, undisguised!

(5. ) They are driven away from all means of grace; and are set beyond the line, quite out of all prospect of mercy. There is no more an opportunity to buy oil for the lamp; it is gone out at death, and can never be lighted again. There may be offers of mercy and peace made, after they are gone; but they are to others, not to them– there are no such offers in the place to which they are driven; these offers are only made in that place from which they are driven away.

3. In what respects may they be said to be driven away in their wickedness?

Answer 1. In respect of their being driven away in

their sinful unconverted state. Having lived enemies to God, they die in a state of enmity to him– for none are brought into the eternal state of consummate happiness, but by the way of the state of grace in this life. The child that is dead in the womb, is born dead, and is cast out of the womb into the grave– so, "he who is dead while he lives", or is spiritually dead, is cast forth of the womb of time, in the same state of death, into the pit of utter misery. O miserable death, to die in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity! It had been incomparably better for such as die thus, that they had never been born!

Answer 2. In regard that they die sinning, acting wickedly against God, in contradiction to the divine law; for they can do nothing but sin while they live– so death takes them in the very act of sinning; violently draws them from the embraces of their lusts, and drives them away to the tribunal, to receive their sentence! It is a remarkable expression, Job 36:14, "They die in youth, " the marginal reading is, "their soul dies in youth"– their lusts being lively, their desires vigorous, and expectations big, as is common in youth. "And their life is among the unclean;" or, "And the company" or herd "of them" dies "among the Sodomites, " namely, is taken any in the act of their sin and wickedness, as the men of Sodom were, Genesis 19; Luke 17:28, 29.

Answer 3. As they are driven away, loaded with the guilt of all their sins; this is the winding-sheet that shall lie down with them in the dust, Job 20:11. Their works follow them into the other world; they go away with the yoke of their transgressions wreathed about their necks. Guilt is a bad companion in life, but how terrible will it be in death! It lies now, perhaps, like cold brimstone on their benumbed consciences– but when death opens the way for sparks of divine vengeance, like fire, to fall upon it, it will make dreadful flames in the conscience, in which the soul will be, as it were, wrapped up forever!

Answer 4. The wicked are driven away in their wickedness, in so far as they die under the absolute power of their wickedness. While there is hope, there is some restraint on the worst of men; those moral endowments, which God gives to a number of men, for the benefit of mankind in this life, are so many restraints upon the impetuous wickedness of human nature. But all hope being cut off, and these gifts withdrawn, the wickedness of the wicked will then arrive at its perfection.

As the seeds of grace, sown in the hearts of the elect, come to their full maturity at death; so wicked and hellish dispositions in the reprobate, come then to their highest pitch! Their prayers to God will then be turned to horrible curses, and their praises to hideous blasphemies, Matthew 25:13, "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. " This gives a dismal, but correct view of the state of the wicked in another world.

II. I shall discover the HOPELESSNESS of the state of unrenewed men at death.

It appears to be very hopeless, if we consider these four things.

1. Death cuts off their hopes and prospects of peace and pleasure in this life.

Luke 12:19, 20, "Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you– then who shall have those things which you have provided?" They look for great matters in this world, they hope to increase their wealth, to see their families prosper, and to live at ease; but death comes like a stormy wind, and shakes off all their fond hopes, like green fruit from off a tree. "When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, " Job 20:23. He may begin a web of contrivances for advancing his worldly interest; but before he gets it wrought out, death comes and cuts it off. "His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. " Psalm 146:4.

2. When death comes, they have no solid ground to hope for eternal happiness.

"For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he has gained, when God takes away his soul?" Job 27:8. Whatever hopes they fondly entertain, they are not founded on God's word, which is the only sure ground of hope; if they knew their own case, they would see themselves only happy in a 'dream'. And indeed what hope can they have? The law is plain against them, and condemns them. The curses of it, those cords of death, are about them already. The Saviour whom they slighted, is now their Judge; and their Judge is their enemy! How then can they hope? They have bolted the door of mercy against themselves, by their unbelief. They have despised the remedy, and therefore must die without mercy. They have no saving interest in Jesus Christ, the only channel of conveyance through which mercy flows– and therefore they can never taste it.

The 'sword of justice' guards the door of mercy, so as none can enter in, but the members of the mystical body of Christ, over whose head is a covert of atoning blood, the Mediator's blood. These indeed may pass without a harm, for justice has nothing to require of them. But others cannot pass, since they are not in Christ– death comes to them with the sting in it– the sting of unpardoned guilt. It is armed against them with all the force which the sanction of a holy law can give it. 1 Cor. 15:56, "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. " When that law was given on Sinai, "the whole mount quaked greatly, " Exodus 19:18. When the Redeemer was making satisfaction for the elect's breaking it, "the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, " Matt, 27:51.

What possible ground of hope, then, is there to the wicked man, when death comes upon him armed with the force of this law? How can he escape that fire, which "burnt unto the midst of heaven?" Deut. 4:11. How shall he be able to stand in that smoke, that "ascended up as the smoke of a furnace?" Exod. 19:18. How will he endure the terrible "thunders and lightnings, " verse 16, and dwell in "the darkness, clouds, and thick darkness?" Deut. 4:11. All these comparisons heaped together do but faintly represent the fearful tempest of wrath and indignation, which shall pursue the wicked to the lowest hell; and forever abide on those who are driven to darkness at death.

3. Death roots up their delusive hopes of eternal happiness;

then it is that their covenant with death and agreement with hell, is broken. They are awakened out of their golden dreams, and at length lift up their eyes; Job 8:14, "Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web. " They trust that all shall be well with them after death– but their trust is as a web woven out of their own bowels, with a great deal of art and industry. They wrap themselves up in their hope, as the spider wraps herself in her web. But it is a weak and slender defence; for however it may withstand the threatenings of the word of God; death, that broom of destruction, will sweep them and it both away, so as there shall not be the least shred of it left; and he, who this moment will not let his hope go, shall next moment be utterly hopeless. Death overturns the house built on the sand; it leaves no man under the power of delusion.

4. Death makes their state absolutely and forever hopeless.

Matters cannot be retrieved and amended after death. For,

1. Time once gone can never be recalled. If cries or tears, price or pains, could bring time back again, the wicked man might have hope in his death. But tears of blood will not prevail! Nor will his roaring for millions of ages cause it to return! The sun will not stand still for the sluggard to awake and enter on his journey; and when once it is gone down, he needs not expect the night to be turned into day for his sake– he must lodge through the long night of eternity, where his time left him.

2. There is no returning to this life, to amend what is amiss; it is a state of probation and trial, which terminates at death; therefore we cannot return to it again; it is but once we thus live, and once we die. Death carries the wicked man to "his own place, " Acts 1:25. This life is our working day. Death closes our day and our work together. We may readily admit the wicked might have some hope in their death, if, after death has opened their eyes, they could return to life, and have but the trial of one Sabbath, one offer of Christ, one day, or but one hour more, to make up their peace with God– but "man lies down, and rises not until the heavens be no more; they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep, " Job 14:12.

3. In the other world, men have no access to get their ruined state and condition retrieved, though they be ever so desirous of it. "For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go, " Eccl. 9:10. Now a man may flee from the wrath to come; he may get into a refuge. But when once death has done its work, "the door is shut!" there are no more offers of mercy, no more pardons– where the tree is fallen, there it must lie.

Let what has been said be carefully pondered; and that it may be of use, let me exhort you,

First, To take heed that you entertain no hopes of heaven, but what are built on a solid foundation– tremble to think what fair hopes of happiness death sweeps away, like cobwebs; how the hopes of many are cut off, when they seem to themselves to be at the very threshold of heaven; how, in the moment they expected to be carried by angels into Abraham's bosom, into the regions of bliss and peace; they are carried by devils into the society of the damned in hell, into the place of torment, and regions of horror!

I beseech you to BEWARE–

1. Of a hope built upon ground that was never cleared. The wise builder dug deep, Luke 6:48. Were your hopes of heaven never shaken; but have you had good hopes all your days? Alas for it! you may see the mystery of your case explained, Luke 11:21, When a strong man armed keeps his palace, his goods are at peace. But if they have been shaken, take heed lest some breaches only have been made in the old building, which you have got repaired again, by ways and means of your own. I assure you, that your hope, however fair a building it is, is not fit to trust to, unless your old hopes have been razed, and you have built on a foundation quite new.

