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No, no, none believe, none (or next to none) believe what -a just God the LORD is, and how severely' he punisheth.
Fifthly, There is in the mind of man a natural proneness to lies and falsehood, which make for the safety of lusts. « They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies,” Psal. lvii. 3. We have this with the rest of the corruption of our nature from our first parents. God revealed the truth to them; but through the solicitation of the tempter, they first doubted of it; they disbelieved it, and embraced a lie instead of it. And for an incontestible evidence hereof, we may see that first article of the devil's creed, ye shall not surely die, Gen. iii. 4. which was obtruded by him on our first parents, and by them received ; naturally embraced by their posterity, and hold fast, till a light from heaven oblige them to quit it. It spreads itself through the lives of natural men ; who till their consciences be awakened, walk after their own lusts; still retaining the principle, That they shall not surely die. And this is often improyed to that perfection, that the man can say, over the belly of the denounced curse, “I shall have peace though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst,” Deut. xxix. 19. Whatever advantage the truths of God have over error by means of education, or otherwise ; error has always with the natural man this advantage against truth, name, ly, That there is something within him, which says, O that it were true : so the mind lies fair for assenting to it. And here is the reason of it. The true doctrine is, « the doctrine that is according to godliness," i Tim. vi. 3. and “ the truth which is after godliness," Tit. i. 1. Error is the doctrine which is according to ungedliness ; for there is never an error in the mind, nor an untruth vented in the world, in matters of religion, but what has an affinity with one corruption of the heart or other; according to that of the apostle, 2 Thess. ii. 21. “They 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' ready access to the minds of men in their natural state. Wherefore, it is nothing strange that men reject the simplicity of gospel truths and institutions, and greedily embrace error and external pomp in religion ; seeing they are so agreeable to the lusts of the heart, and the vanity of the mind of the natural man. And from hence also it is, that so many embrace atheistical principles ; for none do it but in compliance with their irregular passions ; none but these, whose advantage it would be, that there was no God.
Lastly, 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 exalteth itself against the knowledge of God," 2 Cor. x. 5. Lowliness of mind is not a flower that grows in the field of nature; but is planted by the fingers of God in a renewed heart, and learned of the lowly Jesus. It is natural to man to think highly of himself, and what is his own; for the stroke he has got by his fall in Adam has produced a false light, whereby mole-hills about him appear like mountains; and a thousand airy beautie's present themselves to his deluded fancy. Vain men would be wise, (so he accounts himself, and so he would be accounted of by others, though man be born like a wild ass's-colt, Job xi. 12. His way is right, because it is his own; for, “ every way of a man is right in his own eyes,” Proverbs xxi. 2. His state is good, because he knows no better; he is alive without the law, Rom. vii. 9. and therefore his hope is strong, and his confidence firm. It is another tower of Babel reared up against heaven; and shall 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 keeps up ; till either God himself, by his Spirit, rise an earthquake within the man, which tumbles it down, and leaves not one stone upon another, (2 Cor. x. 41, 45,) or death batter it down and raze the foundations of it, Luke xvi. 23. And as the natural man thinks highly of himself, so he thinks meanly of God, whatever he pretends, Psalm I. 21. « Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” The doctrine of the gospel and the mystery of Christ are foolishness to him ; and in his practice he treats them as such, I Corinth. i. 18. and ii. 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. xiv. 9. Sometimes the ordinary restraint of providence is 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 reasons crowd in it, and cannot be laid by all the arguments brought against them, till a power from on high captivate the mind, and still the mutiny of the corrupt principles.
Thus much of the corruption of the understanding; which, although the half be not told, may discover to you the absolute necessity of regenerating grace. Call the understanding now Ichabod, for the glory is departed from it. Consider this, ye that are yet in the state of nature, and groan ye out your case before the Lord, that the Sun of righteousness may arise upon you, before you be shut up in everlasting darkness. What avails your worldly wisdom? What do your attainments in religion avail, while your understanding lies yet wrapt 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. xlii. 24.) “ 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 shew anon.
Of the Corruption of the Will. II. The will, that commanding faculty, (which sometimes was faithful, and ruled with God, is now turned traitor, and rules with, and for the devil. God planted it in man wholly a right seed ; but now it is turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine. It was originally placed in a due subordination to the will of God, as was shewn before, but now it is gone wholly aside. However some do magnify the power of free-will, a view of the spirituality of the law, to which acts of moral discipline do in no ways answer; and a deep insight into the corruption of nature, given by the inward operation of the Spirit, convincing of sin, righteousness, and judge ment, would make men find an absolute need of the power of free grace, to remove the bands of wickedness from off the free-will. To open up this plague of the heart, I offer these following things to be considered: · First, 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, more than a dead man can raise himself out of his grave, Eph. ii. 1. We deny him not a power to chuse, pursue, and act, what on the matter is good ; but though he can will what is good and right, he can will Dothing aright and well. John xv. 5. Without me, i. e. separate from me, as a branch from the stock, (as both the word and context do carry it,) ye can do nothing : to wit, nothing truly and spiritually good. His very choice and desire of spiritual things is carnal and selfish, John ví. 26. 6. Ye seek me because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.” He not only comes not to Christ," but he cannot come, John vi. 44. And what can one do acceptable to God, who believeth not on him whom the Father hath sent? To evidence this inability for good in the unregenerate, consider these two things :
Evid. 1. How often does the light so shine before mens eyes, that they cannot but see the good they should chuse, and the evil they should refuse ; and yet their hearts have no more power to comply with that light than if they were arrested by some invisible hand? They see what is right; yet they follow, and cannot but follow, what is wrong. Their conscience tells them the right way, and approves of it too ; yet cannot their will be brought up to it; their corruption so chrains them, that they cannot embrace it ; so they sigh and go backward, over the belly of their light. And if it be not thus, how is it that the word, and way of holiness, meets with such entertainment in the world? How is it that clear arguments and reason on the side of piety and a holy life, which bear in themselves even on the carnal mind, do not bring men over to that side ? Although the being of a heaven and a hell were but a may-be, it were sufficient to determine the will to the choice of holiness, were it capable to be determined thereto by mere reason : But men, knowing the judginent of God, (that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them, Rom. i. 32. And how is it that these 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 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, can 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. And 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 do spring so much fearlessness about the soul's eternal state ; so many delays and off-puts in that weighty matter, whereby much work is laid up for a death-bed by some; while others are ruined by a legal walk, and unacquaintedness with the life of faith, and the making use of Christ for sanctification; ail flowing from the persuasion of sufficient natural abilities. So agreeable is it to corrupt nature.
Evid. 2. Let those, who, by the power of the spirit of bondage, having had the law laid out before them, in its spirituality, for their conviction, speak and tell, if they found themselves able to incline their hearts towards it, in that case ; nay, if 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, that from their experience can tell, 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, Rom. vii. 9, 10, 11, 13. I own the natural man may have a kind of love to the law ; but here lies the stress of the matter, he looks on the holy law in a carnal dress; and so, while he hugs a creature of his own fancy, he thinks 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, till changed by the power of grace.
Secondly, There is in the unrenewed will an averseness to good. Sin is the natural man's element; he is loath to *part with it, as the fishes are to come out of the water into