« AnteriorContinuar »
And it is not easy for us to compute their numbers, to tell how many thousands and millions they were. The earth then retained much of its primeval beauty, and original fruitfulness. The face of the globe was not rent and torn, as it is now: and spring and summer went hand in hand. "Tis therefore probable, it afforded sustenance for far more inhabitants, than it is now capable of sustaining: and these must be immensely multiplied while men begat sons and daughters for seven or eight hundred years together. Yet among all this inconceivable number, only Noah found favour with God. He alone (perhaps including part of his houshold) was an exception from the universal wickedness, which by the just judgment of God, in a short time after brought on universal destruction. All the rest were partakers in the same guilt, as they were in the same punishment.
God saw all the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart, of his soul, his in ward man, the spirit with him, the principle of all his inward and outward motions. He saw all the imaginations. It is not possible to find a word of a more extensive signification. It includes whatever is formed, made, fabricated within; all that is, or passes in the soul; every inclination, affection, passion, appetite; every temper, design, thought. It must' of consequence in'clude every word and action, as naturally flowing from these fountains : and being either good or evil, according to the fountain from which they severally flow.
3. Now God saw that all this, the whole thereof was evil, contrary to moral rectitude ; contrary to the nature of God, which necessarily includes all good : contrary to the divine will, the eternal standard of good and evil: contrary to the pure, holy image of God, wherein man was originally created, and wherein he stood when God surveying the works of his hands, saw them all to be very good: contrary to justice, mercy and truth, and to essential relations which each man bore to his Creator and his fellow creatures.
4. But was there not good mingled with the evil? Was there not light intermixt with the darkness? No, none at all : God satv that the whole imagination of the heart of man was only evil. It cannot indeed be denied, but many of them, perhaps all, had good motions put into
their hearts, For the spirit of God did then also strite
if haply he might repent : more especially during that gracious reprieve, the hundred and i wenty years, while the ark was preparing. But still in his flesh dwelt 110 good thing : all his nature was purely evil. it was wholly consistent with itsell, and unmixt with any thing of an opposite nature.
5. However it may still be matter of enquiry, " Was there no interin ssion of this evil? Were there no lucid intervals, wherein s.mething good might be found in the heart of min ?" We are not here to consider, what the grace o God might occasionally work in his soul. And abstracted from this, we bave no reason to beliere there was any iniermission of that evil. For God who saw, the whole imagination of the thoughts of his heart to be only evil, saw likewise, that it was always ihe same, that it was only evil continuaily: every year, e ery day, every hour, every moment. He never deviated into good.
II. Such is the authentic account of the whole race of mankind, which he who knowcth what is in man, who searcheth the beart and trieth the reins, hath left upon record for our instruction. Such were all men before God brought the fnod upon the earth, We are, secondly to enquire, Whether they are the same now?
1. And this is certain, the scripture gives us no reason, to think any oiherwise of them. On the contrary, all the above-cited passages of scripture; refer to those who lived after the food. It was above a thousand years after, that God declared by David concerning the chil. dren of men, I bey are all gone out of 1 he way of truth and holiness, there is none righteous, no, not one. And to this bear all the prophets witness, in their several generations. So Isaiah, concerning God's peculiar people, (and certainly the Heathens were in no better condition)". The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores." Tlie same account is given by all the apostles, yea, by the whole tenor of the oracles of God. From all these we learn, concerning man in bis natural state, unassisted by
of God, that all the iinog inations of the thoughts of bis heart are still evil, only evil, and that continually.
2. And this account of the present state of man, is confirmed by daily experience. It is true, the natural man discerns it not; and this is not to be wondered at. So long as à man born blind, continues so, he is scarce sensible of his want. Much less, could we suppose a place where all were born without sight, would they be sensible of the want of it. In like manner, so long as men remain, in their natural blindness of understanding, they are not sensible of their spiritual wants, and of this in particular. But as soon as God opens the eyes of their understanding, they see the state they were in before : they are then deeply convinced, that every man living, themselves especially, are by nature altogether vanity, thac is, folly and ignorance, sin and wickedness.
3: We see, when God opens our eyes, that we were before adeor Ev Kooww without God, or rather Atheists in the world. We had by nature, no knowledge of God, no acquaintance with him. It is true, as soon as we came to the use of reason, we learned the invisible things of God, even his eternal power and Godhead, from the things that are made. From things that are seen, we infered the existence of an eternal, powerful Being, that is not seen.