2. Beware of that hope which looks bright in the dark, but loses all its lustre when it is set in the light of God's word, when it is examined and tried by the touchstone of divine revelation, John 3:20, 21, "for every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that does the truth, comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. " That hope, which cannot abide scripture trial, but sinks when searched into by sacred truth, is a delusion, and not a true hope– for God's word is always a friend to the graces of God's Spirit, and an enemy to delusion.

3. Beware of that hope, which stands without being supported by scriptural evidences. Alas! many are big with hopes, who cannot give, because they really have not, any scripture grounds for them. You hope that all will be well with you after death– but what word of God is it, on which you have been caused to hope? Psalm 119:49. What scriptural evidence have you to prove that yours is not the hope of the hypocrite? What have you, after impartial self-examination, as in the sight of God, found in yourself, which the word of God determines to be a sure evidence of his right to eternal life, who is possessed of it? Numbers are ruined with such hopes as stand unsupported by scriptural evidence. Men are fond and tenacious of these hopes; but death will throw them down, and leave the self-deceiver hopeless.

4. Beware of that hope of heaven, which does not prepare and dispose you for heaven, which never makes your soul more holy, 1 John 3:3, "Every man that has this hope in him, purifies himself, even as he is pure. " The hope of the most part of men, is rather a hope to be free from pain and torment in another life; than a hope of true happiness, the nature whereof is not understood and discerned. Therefore it rests in sloth and indolence, and does not excite to mortification and a heavenly life. So far are they from hoping aright for heaven, that they must own, if they speak their genuine sentiments, removing out of this world into any other place whatever, is rather their fear than their hope.

The glory of the heavenly city does not at all draw their hearts upwards to it, nor do they lift up their heads with joy, in the prospect of arriving at it. If they had the true hope of the marriage day, they would, as the bride, the "Lamb's wife, " be "making themselves ready for it, " Revelation 19:7. But their hopes are produced by their sloth, and their sloth is nourished by their hopes. Oh, Sirs, as you would not be driven away helpless in your death, beware of these hopes! Raze them now, and build on a new foundation, lest death leave not one stone of them upon another, and you never be able to hope any more.

Secondly, Hasten, O sinners, out of your wickedness, out of your sinful state, and out of your wicked life, if you would not at death be driven away in your wickedness! Remember the fatal end of the wicked as the text represents it. I know there is a great difference in the death of the wicked, as to some circumstances– but ALL of them, in their death, agree in this, that they are driven away in their wickedness. Some of them die resolutely, as if they scorned to be afraid; some in raging despair, so filled with horror that they cry out as if they were already in hell; others in sullen despondency, oppressed with fears, so that their hearts sink within them, at the remembrance of misspent time, and the view which they have of eternity, having neither head nor heart to do anything for their own relief. And others die stupidly; they live like beasts, and they die like beasts, without any concern on their spirits, about their eternal state. They groan under their bodily distress but have no sense of the danger of their soul! One may, with almost as much prospect of success, speak to a stone, as speak to them; vain is the attempt to teach them; nothing that can be said moves them. To discourse to them, either of the joys of heaven on the torments of hell, is to plough on a rock, or beat the air. Some die like the foolish virgins, dreaming of heaven; their foreheads are steeled against the fears of hell, with presumptuous hopes of heaven. The business of those who would be useful to them, is not to answer doubts about the case of their souls, but to discover to them their own false hopes. But which way soever the unconverted man dies, he is "driven away in his wickedness. "

O dreadful case! Oh, let the consideration of so horrid a departure out of this world, move you to flee to Jesus Christ, as the all-sufficient Saviour, an almighty Redeemer. Let it prevail to drive you out of your wickedness, to holiness of heart and life. Though you reckon it pleasant to live in wickedness, yet you cannot but own, it is bitter to die in it. And if you leave it not in time, you must go on in your wickedness to hell, the proper place of it, that it may be set there on its own base. For when you are passing out of this world, all your sins, from the first to the last of them, will swarm about you, hang upon you, accompany you to the other world, and, as so many furies, surround you there forever.

Thirdly, O be concerned for others, especially for your relations, that they may not continue in their sinful natural state, but be brought into a state of salvation; lest they be driven away in their wickedness at death. What would you not do to prevent any of your friends dying an untimely and violent death? But, alas! do you not see them in hazard of being driven away in their wickedness! Is not death approaching them, even the youngest of them? And are they not strangers to true Christianity, remaining in that state which they came into the world? Oh! make haste to pluck the brand out of the fire, lest it be burned to ashes! The death of relations often leaves a sting in the hearts of those they leave behind them, because they did not do for their souls as they had opportunity; and because the opportunity is forever taken out of their hands.

The state of the GODLY in death is a HOPEFUL state

We have seen the dark side of the cloud looking towards ungodly men, passing out of the world; let us now take a view of the bright side of it, shining on the godly, as they enter on their eternal state. In discoursing on this subject, I shall confirm this doctrine, answer an objection against it, and then make some practical improvement of the whole.

I. For CONFIRMATION,

let it be observed, that although the passage out of this world by death has a frightful aspect to poor mortals, and to miscarry in it must needs be of fatal consequence; yet the following circumstances make the state of the godly in their death, happy and hopeful.

1. They hare a trusty good Friend before them in the other world.

Jesus Christ, their best Friend, is Lord of the land to which death carries them. When Joseph sent for his father to come down to him to Egypt, telling him, "God had made him lord over all Egypt, " Gen. 45:9, "And Jacob "saw the wagons Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob revived, " verse 27. He resolves to undertake the journey.

I think, when the Lord calls a godly man out of the world, he sends him such glad tidings, and such a kind invitation into the other world, that, he has faith to believe it, his spirit must revive, when he sees the 'wagon of death' which comes to carry him there. It is true, indeed, he has a weighty trial to undergo– after death the judgment. But the case of the godly is altogether hopeful; for the Lord of the land is their husband, and their husband is the judge. "The Father has committed all judgment unto the Son, " John 5:22. Surely the case of the wife is hopeful, when her own husband is her judge, even such a husband as hates divorce. No husband is so loving and so tender of his spouse, as the Lord Christ is of his. One would think it would be a very bad land, which a wife would not willingly go to, where her husband is the ruler and judge.

Moreover, their judge is the advocate, 1 John 2:1, "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. " Therefore they need not fear their being put back, and falling into condemnation. What can be more favourable? Can they think, that he who pleads their cause, will himself pass sentence against them?

Yet further, their advocate is their Redeemer; they are "redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, " 1 Pet. 1:18, 19. So when he pleads for them, he is pleading his own cause. Though an advocate may be careless of the interest of one who employs him, yet surely he will do his utmost to

defend his own right, which he has purchased with his money– and shall not their advocate defend the purchase of his own blood?

But more than all that, their Redeemer is their head, and they are his members, Eph. 5:23, 30. Though one were so silly as to let his own purchase go, without standing up to defend his right, yet surely he will not part with a limb of his own body. Is not their case then hopeful in death, who are so closely linked and allied to the Lord of the other world, who are "the keys of hell and of death?"

2. They shall have a safe passage to another world.

They must indeed go through "the valley of the shadow of death;" but though it be in itself a 'dark and shady valley', it shall be a 'valley of hope' to them– they shall not be driven through it, but be as men in perfect safety, who fear no evil, Psalm 23:4.

Why should they thus fear? They have the Lord of the land's safe conduct, his pass sealed with his own blood; namely, the blessed covenant, which is the saint's death-bed comfort, 2 Sam. 23:5, "Although my house be not so with God, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure– for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow. " Who then can harm them? It is safe riding in Christ's chariot, Cant. 3:9, both through life and death. They have good and honourable attendants– a guard, even a guard of angels. These encamp about them in the time of their life; and surely will not leave them in the day of their death. These happy ministering spirits are attendants on their Lord's bride, and will doubtless convey her safe home to his house.

When friends in mournful mood stand by the saint's bedside, waiting to see him draw his last breath, his soul is waited for by angels, to be carried into Abraham's bosom, Luke 16:22. The captain of the saint's salvation is the captain of this holy guard– he was their guide even unto death, and he will be their guide through it too, Psalm 23:4, "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me. " They may, without fear, pass that 'river', being confident it shall not overflow them; and they may walk through that 'fire', being sure they shall not be burnt by it.

