Графични страници
PDF файл

must be cleansed from the filthiness of carnal affections, and having been so long under darkness, it must be strengthened, before it can sustain the brightness of things spiritual. Till it be prepared, it can see nothing amiable and desirable in the image of God.

The reward of holiness hath no attractive power on the carnal will, because it is future and spiritual.—It is future, and therefore the conceptions of it are very dark and imperfect. The soul is sunk down into the senses, and they are shortsighted and cannot look beyond what is present to the next life. And as the images of things are weakened and confused proportionably to their distance, and make a fainter impression upon the faculty ; so the representation of heaven and blessedness as a happiness to come hereafter, and therefore remote, doth but coldly affect the will. A present vanity, in the judgment of the carnal soul, outweighs the most glorious futurity. Till there be taken from before its eyes, in Tertullian's language, “the thick curtain of the visible world,” it cannot discern the difference between them, nor value the reward for its excellency and duration.—It is spiritual, and there must be a divine disposition of the soul before it is capable of it. The pure in heart only can see the pure God, Matt. v. 8. The felicity above is that which " eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive,” 1 Cor. ii. 9. Now the carnal man is affected only with gross and corporeal things. The certainty, immensity, and immortality of the heavenly reward, do not prevail with him to seek after it. He hath no palate for spiritual pleasures ; it is vitiated by luscious vanities, and cannot relish rational joys. Till the temper of the soul be altered, the bread of angels is distasteful to it ; for the appetite is according to the disposition of the stomach, and when that is corrupted, it longs for things hurtful, and rejects wholesome food. If a carnal man were translated to heaven, where the love of God reigns, and where the brightest and sweetest discoveries of his glory appear, he would not find paradise in heaven itself; for delight arises not merely from the excellency of the object, but from the proportionableness of it to the faculty. Though God is an infinite good in himself, yet if he is not conceived as the supreme good to man, he cannot make him happy.

Suppose some slight convictions to be in the mind, that happiness consists the enjoyment of God, yet this being

offered upon the terms of quitting all sensual lusts, the carnal man esteems the condition impossible, and therefore is discouraged from using any endeavours to obtain it; for to excite hope, it is not sufficient to propose a reward that is real and excellent, but that is attainable ; for although hope hath its tendency to a difficult good as its proper object, and the difficulty is so far from discouraging, that it quickens the soul and draws forth all the active powers, by rendering it greater in our esteem; yet when the difficulty is excessive, and confines upon impossibility, it dejects the soul and inclines it to despair. Thus when the condition of obtaining some good is necessary, but insufferable, it takes off from all endeavours in order to it.

To consider it in a temporal case, will make it more clear. As one that labours under a dropsy and is vexed with an intolerable and insatiable thirst, if a physician should assure him of cure upon condition he would abstain from drinking, he could not conceive any real hope of being healed, judging it impossible to resist the importunity of his drought; he therefore neglects the means, he drinks and dies; thus the corrupt heart of man, that is under a perpetual thirst of carnal pleasure, and is more inflamed by the satisfaction it receives, judges it an insuperable condition to part with them for the acquiring of spiritual happiness: and this sensual and sottish despair causes a total neglect of the means. It is thus expressed by the Israelites; when God commanded them to return from the evil of their ways in order to their happiness, they said, “There is no hope, but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.” Jer. xviii. 12. They were slaves to their domineering appetites, and resolved to make no trial about that they judged impossible. “ Abstinere nequeo,” Grot.

Briefly; in fallen man there is something predominant, which he values above the favour and fruition of God, and that is the world: as in the parable where happiness is set forth under the familiar representation of a feast, those who were invited to it, excuse themselves by such reasons as clearly discover that some amiable lust charmed them so strongly, that in the competition it was preferred before heaven. One saith, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it;” and another, “ I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them;" and a third, "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come,” Luke xiv. 18. The

objects of their passions are different, but they all produce the same effect, the rejection of happiness.

The sum of all is this, that as man fell from obedience, and lost the image of God, by seeking perfection and satisfaction, that is, happiness, in the creature; so he can never return to his obedience, acknowledge God as his supreme Lord, till he chooses him for his happiness. And this he can never entirely do, till he is born again, and hath a new principle of life that may change the complexion of the soul, and qualify it for those delights which are sublime and spiritual.

II. Fallen man can never recover the favour of God; and this is evident upon a double account—he is not able to make satisfaction to God's justice for the dishonour brought to him

-he is incapable of real repentance, which might qualify him for pardon.

1. He is unable to satisfy justice for his offence, either by exact obedience for the future, or by enduring the punishment that is due to sin.