But still, although we acknowledge we had no acquaintance with him. As we know there is an Emperor of China, whom yet we do not know; so we knew, there was a King of all the earth; yet we know him not. Indeed we could not; by any of our natural faculties. By none of these could we attain the knowledge of God. We could no more perceive him by our natural understanding, than we could see him with our eyes. For" no one knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son willeth to reveal him. And no one knoweth the Son but the Father, and he to whom the Father revealeth him.”
4. We read of an antient King, who being desirous to know, what was the natural language of men, in order to bring the matter to a certuin issue, made the following experiment. He ordered two infants as soon as they were born, to be conveyed to a place prepared for them where they were brought up
instruction at all, and without ever hearing an human voice. And what was the event? Why, that when they were at
length length brought out of their confinement, they spake no language at all; they uttered only inarticulate sounds, like those of other animals. Were two infants in like manner to be brought from the womb, without being instructed in any religion, there is little room to doubt, but (unless the grace of God interposed) the event would be just the same. They would have no religion at all: they would have no more knowledge of God, than the beasts of the field, than the wild ass's colt. Such is Natural religion ! Abstracted from traditional, and from the influences of God's Spirit.
5. And having no knowledge, we can have no love of God: we cannot love him we know not.
Most men talk indeed of loving God, and perhaps imagine they do. At least few will acknowledge they do not love him: but the fact is too plain to be denied. No man loves God by nature, any more than he does a stone, or the earth he treads upon. What we love, we delight in : but 110 man has naturally any delight in God. In our natural stale, we cannot conceive, how any one should delight in him. We take no pleasure in him at all: he is utterly tasteless to us. To love God! It is far above, out of our sight. We cannot, naturally, attain unto it.
6. We have by nature not only no love, but no fear of God. It is allowed indeed, that most men have, sooner or later, a kind of senseless, irrational fear, properly called superstition, though the blundering Epicureans gave it the name of religion. Yet even this is not natural, but acquired : chiefly by conversation or from example. By nature, God is not in all our thoughts : we leave him to manage his own affairs, to sit quietly, as we imagine, in heaven, and leave us on earth to manage ours. So that we have no more of the fear of God before our eyes, than of the love of God in our hearts.
7. Thus are all men Atheists in the world. But Atheism itself does not screen us from idolatry. In his natural state, every man born into the world is a rank idolater, Perhaps indeed we may not be such in the vulgar sense of the word. We do not like the idolatrous Heathens, worship molten or graven images. We do not how down to the stock of a tree, to the work of our own hands. do not pray to the angels or saints in heaven, any more
ihan to the saints that are upon the earth. But what then? We have set up our idols in our hearts : and to these we bow down and worship them: we worship ourselves, when we pay that honour to ourselves which is due to God only. Therefore all pride is idolatry: it is ascribing to ourselves what is due to God alone. And altho? pride was not made for man, yet where is the man that is born without it? But hereby we rob God of his unalienable right, and idolatrously usurp his glory.
8. But pride is not the only sort of idolatry, which we are all by nature guilty of. Satan has stamped his own image on our heart in self-will also. I will, said he, before he was cast out of heaven, I will sit upon the sides of the north. I will do my own will and pleasure, independently on that of my Creator. The same does every man born into the world say, and that in a thousand instances. Nay, and avow it too, without ever blushing upon the account, without either fear or shame. Ask the man,“ Why did
do this?" He answers, “ Because I had a nrind to it." What is this but, “Because it was my will;' that is in effect, because the devil and I are agreed: because Satan and [ govern our actions, by one and the same principle. The will of God mean-time is not in his thoughts, is not considered in the least degree : although it be the supreme rule of every intelligent creature, whether in heaven or earth, resulting from the essential, unalterable relation, which all creatures bear to their Creator.
9. So far we bear the imageof the devil, and tread in his steps. But at the next step we leave Satan behind, we run into an idolatry whereof he is not guilty : I mean, Love of the world, which is now as natural to every man, as to love his own will. What is more natural to us, than to seek happiness in the creature, instead of the Creator ? To seek that satisfaction in the works of his hands, which can be found in God only? What more natural than the desire of the flesh? That is, of the pleasure of sense in every kind? Men indeed talk magnificently of despising these low pleasures, particularly men of learning and education. They affect to sit loose to the gratification of those appetites, wherein they stand with a level with the beasts that perislı. But it is