Death can do them no harm! It cannot even hurt their bodies– for though it separate the soul from the body, it cannot separate the body from the Lord Jesus Christ. Even death is to them but 'sleep in Jesus', 1 Thess. 4:14. They continue members of Christ, though in a grave. Their dust is precious dust; laid up in the grave as in their Lord's cabinet. They lie in a grave 'mellowing', as precious fruit laid up to be brought forth to him at the resurrection. The husbandman has corn in his barn, and corn lying in the ground– the latter is more precious to him than the former, because he looks to get it returned with increase. Even so the dead bodies of the saints are valued by their Saviour– they are "sown in corruption, " to be "raised in incorruption"; "sown in dishonour, " to be "raised in glory, " 1 Cor. 15:42, 43. It cannot hurt their souls. It is with the souls of the saints at death, as with Paul and his company in their voyage, whereof we have the history, Acts, chapter 27. The ship was broken to pieces, but the passengers got all safe to land.

When the dying saint's speech is stopped, his eyes set, and his last breath drawn, the soul gets safe away into the heavenly paradise, leaving the body to return to its earth, but in the joyful hope of a reunion at its glorious resurrection. But how can death hurt the godly? It is a foiled enemy– if it casts them down, it is only that they may rise more glorious. "Our Saviour Jesus Christ has abolished death, " 2 Tim. 1:10. The soul and life of it is gone– it is but a 'walking shadow' that may fright, but cannot hurt saints– it is only the 'shadow of death' to them– it is not the thing itself; their dying is 'but as dying', or 'somewhat like dying'.

The apostle tells us, "It is Christ that died, " Rom. 8:34. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, though stoned to death, yet only 'fell asleep', Acts 7:60. Certainly the nature of death is quite changed, with respect to the saints. It is not to them, what it was to Jesus Christ their head– it is not the venomed ruining thing, wrapped up in the sanction of the first covenant, Gen. 2:17, "In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die. " It comes to the godly without a sting– they may meet it with that salutation, "O death, where is your sting?" Is this Mara? Is this 'bitter' death? It went out full into the world, when the first Adam opened the door to it, but the second Adam has brought it again empty to his own people.

I feel a sting, may the dying saint say– yet it is but a bee sting, slinging only through the skin– but, O death, where is your sting, your old sting, the serpent's sting, that stings to the heart and soul? The sting of death is sin– but that is taken away. If death arrests the saint, and carries him before the Judge, to answer for the debt he contracted, the debt will be found paid by the glorious Surety; and he has the discharge to show. The thorn of guilt is pulled out of the man's conscience; and his name is blotted out of the black roll, and written among the living in Jerusalem.

It is true, it is a great journey through the valley of the shadow of death– but the saint's burden is taken away from his back, his iniquity is pardoned, he may walk at ease– "No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast, " the redeemed may walk at leisure there, free from all apprehensions of danger.

3. They shall have a joyful entrance into the other world.

Their arrival in the regions of bliss, will be celebrated with rapturous hymns of praise to their glorious Redeemer. A dying day is a good day to a godly man. Yes, it is his best day; it is better to him than his birth-day, or than the most joyous day which he ever had on earth. "A good name, " says the wise man, is "better than precious ointment– and the day of death, than the day of one's birth, " Eccl. 7:1.

The notion of the immortality of the soul, and of future happiness, which obtained among some pagan nations, had wonderful effects on them. Some of them, when they mourned for the dead, did it in women's apparel; that, being moved with the indecency of the garb, they might the sooner lay aside their mourning. Others buried them without any lamentation or mourning; but had a sacrifice, and a feast for friends, upon that occasion. Some were used to mourn at births, and rejoice at burials. But the practice of some Indian nations is yet more strange, where, upon the husband's decease, his wife, or wives, with a cheerful countenance, enter the flames prepared for the husband's corpse.

But however false notions of a future state, assisted by pride, affectation of applause, apprehensions of difficulties in this life, and such like principles proper to depraved human nature, may influence crude uncultivated minds, when strengthened by the arts of hell; O what solid joy and consolation may they have, who are true Christians, being in Christ, who "has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!" 2 Tim. 1:10. Death is one of those "all things, " that "work together for good to those who love God, " Rom. 8:28. When the body dies, the soul is perfected– the 'body of death' goes off at the 'death of the body'.

What harm did the jailer to Pharaoh's butler, when he opened the prison door to him, and let him out? Is the bird in worse case, when at liberty, than when confined in a cage? Thus, and no worse, are the souls of the saints treated by death. It comes to the godly man, as Haman came to Mordecai, with the royal apparel and the horse, Esther 6:11, with commission to do them honour, however awkwardly it be performed. I question not but Haman performed the ceremony with a very ill mien, a pale face, a downcast look, and a cloudy countenance, and like one who came to hang him, rather than to honour him. But he whom the king delighted to honour, must be honoured; and Haman, Mordecai's grand enemy, must be the man employed to put this honour upon him. Glory, glory, glory, blessing and praise to our Redeemer, our Saviour, our Mediator, by whose death, 'grim devouring death' is made to do such a good office to those whom it might otherwise have hurried away in their wickedness, to utter and eternal destruction!

A dying day is, in itself, a joyful day to the godly; it is their redemption day, when the captives are delivered, when the prisoners are set free. It is the day of the pilgrims coming home from their pilgrimage; the day in which the heirs of glory return from their travels, to their own country, and their Father's house; and enter into actual possession of the glorious inheritance. It is their marriage day– now is the time of espousals; but then the marriage is consummated, and a marriage feast begun, which has no end. If so, is not the state of the godly in death, a hopeful state?

II. Objection–

"But if the state of the godly in their death be so hopeful, how comes it to pass that many of them, when dying, are full of fears, and have little hope?"

Answer– It must be owned, that saints do not all die in one and the same manner; there is a diversity among them, as well as among the wicked; yet the worst case of a dying saint is indeed a hopeful one. Some die triumphantly, in a full assurance of faith. 2 Timothy 4:6-8, "The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. " They get a taste of the joys of heaven, while here on earth; and begin the songs of Zion, while yet in a strange land.

Others die in a solid dependence of faith on their Lord and Saviour– though they cannot sing triumphantly, yet they can, and will say confidently, "The Lord is their God. " Though they cannot triumph over death, with old Simeon, having Christ in his arms, and saying, "Lord now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word– for my eyes have seen your salvation, " Luke 2:29, 30; yet they can say with dying Jacob, "I have waited for your salvation, Lord, " Gen. 49:18. His left hand is under their head, to support them, though his right hand does not embrace them– they firmly believe, though they are not filled with joy in believing. They can plead the covenant, and hang by the promise, although their house is not so with God as they could wish.

But the dying day of some saints may be like that day mentioned in Zechariah 14:7, "Not day, nor night. " They may die under great doubts and fears; setting as it were in a cloud, and going to heaven in a mist. They may go mourning without the sun, and never put off their spirit of heaviness, until death strips them of it. They may be carried to heaven through the confines of hell; and may be pursued by the devouring lion, even to the very gates of the new Jerusalem; and may be compared to a ship almost wrecked in sight of the harbour, which yet gets safe into her port, 1 Cor. 3:15, "If any man's work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss– but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. " There is safety amid their fears, but danger in the wicked's strongest confidence; and there is a blessed seed of gladness in their greatest sorrows– "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart, " Psalm 97:11.

Now, saints are liable to such perplexity in their death, because, though they are Christians indeed, yet they are men of like passions with others; and death is a frightful object in itself, whatever dress it appears in– the stern countenance with which it looks at mortals, can hardly fail of causing them to shrink. Moreover, the saints are of all men the most jealous of themselves. They think of eternity, and of a tribunal, more deeply than others do; with them it is a more serious thing to die, than the rest of mankind are aware of. They know the deceits of the heart, the subtleties of depraved human nature, better than others do. Therefore they may have much to do to keep up hope on a death-bed; while others pass off quietly, like sheep to the slaughter; and the rather, that Satan, who uses all his art to support the hopes of the hypocrite, will do his utmost to mar the peace, and increase the fears, of the saint.

And finally, the bad frame of spirit, and ill condition, in which death sometimes seizes a true Christian, may cause this perplexity. By his being in the state of grace, he is indeed always habitually prepared for death, and his dying safely is ensured– but yet there is more necessary to his actual preparation and dying comfortably, his spirit must be in good condition too.

Therefore there are three cases, in which death cannot but be very uncomfortable to a child of God–

1. If it seizes him at a time when the guilt of some particular sin, unrepented of, is lying on his conscience– and death comes on that very account, to take him out of the land of the living; as was the case of many of the Corinthian believers, 1 Cor. 11:30, "For this cause, " namely, of unworthy communicating, "many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. " If a person is surprised with the approach of death, while lying under the guilt of some unpardoned sin, it cannot but cause a mighty consternation.

