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not so much as performing the external duties of religion, but living to the view of the world; as sons of earth, only minding earthly things, Phil. ii. 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 view of the world. These are close hypocrites, who sacrifice as much to the corrupt mind, as the other to the flesh, Eph. ii. 3. These are ruined by a more undiscernable 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.
Secondly, How is it possible thou shouldst be able to do any good, thou 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 thy 'nature be wholly corrupt, as indeed it is, all thou dost is certainly so too, for no effect can exceed the virtue of its cause. « Can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit?” Math. vii. 18.. .
Ah! what a miserable spectacle is he that can do no- . thing but sin. Thou art the man, whosoever thou art, that art yet in thy natural state. Hear, O sinner, what is thy case.
First, Innumerable sins compass thee about. Mountains of guilt are lying upon thee. Floods of impurities overwhelm thee. Living lusts of all sorts roll up and down in the dead sea of thy soul; where no good can breathe, because of the corruption there. Thy lips are unclean ; the opening of thy mouth is as the opening of an unripe grave, full of stench and rottenness, Rom. iii. 13. “ Their throat is an open sepulchre.” Thy natural actions are sing for, “ when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?” Zech. vil. 6. Thy civil actions are sin, Prov. xxi. 4. "The plough ing of the wicked is sin.” Thy religious actions are sing Prov. xv. 8. ** The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomina , tion to the Lord.” The thoughts and imaginations of thy: heart are only evil. A deed may be soon done, a word soon spoken, a thought swiftly passeth through the heart but each is an item in thy accounts. Osad reckoning as many thoughts, words, acțions; as many sins
longer thou livest, thy accounts swell the more. Should a tear be dropped for every sin, thine head behoved to be water, and thine eyes a fountain of tears; for nothing but sin comes from thee. Thy heart frames nothing but evil imaginations; there is nothing in thy life, but what js framed by thine heart ; and, therefore, there is nothing in thy heart or life but evil.
Secondly, All thy religion, if thou hast any is lost labour; as to acceptance with God, or any saving effect to thyself, Art thou yet in thy natural state? Truly then thy 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 that was unclean touching any thing, whether com- mon or sacred, made it unclean. Even so thy duties can-",
not make thy corrupt soul holy, though they in themselves be good; but the corrupt heart defiles them, and makes them unclean, Haggai ii. 12, 13, 14. Thou wast wont to divide thy works into two sorts; some good, some evil ; but thou 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 to 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,
Lastly, Thou canst not help thyself. What canst thou do to take away thy sin, who art wholly corrupt ? Nothing truly but sin. If a natural man begin to relent, drop a tear for his sin, and reform, presently the corrupt heart apprehcnds, at least, a merit of congruity ; 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 congruous merit is the leper that must be put out of the camp; the dead soul buried out of sight; and the corrupt lump cast into the pit. How canst thou think to recover thyself by any thing thou canst do? Will mud and filth wash out filthiness? and wilt thou purge out sin by sinning? Job took a potsherd to scrape
himself, because his hands were as full of boils as his body. This is the case of thy corrupt soul ; not to be recovered but by Jesus Christ, whose strength was dried up like a potsherd, Psal. xxii. 15. Thou art poor, indeed, extreme. ly miserable and poor, Rev. iii. 17. Thou hast no shelter but a refuge of lies; no garment for thy soul, but filthy rags; nothing to nourish it, but husks that cannot satisfy. More than that, thou hast got such a bruise in the loins of Adam, which is not yet cured, that thou art without strength, Rom. v. 6. unable to do or work for thyself; nay, more than all this, thou canst not so much as seek aright, “ but liest helpless, as an infant exposed in the open field," Ezek. xvi. 5.
USE III. I exhort you to believe this sad truth. Alas! it is evident, it is very little believed in the world. Few are concerned to get their corrupt conversation changed; but fewer, by far, 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 ye know, every one the plague of his own heart, there is no hope of your recovery. Why will ge not believe it? Ye have plain scripture testimony for it; but you are loth to entertain such an ill opinion of yourselves. Alas! that is the nature of your disease, Rev. it. 17. 6 Thou knowest not that thou art 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 shut up this weighty point of the corruption of man's nature, with a few words to another doctrine from the text.
Doct. 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." See Psal. xiv. 2, 3.-2. By his works. God writes 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 the infant children of men. 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 doth 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 sinneth it shall die,” saith God, Ezek. xviii. 4. Is it their own actual sin? They have none. But as men do with toads and serpents, which they kill at first sight, before they have done any hurt, because of their venemous 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 minds to let out the corruption, the lance gets fum depth in their souls, reaching to the root of sin, Rom. vii. 7, 8, 9. The flesh or corruption of nature is pierced, being crucified, as well as the affections and lusts, Gal. v. 24.
USE. Let us then have a special eye upon the corruption and sin of our nature. God sees it: 0 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, 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 the handling of it,
I. I shall, for conviction, point at some evidences of mens overlooking the sin of their nature, which yet the Lord takes particular notice of. (1.) Mens looking on themselves with such confidence, as if they were in no hazard of gross sins. Many would take it very heinously, to get such a caution, as Christ gave his Apostles, Luke xxi. 34. “Take heed of surfeiting and drunkenness." If any should suppose them to break out in gross abominations, they 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.) Untenderness towards those that fall. Many in that case cast off all bowels of Christian compassion; for they do not « consider themselves, lest they also be tempted," Gal. vi. 1. Mens passions are often highest against the faults of others,
when sin sleeps soundly in their own breasts. Even good David, when he was at his worst, was most violent against the faults of others. While his conscience was asleep under his 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. xii. 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 un. der axes of iron, and making them pass through the brickkiln.” Grace makes inen 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 persons left to be such spectacles of huinan frailty. (3.) There are not a few, who, if they be kept from affliction in worldly things, and from gross outbreakings in their conversation, know not what it is to have a sad heart. If they meet with a cross, which their proud hearts cannot stoop to bear, they will be 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 theirlusts, 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; and so they are ieft 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.) Mens venturing frankly on temptations, and promising liberally on their own heads. They cast themselves fearless. ly into temptation, in confidence of coming off fairly ; but were they sensible of the corruption of their nature, they would beware of entering on the devil's ground : As one girt about with bags of gun-powder, would be loth to walk , where sparks of fire are flying, lest he should be blown up. Self-jealousing well becomes Christians : Lord, is it I?