(1.) Supposing that man could perform exact obedience after his fall, yet that could not be satisfaction. It is essential to satisfaction, that the action by which it is made be in the power of the person that satisfies. A servant, as a servant, cannot make satisfaction for an injury done to his lord, for whatsoever service he performs was due before the offence, and is not properly a restitution, because it is not of his own. Now the complete obedience of the creature is due to God. He is the Lord of all our actions, and whatever man doeth is but the payment of the original debt. The law requires a perpetual reverence of the Lawgiver, and express obedience to his will in all things: so that it is impossible that the highest respect to it afterwards, should compensate for the least violation of it.

Besides, to make satisfaction for a fault, it is necessary the offender do some voluntary act, that may be as honourable to the person, and as much above what he was before obliged to, as the contempt was dishonourable, and below that which was due. Unless God receive that which is as estimable in the nature of obedience, as the injury he received is in the nature of contempt, there can be no satisfaction. Now there is a greater dishonour brought to God by the commission of one sin, than there is honour by the perfect obedience of all the angels; for, in their obedience, God is preferred by the creature before things infinitely beneath him, which is but a

small honour; but by one sin he is disvalued in the comparison, which is infinite contempt.

(2.) Man cannot make satisfaction by suffering; for the punishment must be equal to the offence, which derives its guilt from the dignity of the person offended, and the indignity of the offender. Now, God is the universal King; his justice is infinite, which man hath injured, and his glory, which man hath obscured; and man is finite. And what proportion is there between finite and infinite? How can a worthless rebel that is hateful to God, expiate the offence of so excellent a majesty? If he sacrifice himself, he can never appease the divine displeasure; for what doth he offer but a lump of rebellion and ingratitude? He can make no other satisfaction but that of the devils, which continues for ever, and is not completed.

2. Fallen man, considered only in his own corrupt and miserable state, is incapable of real repentance, which is a necessary condition to qualify him for pardon; for whereas repentance includes an ingenuous sorrow for sin past and a sincere forsaking of it, he is utterly indisposed for both.

(1.) He cannot be ingenuously sorrowful for his offence. It is true, when the circumstances are changed, that which was pleasing will cause trouble of spirit; as when a malefactor suffers for his crimes, he reflects upon his actions with sorrow: but this hath no moral worth in it; for it is a forced act, proceeding from a violent principle, and is consistent with as great a love to sin as he had before, and is entirely terminated on himself. But that grief which is divine, and is accompanied with a change in heart and life, respects the stain more than the punishment of sin; and arises from love to God, who is disobeyed and dishonoured by it. Now, it is not conceivable, that the guilty creature can love God, whilst he looks on him as an irreconcilable enemy. Distrust of the favour of a person, which is a degree of fear, is attended with coldness of affection; a strong fear, which still intimates an uncertainty in the event, inclines to hatred; but when fear is turned into despair, it causeth direct hatred. An instance of this we have in the devils, who curse the fountain of blessed

If the evil is past remedy, the sense of it is attended with rage, and transports of blasphemy against God himself. A despairing sinner begins in this life the gnashing of teeth against his Judge, and kindles the fire that shall torment him for ever.

It is for this reason the scripture propounds the



goodness of God, as the most powerful persuasive to lead men to repentance, Rom. ii. 4. There can be no kindly relentings without filial affection, and that is always tempered with the expectation of favour. Without hope of pardon all other motives are ineffectual to melt the heart.

Now the first covenant obliged man to obedience or punishment: it required innocence, and did not accept of repentance. The final voice of law is, “Do,or Die.” Guilty man cannot look on God with comfort under the notion of a holy Creator, that delights to view his own resemblance in the innocent creature, nor of a compassionate father that spares an offending son; but apprehends him to be an inexorable judge, who hath right and power to avenge the disobedience. He can find no expedient for his deliverance, nor conceive how mercy can save him without the violation of justice, an attribute as essential to the divine nature as mercy.' And what can induce him to make an humble confession of his fault, when he expects nothing but an irrevocable doom? An instance of this we have in Adam, who being under the conviction of his sin, and an apprehension that God would be severe, did not solicit for mercy, but endeavoured to transfer the guilt on God himself. “The woman thou gavest me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat,” Gen. iii. 12; as if she had been designed for a snare, and not to be an aid in his innocent state.

(2.) A sincere resolution to forsake sin is built on the hopes of mercy. Till the reasonable creature knows that heaven iş open to repentance, to his second and better thoughts, he is irreclaimable. He that never hopes to receive any good, will continue in doing evil. Despair of mercy causeth a despising of the law. The apostate angels, who are without the reserves of pardon, are confirmed in their rebellion: their guilt is mixed with fury; they persist in their war against God, though they know the issue will be deadly to them. And had there not been an early revelation of mercy to Adam, he had been incorrigibly wicked as the devils; for despair would have inflamed his hatred against God, which is of all the passions the most incurable. Those vicious affections that depend on the humours of the body, which are mutable, alter with them; but hatred is seated in the superior part of the soul, which is of a spiritual nature, and dia-, bolical in obstinacy.

In short; when the reasonable creature is guilty and vi

« ПредишнаНапред »