2. When death catches him napping. The midnight cry must be frightful to sleeping virgins. The man who lies in a ruinous house, and awakes not until the timbers begin to crack, and the stones to drop down about his ears, may indeed get out of it safely, but not without fears of being crushed by its fall. When a Christian has been going on in a course of security and backsliding, and awakens not until death comes to his bedside, it is no wonder that he gets a fearful awakening.

3. When he has lost sight of his saving interest in Christ, and cannot produce evidences of his title to heaven. It is hard to meet death without some evidences of a title to eternal life at hand; hard to go through the dark valley without the candle of the Lord shining upon the head. It is a terrible adventure to launch out into eternity, when a man can make no better of it than a leap in the dark, not knowing where he shall land, whether in heaven or hell.

Nevertheless the state of the saints, in their death, is always in itself hopeful. The presumptuous hopes of the ungodly, in their death, cannot make their state hopeful; neither can the fears of a saint make his state hopeless– for God judges according to the truth of the thing, not according to men's opinions about it. Therefore the saints can be no more altogether without hope, than they can be altogether without faith. Their faith may be very weak, but it fails not; and their hope very low, yet they will, and do hope to the end. Even while the godly seem to be carried away with the stream of doubts and fears, there remains still as much hope as determines them to lay hold on the tree of life that grows on the banks of the river. Jonah 2:4, "Then I said, I am cast out of your sight– yet I will look again toward your temple. "

USE–

This speaks comfort to the godly against the fear of death. A godly man may be called a happy man before his death, because, whatever befalls him in life, he shall certainly be happy at death. You who are in Christ, who are true Christians, have hope in your end; and such a hope as may comfort you against all those fears which arise from the consideration of a dying hour. This I shall branch out, in answering some cases briefly–

Case 1– "The prospect of death, " will some of the saints say, "is uneasy to me, not knowing what shall become of my family when I am gone. "

Answer. The righteous has hope in his death, as to his family, as well as himself. Although you have little, for the present, to live upon; which has been the condition of many of God's chosen ones, 1 Cor. 4:11, "We, " namely, the apostles, "both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place;" and though you have nothing to leave them, as was the case of that son of the prophets, who feared the Lord, and yet died in debt which he was unable to pay, as his poor widow represents, 2 Kings 4:2; yet you have a good Friend to leave them to; a covenant God, to whom you may confidently commit them. "Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let your widows trust in me. " Jer. 49:11.

The world can bear witness of signal settlements made upon the children of providence; such as by their pious parents have been cast upon God's providential care. It has been often remarked, that they lacked neither provision nor education. Moses is an eminent instance of this. He, though he was an outcast infant, Exod. 2:3, yet became learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, Acts 7:22, and became king in Jeshurun, Deut. 33:5. O! may we not be ashamed, that we do not confidently trust him with the concerns of our families, to whom, as our Saviour and Redeemer, we have committed our eternal interests?

Case 2– "Death will take us away from our dear friends; yes, we shall not see the Lord in the land of the living, in the blessed ordinances. "

Answer– It will take you to your best Friend, the Lord Christ. The friends you leave behind you, if they be indeed people of worth, you will meet again, when they come to heaven, and you will never be separated any more. If death takes you away from the temple below, it will carry you to the temple above. It will indeed take you from the streams, but it will set you down by the fountain. If it puts out your candle, it will carry you where there is no night, where there is an eternal day.

Case 3– "I have so much to do, in time of health, to satisfy myself as to my interest in Christ, about my being a real Christian, a regenerate man, that I judge it is almost impossible I should die comfortably. "

Answer– If it is thus with you, then double your diligence to make your calling and election sure. Endeavour to grow in knowledge, and walk closely with God– be diligent in self-examination; and pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit, whereby you may know the things freely given you of God. If you are enabled, by the power and Spirit of Christ, thus diligently to prosecute your spiritual concerns, though the time of your life be neither day nor night, yet at evening time it may be light.

Many weak Christians indulge doubts and fears about their spiritual state, as if they placed at least some part of religion in their imprudent practice; but towards the end of life, they think and act in another manner. The traveller, who reckons that he has time to spare, may stand still debating with himself, whether this or the other be the right way– but when the sun begins to set, he is forced to lay aside his scruples, and resolutely to go forward in the road which he judges to be the right one, lest he lie all night in the open fields. Thus some Christians, who perplex themselves much, throughout the course of their lives, with jealous doubts and fears, content themselves when they come to die, with such evidences of the safety of their state, as they could not be satisfied with before; and by disputing less against themselves, and believing more, court the peace they formerly rejected, and gain it too.

Case 4– "I am under a sad decay, in respect of my spiritual condition. "

Answer– Bodily consumptions may make death easy– but it is not so in spiritual decays. I will not say, that a godly man cannot be easy in such a case, when he dies, but I believe it is rarely so. Ordinarily, I suppose a cry comes to awaken sleeping virgins, before death comes. Samson is set to grind in the prison, until his locks grow again. David and Solomon fell under great spiritual decays; but before they died, they recovered their spiritual strength and vigour. However, bestir yourselves without delay, to strengthen the things that remain– your fright will be the less, for being awakened from spiritual sleep before death comes to your bedside– and you ought to lose no time, seeing you know not how soon death may seize you.

Case 5– "It is terrible to think of the other world, that world of spirits, which I have so little acquaintance with. "

Answer– Your best friend is Lord of that other world. Abraham's bosom is kindly even to those who never saw his face. After death, your soul becomes capable of converse with the blessed inhabitants of that other world. The spirits of just men made perfect, were once such as your spirit now is. And as for the angels, however superior their nature in the rank of beings, yet our nature is dignified above theirs, in the man Christ, and they are all of them your Lord's servants, and so your fellow-servants.

Case 6– "The pangs of death are terrible. "

Answer– Yet not so terrible as pangs of conscience, caused by a piercing sense of guilt, and apprehensions of divine wrath, with which I suppose them to be not altogether unacquainted. But who would not endure bodily sickness, that the soul may become sound, and every whit whole? Each pang of death will set sin a step nearer the door; and with the last breath, the body of sin will breathe out its last. The pains of death will not last long; and the Lord your God will not leave, but support you under them.

Case 7– "But I am likely to be cut off in the midst of my days. "

Answer– Do not complain, you will be the sooner at home– you thereby have the advantage of your fellow-labourers, who were at work before you in the vineyard. God, in the course of his providence, hides some of his saints early in the grave, that they may be taken away from the evil to come. An early removal out of this world, prevents much sin and misery. They have no ground of complaint, who get the residue of their years in Immanuel's land. Surely you shall live as long as you have work cut out for you by the great Master, to be done for him in this world– and when that is at an end, it is high time to be gone.

Case 8– "I am afraid of sudden death. "

Answer– You may indeed die so. Good Eli died suddenly, 1 Sam. 4:18. Yet death found him watching, ver. 13. "Watch, therefore, for you know not what hour the Lord does come, " Matt. 24:42. But be not afraid, it is an inexpressible comfort, that death, come when it will, can never catch you out of Christ; and therefore can never seize you, as a jailor, to hurry you into the prison of hell. Sudden death may hasten and facilitate your passage to heaven, but can do you no prejudice.

Case 9– "I am afraid it will be my lot to die lacking the exercise of reason. "

Answer– I make no question but a child of God, a true Christian, may die in this case. But what harm? There is no hazard in it, as to his eternal state– a disease at death may divest him of his reason, but not of his religion. When a man, going on a long voyage, has put his affairs in order, and put all his goods aboard, he himself may he carried on board the ship sleeping– all is safe with him, although he knows not where he is, until he awake in the ship. Even so the godly man, who dies in this case, may die uncomfortably, but not unsafely.

Case 10– "I am naturally timorous, and the very thoughts of death are terrible to me. "

Answer– The less you think on death, the thoughts of it will be the more frightful– make it familiar to you by frequent meditations upon it, and you may thereby quiet your fears. Look at the white and bright side of the cloud– take faith's view of the city that has foundations; so shall you see hope in your death. Be duly affected with the body of sin and death, the frequent interruptions of your communion with God, and with the glory which dwells on the other side of death– this will contribute much to remove slavish fear.

It is a pity that saints should be so fond of life as they often are– they ought to be always on good terms with death. When matters are duly considered, it might be well expected that every child of God, every regenerate man, should generously profess concerning this life, what Job did, chap. 7:16, "I loath it, I would not live always. " In order to gain their hearts to this desirable temper, I offer the following additional considerations.

I. Consider the SINFULNESS that attends life in this world.

While you live here, you sin, and see others sinning. You breathe infectious air. You live in pest-house. Is it at all strange to loathe such a life?

1. Your own plague sores are running on you. Does not the sin of your nature make you groan daily? Are you not sensible, that though the cure is begun, it is far from being perfected? Has not the leprosy got into the walls of the house, which cannot be removed without pulling it down? Is not your nature so vitiated, that no less than the separation of the soul from the body can root out the disease? Have you not your sores without, as well as your sickness within? Do you not leave marks of your pollution on whatever passes through your hands? Are not all your actions tainted and blemished with defects and imperfections? Who, then, should be much in love with life, but such whose sickness is their health, and who glory in their shame?

2. The loathsome sores of others are always before your eyes, go where you will. The follies and wickedness of men are everywhere conspicuous, and make but an unpleasant scene. This sinful world is but an unsightly company, a disagreeable crowd, in which the most loathsome are the most numerous.

3. Are not your own sores often breaking out again after healing? Frequent relapses may well cause us remit of our fondness for this life. To be ever struggling, and anon falling into the mire again, makes weary work. Do you never wish for cold death, thereby effectually to cool the heat of these lusts, which so often take fire again, even after a flood of godly sorrow has gone over them?

4. Do not you sometimes infect others, and others infect you? There is no society in the world, in which every member of it does not sometimes lay a stumbling-block before the rest. The best carry about with them the tinder of a corrupt nature, which they cannot be rid of while they live, and which is liable to be kindled at all times, and in all places– yes, they are apt to inflame others, and become the occasions of sinning. Certainly these things are apt to embitter this life to the saints.

II. Consider the MISERY and TROUBLES that attend it.

Rest is desirable, but it is not to be found on this side of the grave. Worldly troubles attend all men in this life. This world is a sea of trouble, where one wave rolls upon another. They who fancy themselves beyond the reach of trouble, are mistaken– no state, no stage of life, is exempted from it. The crowned head is surrounded by thorny cares. Honour many times paves the way to deep disgrace. Riches, for the most part, are kept to the hurt of the owners. The fairest rose lacks not prickles; and the heaviest cross is sometimes wrapped up in the greatest earthly comfort.

Spiritual troubles attend the saints in this life. They are like travellers journeying in a cloudy night, in which the moon sometimes breaks out from under one cloud, but quickly hides her head again under another– no wonder they long to be at their journey's end. The sudden alterations which the best frame of spirit is liable to, the perplexing doubts, confounding fears, short-lived joys, and long-running sorrows, which have a certain affinity with the present life, must needs create in the saints a desire to be with Christ, which is best of all.

III. Consider the great IMPERFECTIONS attending this life.

While the soul is lodged in this cottage of clay, the necessities of the body are many– it is always craving. The mud walls must be repaired and patched up daily, until the clay cottage falls down for good and all. Eating, drinking, sleeping, and the like, are, in themselves, but base employments for a rational creature; and will be reputed such by the heaven-born soul. They are 'badges of imperfection', and, as such, unpleasant to the mind aspiring unto that life and immortality which is brought to light through the gospel; and would be very grievous, if this state of things were of long continuance.

Does not the gracious soul often find itself yoked with the body, as with a companion in travel, unable to keep pace with it? When the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. When the soul would mount upward, the body is a clog upon it, and a stone tied to the foot of a bird attempting to fly. The truth is, O believer, your soul in this body is, at best, but like a diamond in a ring, where much of it is obscured; it is far sunk in the vile clay, until relieved by death.

I conclude this subject with a few DIRECTIONS how to prepare for death, so that we may die comfortably. I speak not here of habitual preparation for death, which a true Christian, in virtue of his gracious state, never lacks, from the time he is born again, and united to Christ; but of actual preparation, or readiness in respect of his particular case, frame, and disposition of mind and spirit; the lack of which makes even a saint very unfit to die.

First, Let it be your constant care to keep a clean conscience, "A conscience void of offence toward God, and toward man, " Acts 24:16. Beware of a standing controversy between God and you, on the account of some iniquity regarded in the heart. When an honest man is about to leave his country, and not to return, he settles accounts with those he had dealings with, and lays down methods for paying his debts in due time, lest he be reckoned a bankrupt, and arrested by an officer when he is going off. Guilt lying on the conscience, is a fountain of fears, and will readily sting severely, when death stares the criminal in the face. Hence it is, that many, even of God's children, when dying, wish passionately, and desire eagerly, that they may live to do what they ought to have done before that time.

Therefore, walk closely with God; be diligent, strict, and exact in your course– beware of loose, careless, and irregular conversation; as you would not lay up for yourselves anguish and bitterness of spirit, in a dying hour. And because, through the infirmity cleaving to us, in our present state of imperfection, in many things we offend all, renew your repentance daily, and be ever washing in the Redeemer's blood. As long as you are in the world, you will need to wash your feet, John 13:10, that is, to make application of the blood of Christ anew, for purging your consciences from the guilt of daily miscarriages. Let death find you at the 'fountain'; and, if so, it will find you ready to answer at its call.

Secondly, Be always watchful, waiting for your change, "like unto men that wait for their Lord– that when he comes and knocks, they may open unto him immediately, " Luke 12:36. Beware of "slumbering and sleeping, while the bridegroom tarries. " To be awakened out of spiritual slumber, by a surprising call to pass into another world, is a very frightful thing– but he who is daily waiting for the coming of his Lord, will comfortably receive the 'grim messenger', while he beholds him ushering in him, of whom he may confidently say, "This is my God, and I nave waited for him. " The way to die comfortably, is, to die daily! Be often essaying, as it were, to die. Bring yourselves familiarly acquainted with death, by making many visits to the grave, in serious meditations upon it. This was Job's practice, chapter 27:13, 14, "I have made my bed in the darkness. " Go and do likewise; and when death comes, you shall have nothing to do but to lie down. "I have said to corruption, You are my father– to the worm, You are my mother and my sister. " You say so too; and you will be the fitter to go home to their house.

Be frequently reflecting upon your conduct, and considering what course of life you wish to be found in, when death arrests you; and act accordingly. When you do the duties of your station in life, or are employed in acts of worship, think with yourselves, that, it may be, this is the last opportunity; and therefore do it as if you were never to do more of that kind. When you lie down at night, compose your spirits, as if you were not to awake until the heavens be no more. And when you awake in the morning, consider that new day as your last; and live accordingly. Surely that night comes, of which you will never see the morning; or that morning, of which you will never see the night. But which of your mornings or nights will be such, you know not.

Thirdly, Employ yourselves much in weaning your hearts from the world. The man who is making ready to go abroad, busies himself in taking leave of his friends. Let the mantle of earthly enjoyments hang loose about you; that it may be easily dropped, when death comes to carry you away into another world. Moderate your affections towards your lawful comforts of life– let not your hearts be too much taken with them. The traveller acts unwisely, who allows himself to be so allured with the 'conveniences of the inn' where he lodges, as to make his necessary departure from it grievous. Feed with fear, and walk through the world as pilgrims and strangers. Just as, when the corn is forsaking the ground, it is ready for the sickle; when the fruit is ripe, it falls off the tree easily; so, when a Christian's heart is truly weaned from the world, he is prepared for death, and it will be the more easy to him. A heart disengaged from the world is a heavenly one– we are ready for heaven when our heart is there before us, Matt. 6:21.

Fourthly, Be diligent in gathering and laying up evidences of your title to heaven, for your support and comfort at the hour of death. The neglect thereof mars the joy and consolation which some Christians might otherwise have at their death. Therefore, examine yourselves frequently as to your spiritual state; that evidences which lie hid and unobserved, may be brought to light and taken notice of. And if you would manage this work successfully, make solemn, serious work of it. Set apart some time for it. And, after earnest prayer to God, through Jesus Christ, for the enlightening influences of his Holy Spirit, whereby you are enabled to understand his own word, and to discern his own work in your souls; examine yourselves before the tribunal of your own consciences, that you may judge yourselves, in this weighty matter.

And, in the first place, let the marks of a regenerate state be fixed from the Lord's Word– have recourse to some particular text for that purpose; such as Prov. 8:17, "I love those who love me. " Compare Luke 14:26, "If any man comes to me, and hates not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. " Psalm 119:6, "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all your commandments. " Psalm 18:23, "I was also upright before him; and I kept myself from my iniquity. " Compare Romans 7:22, 23, "For I delight in the law of God, after the inward man– but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind. " 1 John 3:3, "Every man that has this hope in him, purifies himself, even as he is pure. " Matt. 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit– for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. " Phil. 3:3, "For we are the circumcision, which worship, " or serve "God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. "

The sum of the evidence arising from these texts, lies here– a real Christian is one who loves God for himself, as well as for his benefits; and that with a supreme love, above all persons, and all things; he has an weighty and impartial regard to God's commands; he opposes and wrestles against that sin, which of all others most easily besets him; he approves and loves the holy law, even in that very point wherein it strikes against his own beloved lust; his hope of heaven engages him to the study of universal holiness; in which he aims at perfection, though he cannot reach it in this life; he serves the Lord, not only in acts of worship, but in the whole of his conversation; and as to both, is spiritual in the principle, motives, aims, and ends of his service; yet he sees nothing in himself to trust to, before the Lord; Christ and his fullness are the stay of his soul; his confidence is cut off from all that is not Christ, or in Christ, in point of justification or acceptance with God, and in point of sanctification too. Everyone, in whom these characters are found, has a title to heaven, according to the word. It is convenient and profitable to mark such texts, for this special use, as they occur, while you read the Scriptures, or hear sermons.

The marks of a regenerate state thus fixed, in the next place impartially search and test your own hearts thereby, as in the sight of God, with dependence on him for spiritual discernment, that you may know whether they be in you or not. When you find them, form the conclusion deliberately and distinctly; namely, that therefore you are regenerated, and have a title to heaven. Thus you may gather evidences. But be sure to have recourse to God in Christ, by earnest prayer, for the testimony of the Spirit, whose office it is to "bear witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, " Rom. 8:16.

Moreover, carefully observe the course and method of providence towards you; and likewise, how your soul is affected under the same, in the various steps thereof– compare both with Scripture doctrines, promises, threatenings, and examples– so shall you perceive if the Lord deals with you as he always does unto those who love his name, and if you are going forth by the footsteps of the flock. This may afford you comfortable evidence. Walk tenderly and circumspectly, and the Lord will manifest himself to you, according to his promise, John 14:21, "He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me; and he that loves me, shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. " But it is in vain to think of successful self-examination, if you are loose and irregular in your walk.

Lastly, Dispatch the work of your day and generation with speed and diligence. David, "after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep" Acts 13:36. God has allotted us certain pieces of work of this kind, which ought to be dispatched before the time of working be over, Eccl. 9:10, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might– for there is no work, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you are going. " Gal. 6:10, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto those who are of the household of faith. " If a passenger, after he has gotten on ship, and the ship is getting under sail, remembers that he has omitted to dispatch a piece of necessary business when be was ashore, it must needs be uneasy to him. Even so, reflection in a dying hour upon neglected seasons, and lost opportunities, cannot fail to disquiet a Christian. Therefore, whatever is incumbent upon you to do for God's honour, and the good of others, either as the duty of your station, or by special opportunity put into your hand, perform it seasonably, if you would die comfortably.

Section III. THE RESURRECTION

"Marvel not at this– for the hour is coming, in which all who are in the graves shall hear his voice– and shall come forth; those who have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. " John 5:28-29

These words are part of the defence which our Lord Jesus Christ makes for himself, when persecuted by the Jews, for curing the impotent man and ordering him to carry away his bed on the Sabbath; and for vindicating his conduct, when accused by them of having thereby profaned that day. On this occasion he professes himself not only the Lord of the Sabbath, but also Lord of life and death; declaring, in the words of the text, the resurrection of the dead to be brought to pass by his power. This he introduces with these words, as with a solemn preface, "Marvel not at this, "– at this strange discourse of mine– do not wonder to hear me, whose appearance is so very base in your eyes; for the day is coming, in which the dead shall be raised by my power.

Observe in this text,

1. The doctrine of the resurrection asserted, "All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth. " The dead bodies, which are reduced to dust, shall revive, and evidence life by hearing and moving.

2. The author of it– Jesus Christ, "the Son of man, " verse 27. The dead shall hear his voice, and be raised thereby.

3. The number that shall be raised, "All that are in the graves, " that is, all the dead bodies of men, howsoever differently disposed of, in different kinds of graves; or all the dead, good and bad. They are not all buried in graves, properly so called– some are burnt to ashes; some drowned, and buried in the bellies of fish; yes, some devoured by man-eaters, called cannibals; but, wherever the matter or substance of which the body was composed is to be found, thence they shall come forth.

4. The great distinction that shall be made between the godly and the wicked– they shall indeed both rise again in the resurrection. None of the godly shall be missing; though, perhaps, they either had no burial, or a very obscure one; and all the wicked shall come forth; their vaulted tombs shall hold them no longer than the voice is uttered. But the former have a joyful resurrection to life, while the latter have a dreadful resurrection to damnation.

5. The set time of this great event– there is an hour, or certain fixed period of time, appointed of God for it. We are not told when that hour will be, but that it is coming; for this, among other reasons, that we may always be ready.

Doctrine. There shall be a resurrection of the dead.

In discoursing of this subject, I shall–

I. Show the certainty of the resurrection.

II. I shall inquire into the nature of it.

III. And, Lastly, make some practical improvement of the whole.

I. In showing the CERTAINTY of the resurrection,

I shall evince, 1. That God can raise the dead. 2. That he will do it; which are the two grounds or topics laid down by Christ himself, when disputing with the Sadducees, Matt. 22:29, "Jesus answered and said unto them, you do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. "

Seeing God is almighty, surely he can raise the dead. We have instances of this powerful work of God, both in the Old and New Testament. The son of the widow in Sarepta was raised from the dead, 1 Kings 17:22; the Shunammite's son, 2 Kings 4:35; and the man "cast into the sepulchre of Elisha, " chapter 13:21. In which we may observe a gradation, the second of these miraculous events being more illustrious than the first, and the third than the second. The first of these persons was raised when he was but newly dead; the prophet Elijah, who raised him being present at his decease. The second, when he had lain dead a considerable time; namely, while his mother travelled from Shunem, to mount Carmel, reckoned about the distance of sixteen miles, and returned from thence to her house, with Elisha, who raised him. The last, not until they were burying him, and the corpse was cast into the prophet's grave. In like manner, in the New Testament, Jairus's daughter, Mark 5:41, and Dorcas, Acts 9:40, were both raised to life, when lately dead; the widow's son in Nain, when they were carrying him out to bury him, Luke 12:11-15; and Lazarus, when putrid in the grave, John 11:39, 44.

Can men make curious glasses out of ashes, reduce flowers into ashes, and raise them again out of these ashes, restoring them to their former beauty? And cannot the great Creator, who made all things of nothing, raise man's body, after it is reduced into the dust? If it be objected, "How can men's bodies be raised up again, after they are reduced to dust, and the ashes of many generations are mingled together?" Scripture and reason furnish the answer, "With men it is impossible, but not with God. " It is absurd for men to deny that God can do a thing, because they see not how it may be done. How small a portion do we know of his ways! How absolutely incapable are we of conceiving distinctly of the extent of almighty power, and much more of comprehending its actings, and method of procedure! I question not, but many illiterate men are as great unbelievers as to many chemical experiments, as some learned men are to the doctrine of the resurrection– and as these last are ready to deride the former, so, "the Lord will have them in derision. "

What a mystery was it to the Indians, that the Europeans could, by a piece of paper, converse together at the distance of some hundreds of miles! How much were they astonished to see them, with their guns, produce as it were thunder and lightning in a moment, and at pleasure kill men afar off! Shall some men do such things as are wonders in the eyes of others because they cannot comprehend them, and shall men confine the infinite power of God within the narrow boundaries of their own shallow capacities, in a matter no ways contrary to reason! An inferior nature has but a very imperfect conception of the power of a superior. Brutes do not conceive of the actings of reason in men; and men have but imperfect notions of the power of angels– how low and inadequate a conception, then, must a finite nature have of the power of that which is infinite! Though we cannot conceive how God acts, yet we ought to believe he can do above what we can think or conceive.

Therefore, let the bodies of men be laid in the grave; let them rot there, and be reduced into the most minute particles– or let them be burnt, and the ashes cast into rivers, or thrown up into the air, to be scattered by the wind– let the dust of a thousand generations be mingled, and the steams of the dead bodies wander to and fro in the air– let birds or wild beasts eat the bodies, or the fish of the sea devour them, so that the parts of human bodies, thus destroyed, pass into substantial parts of birds, beasts or fish; or, what is more that that, let man-eaters, who themselves must die and rise again, devour human bodies, and let others devour them again, and then let our modern Sadducees propose the questions in these cases, as the ancient Sadducees did in the case of the woman who had been married to seven husbands successively, Matt. 22:28. We answer, as our blessed Lord and Saviour did, ver. 29, "You do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. " We believe God to be omniscient and omnipotent; infinite in knowledge and in power– and hence, agreeably to the dictates of reason, we conclude the possibility of the resurrection, even in the cases supposed.

Material things may change their forms and shapes, may be reduced to the principles of which they are formed– but they are not annihilated, or reduced to nothing; nor can they be so, by any created power. God is omniscient, his understanding is infinite; therefore he knows all things; what they were at any time, what they are, and where they are to be found. Though the countryman, who comes into the apothecary's shop, cannot find out the drug he wants; yet the apothecary himself knows what he has in his shop, whence it came, and where it is to be found. And, in a mixture of many different seeds, the expert gardener can distinguish between each of them. Why then may not Omniscience distinguish between dust and dust? Can he, who knows all things to perfection, be liable to any mistake about his own creatures? Whoever believes an infinite understanding, must needs own, that no mass of dust is so jumbled together, but God perfectly comprehends, and infallibly knows, how the most minute particle, and every one of them is to be matched.

II. I shall inquire into the NATURE of the resurrection, showing,

1. Who shall be raised.

2. What shall be raised.

3. How the dead shall be raised.

1. WHO shall be raised?

Our text tells us who they are; namely "all that are in the graves, " that is, all mankind who are dead. As for those people who are found alive at the second coming of Christ, they shall not die, and soon after be raised again; but such a change shall suddenly pass upon them as shall be to them instead of dying and rising again; so that their bodies shall become like lo those bodies which are raised out of their graves, 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. " Hence those who are to be judged at the great day, are distinguished into living and dead, Acts 10:42. All the dead shall arise, whether godly or wicked, just or unjust, Acts 24:15, old or young; the whole race of mankind, even those who never saw the sun, but died in their mother's womb– Revelation 20:12, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God. " The sea and earth shall give up their dead without reserve, none shall be kept back.

2. WHAT shall be raised?

The bodies of mankind. A man is said to die, when the soul is separated from the body, "and returns onto God who gave it, " Eccl. 12:7. But it is the body only which is laid in the grave, and can be properly said to be raised– therefore the resurrection, strictly speaking, applies to the body only. Moreover, it is the same body that dies, which shall rise again. At the resurrection, men shall not appear with other bodies, as to substance, than those which they now have, and which are laid down in the grave; but with the self-same bodies, endowed with other qualities. The very notion of a resurrection implies this, since nothing can be said to rise again, but that which falls.

3. HOW shall the dead be raised?

The same Jesus, who was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, shall, at the last day, to the conviction of all, be declared both Lord and Christ– appearing as Judge of the world, attended with his mighty angels, 2 Thess. 1:7, "He shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, " 1 Thess. 4:16, "The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, and those who are alive, changed, " 1 Cor. 15:52. Whether this shout, voice, and trumpet, denote some audible voice, or only the workings of Divine power, for the raising of the dead, and other dreadful purposes of that day, though the former seems probable, I will not positively determine. There is no question but this coming of the Judge of the world will be in greater majesty and terror than we can conceive– yet that dreadful grandeur, majesty, and state, which was displayed at the giving of the law, namely, thunders heard, lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount seen, the Lord descending in fire, the whole mount quaking greatly, and the voice of the trumpet waxing louder and louder, Exod. 19:16-19, may help us to form a becoming thought of it. However, the sound of this trumpet shall be heard all the world over; it shall reach to the depths of the sea, and of the earth. At this loud alarm, bones shall come together, bone to his bone– the scattered dust of all the dead shall be gathered together, dust to his dust; "neither shall one thrust another, they shall walk every one in his path;" and, meeting together again, shall make up that very same body which crumbled into dust in the grave. At the same alarming voice shall every soul come again into its own body, never more to be separated. The dead can stay no longer in their graves, but must bid an eternal farewell to their long homes– they hear His voice, and must come forth, and receive their final sentence.

Now as there is a great difference between the godly and the wicked, in their life, and in their death; so will there be also in their resurrection.

The godly shall be raised out of their graves, by virtue of the Spirit of Christ, the blessed bond of their union with him, Rom. 8:11, "He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwells in you. " Jesus Christ arose from the dead, as the "first-fruits of those who slept, " 1 Cor. 15:20, So those who are Christ's shall follow at his coming, ver. 23. The mystical head having got above the waters of death, he cannot but bring forth the members after him, in due time.

They shall come forth with inexpressible joy; for then shall that passage of Scripture, which, in its immediate scope, respected the Babylonish captivity, be fully accomplished in its most extensive meaning, Isa. 26:19, "Awake and sing, you that dwell in the dust. " As a bride adorned for her husband, goes forth of her bedchamber unto the marriage– so shall the saints go forth of their graves, unto the marriage of the Lamb. Joseph had a joyful coming out from the prison, Daniel from the lion's den, and Jonah from the whale's belly– yet these are but faint representations of the saint's coming forth from the grave, at the resurrection. Then shall they sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in highest strains; death being quite swallowed up in victory. They had, while in this life, sometimes sung, by faith the triumphant song over death and the grave, "O death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?" But then they sing the same, from sight and sense; the black band of doubts and fears, which frequently disturbed them, and disturbed their minds, is forever dispersed and driven away.

May we not suppose the soul and body of every saint, as in mutual embraces, to rejoice in each other, and triumph in their happy meeting again; and the BODY to address the soul thus– "O my soul, have we got together again, after so long a separation! are you come back to your old habitation, never more to remove! O joyful meeting! how unlike is our present state to what our case was, when a separation was made between us at death! Now is our mourning turned into joy; the light and gladness sown before, are now sprung up; and there is a perpetual spring in Immanuel's land. Blessed be the day in which I was united to you; whose chief care was to get Christ in us the hope of glory, and to make me a temple for his Holy Spirit. O blessed soul, which in the time of our pilgrimage, kept your eye to the land then afar off, but now near at hand! you took me into secret places, and there made me to bow these knees before the Lord, that I might bear a part in our humiliation before him– and now is the time that I am lifted up. You did employ this tongue in confessions, petitions, and thanksgivings, which henceforth shall be employed in praising for evermore. You made these sometimes weeping eyes, sow that seed of tears, which is now sprung up in joy that shall never end. I was happily beat down by you, and kept in subjection, while others pampered their flesh, and made their bellies their gods, to their own destruction– but now I gloriously arise, to take my place in the mansions of glory, while they are dragged out of their graves to be cast into fiery flames. Now, my soul, you shall complain no more of a sick and pained body; you shall be no more clogged with weak and weary flesh; I shall now keep pace with you in the praises of our God for evermore. "

And may not the SOUL say–

"O happy day in which I return to dwell in that blessed body, which was, and is, and will be forever, a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit! Now I shall be eternally knit to you– the silver cord shall never be loosed more– death shall never make another separation between us. Arise then, my body, and come away! And let these eyes, which were used to weep over my sins, behold with joy the face of our glorious Redeemer; lo! this is our God, and we have waited for him. Let these ears, which were used to hear the word of life in the temple below, come and hear the hallelujahs in the temple above. Let these feet, that carried me to the congregation of saints on earth, take their place among those in heaven. And let this tongue, which confessed Christ before men, and used to be still dropping something to his commendation, join the choir of the upper house, in his praises for evermore. You shall fast no more, but keep an everlasting feast; you shall weep no more, neither shall your countenance be overclouded; but you shall shine forever, as a star in the skies. We took part together in the fight; come, let us go together to receive and wear the crown. "

But on the other hand, the WICKED shall be raised by the power of Christ, as a just Judge, who is to render vengeance to his enemies. The same divine power which shut up their souls in hell, and kept their bodies in the grave, as in a prison, shall bring them forth, that soul and body together may receive the dreadful sentence of eternal damnation, and be shut up together in the prison of hell.

They shall come forth from their graves with unspeakable horror and consternation. They shall be dragged forth, as so many malefactors out of a dungeon, to be led to execution crying to the mountains and to the rocks to fall on them, and hide them from the face of the Lamb. Fearful was the cry in Egypt, that night on which the destroying angel went through, and slew their first-born. Dreadful were the shouts, at the earth opening her mouth, and swallowing up Dathan and Abiram, and all that appertained to them. What hideous crying then must there be, when at the sound of the last trumpet, the earth and sea shall open their mouths, and cast forth all the wicked world, delivering them up to the dreadful Judge! How will they cry, roar, and tear themselves! How will the jovial companions weep and howl, and curse one another! How will the earth be filled with their doleful shrieks and lamentations, while they are pulled out like sheep for the slaughter!

They who, while they lived in this world, were profane, debauchees, covetous worldlings, or formal hypocrites, shall then, in anguish of mind, wring their hands, beat their breasts, and bitterly lament their case, roaring forth their complaints, and calling themselves beasts, fools, and madmen, for having acted so mad a part in this life, in not believing what they then heard. They were driven away in their wickedness at death– and now all their sins rise with them; and, like so many serpents, twist themselves about their wretched souls, and bodies too, which have a frightful meeting, after a long separation.

Then we may suppose the miserable BODY thus to accost the soul– "Have you again found me, O mine enemy, my worst enemy, savage soul, more cruel than a thousand tigers. Cursed be the day that ever we met. O that I had remained a lifeless lump, rotted in the womb of my mother, and had never received sense, life, and motion! O that I had rather been the body of a toad, or serpent, than your body; for then had I lain still, and had not seen this terrible day. If I was to be necessarily yours, O that I had been your donkey, or one of your dogs, rather than your body; for then would you have taken more true care of me than you did! O cruel kindness! have you thus hugged me to death, thus nourished me to the slaughter? Is this the effect of your tenderness for me? Is this what I am to reap of your pains and concern about me? What do riches and pleasures avail now, when this fearful reckoning is come! of which you had fair warning? O cruel grave! why did you not close your mouth upon me forever? Why did you not hold fast your prisoner? Why have you shaken me out, while I lay still and was at rest? Cursed soul, wherefore did you not abide in your place, wrapped up in flames of fire? Wherefore are you come back, to take me also down to the bars of the pit? You made me an instrument of unrighteousness; and now I must be thrown into the fire. This tongue was by you employed in mocking at religion, cursing, swearing, lying, backbiting, and boasting; and withheld from glorifying God– and now it must not have so much as a drop of water to cool it in the flames! You withdrew mine ears from hearing the sermons which gave warning of this day. You found ways and means to stop them from attending to seasonable exhortations, admonitions, and reproofs. But why did you not stop them from hearing the sound of this dreadful trumpet? Why do you not rove and fly away on the wings of imagination, thereby, as it were, transporting me during these frightful transactions; as you were used to do, when I was set down at sermons, communions, prayers, and godly conferences; that I might now have as little sense of the one, as I formerly had of the other? But ah! I must burn forever, for your love to your lusts, your profanity, your sensuality, your unbelief, and hypocrisy. "

But may not the SOUL answer– "Wretched and vile carcass! I am now driven back into you. O that you had lain forever in your grave! Had I not torment enough before? Must I be knit to you again, that, being joined together as two dry sticks for the fire, the wrath of God may burn us up? It was by caring for you, that I lost myself. It was your appetites, and the gratifying of your senses, which ruined me. How often was I ensnared by your ears! how often betrayed by your eyes! It was to spare you, that I neglected opportunities of making peace with God, loitered away Sabbaths, lived in the neglect of prayer; went to the house of mirth, rather than to the house of mourning; and that I chose to deny Christ, and forsake his cause and interest in the world; and so am fallen a sacrifice to your cursed ease. When at any time my conscience began to awake, and I was setting myself to think of my sins, and the misery which I have felt since we parted, and now feel, it was you that diverted me from these thoughts, and drew me off to make provision for you. O wretched flesh! by your silken cords of fleshly lusts, I was drawn to destruction, in defiance of my light and conscience– but now they are turned into iron chains, with which I am to be held under wrath for evermore. Ah wretched profits! ah cursed pleasures! for which I must lie forever in utter darkness!"

But no complaints will then avail. O that men were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!

As to the qualities with which the bodies of the SAINTS shall be endowed at the resurrection, the apostle tells us, they shall be raised incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual, 1 Cor. 15:42-44, "It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. "

1. The bodies of the saints shall be raised INCORRUPTIBLE.

They are now, as the bodies of others, a mass of corruption, full of the seeds of diseases and death; and, when dead, become so offensive, even to their dearest friends, that they must be buried out of their sight, and cast into the grave, where they are to rot, and be consumed– yes, loathsome sores and diseases make some of them very unsightly, even while alive. But, at the resurrection, they leave all the seeds of corruption behind them in the grave; and rise incorruptible, incapable of the least indisposition, sickness, or sore, and much more, of dying. External violences and inward causes of pain, shall forever cease– they shall feel it no more– yes, they shall have an everlasting youth and vigour, being no more subject to the decays which age produced in this life.

2. They shall be GLORIOUS bodies;

not only beautiful, lovely, and well-proportioned, but full of splendour and brightness. The most beautiful face, and best proportioned body, that now appears in the world, is not to be named in comparison with the body of the lowest saint at the resurrection; for "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun, " Matt. 13:43. If there was a dazzling glory on Moses' face, when he came down from the mount; and if Stephen's face was "as it had been the face of an angel, " when he stood before the council; how much more shall the faces of the saints be beautiful and glorious, full of sweet agreeable majesty, when they have put off all corruption, and shine as the sun! But observe, this beauty of the saints is not restricted to their faces, but diffuses itself through their whole bodies– for the whole body is raised in glory, and shall be fashioned like unto their Lord and Saviour’s glorious body, in whose transfiguration, not only did his face shine as the sun, but his clothing also was white as the light, Matt. 17: 2. Whatever defects or deformities the bodies of the saints had when laid in the grave, occasioned by accidents in life, or arising from secret causes in their formation in the womb, they shall rise out of the grave free of all these.

But suppose the marks of the Lord Jesus, the scars or prints of the wounds and bruises which some of the saints received while on earth, for his sake, should remain in their bodies after the resurrection; the same as the print of the nails remained in the Lord Jesus' body after his resurrection– these marks will rather be badges of distinction, and add to their glory, than detract from their beauty. But however that be, surely Isaac's eyes shall not then be dim, nor will Jacob halt– Leah shall not be tender-eyed, nor Mephibosheth lame of his legs. For as the goldsmith melts down the old broken vessel, and casts it over again in a new mould, bringing it forth with a new lustre; so shall the vile body, which lay dissolved in the grave, come forth at the resurrection, in perfect beauty and lovely proportion.

3. They shall be POWERFUL and strong bodies.

The strongest men on earth, being frail and mortal, may justly be reckoned weak and feeble; for their strength, however great, is quickly worn out and consumed. Many of the saints now have weaker bodies than others; but "the feeble among them, " to allude to Zechariah 12:8, at that day shall be "as David, and the house of David shall be as God. " A grave divine says, that one shall be stronger at the resurrection than a hundred, yes, than thousands are now. Certainly great, and vastly great, must the strength of glorified bodies be; for they shall bear up under an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The mortal body is not at all adapted to such a state. Do transports of joy occasion death, as well as excessive grief, and can it bear up under a weight of glory? Can it exist in union with a soul filled with heaven's rapture? Surely not. The mortal body would sink under that load, and such fullness of joy would make the earthen pitcher to fly all in pieces.

The Scripture has plainly told us, "That flesh and blood, " namely, in their present frail state, though it were the flesh and blood of a giant, "cannot inherit the kingdom of God, " 1 Cor. 15:50. How strong must the bodily eyes be, which, to the soul's eternal comfort, shall behold the dazzling glory and splendour of the New Jerusalem; and steadfastly look at the transcendent glory and brightness of the man Christ, the Lamb, who is the light of that city, the inhabitants whereof shall shine as the sun! The Lord of heaven does now in mercy "hold back the face of his throne, and spreads his clouds upon it;" that mortals may not be confounded with the rays of glory which shine forth from it, Job 26:9. But then the veil shall be removed, and they made able to behold it, to their unspeakable joy. How strong must their bodies be, who shall not rest night nor day, but be, without intermission, forever employed in the heavenly temple, to sing and proclaim the praises of God without weariness, which is a weakness incident to the frail mortal, but not to the glorified body!

4. They shall be SPIRITUAL bodies.

Not that they shall be changed into spirits, but they shall be spiritual as to their spirit-like qualities and endowments. The body shall be absolutely subservient to the soul, subject to it, and influenced by it, and therefore no more a clog to its activity, nor the animal appetites a snare to it. There will be no need to beat it down, nor to drag it to the service of God. The soul, in this life is so much influenced by the body, that, in Scripture style, it is said to be carnal; but then the body shall be spiritual, readily serving the soul in the business of heaven, and in that only, as if it had no more relation to earth than a spirit. It will have no further need of the now necessary supports of life, namely, food, and clothing, and the like. "