Imatges de pÓgina
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and unchangeable law, they would readily admit the exact truth of the following description of mankind, in Rom. iii. "There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit, the poison of asps is under their lips. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes." But on this subject, men judge by a wrong standard; a standard not only different from the moral law, but opposite to it. Instead of the holy commands of God, they set up, as a rule of judgment, the corrupt opinions and maxims of the world; maxims, which justify what the law condemns, or, at best, substitute a regular external deportment for holiness of heart. Another false standard of judgment is the character of those men, whom many writers and the world in general treat with the highest respect and honour. Their spirit and conduct, differing widely from that rule of moral excellence which the Bible authorises, lead to very erroneous conclusions respecting good and evil. Even characters deservedly esteemed for Christian piety cannot, without danger, be considered as the standard of our judgment. In this world, the best Christians are very imper

fect. We must not set them up as infallible guides; nor suffer them to occupy the place of Jesus Christ. Our attachment to their virtues should not lead us to admire their weaknesses, or to justify or imitate their faults.

I have suggested two of the false standards of judgment on subjects of a moral nature; the corrupt opinions and maxims of the world, and the characters of men admired for their talents, their exploits, or their virtues. With such false standards of judgment before them, men are induced to "call evil good, and good evil; to put darkness for light, and light for darkness." Judging by these delusive rules, they form very inadequate and erroneous opinions of human corruption, greatly mistating or wholly rejecting a doctrine, which lies at the foundation of evangel ical truth. Beware, then, Christians, of these, and indeed of all false rules of judgment. The word of God is your only infallible standard. When you would form a correct opinion of the character of mankind, in general, or of the nature of any particular disposi tions or actions; ask not what are the maxims adopted by the fashionable, unthinking world; nor what is the opinion of people in general. Look not at those, who are admired for their splendid circumstances, accomplishments, or actions. Confide not implicitly even in those, who are held in high estimation for Christian wisdom and goodness. But look to God's holy law, and to the character and life of Jesus, where the excellence and the broad extent of that law appear with living beauty. With a con

stant and reverential regard to inat character and law, you will be directed to proper views of apostate man. You will see that none of his actions or inclinations, while destitute of renewing grace, can be pronounced holy. You will be able, with great ease, to remove the delusive veil of external decorum, which so of ten conceals internal deformity. When the outward actions of sinners appear most fair and engaging, your habit of judging, according to the judgment of God, will still lead you to say, 66 an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" Thus you will be satisfied, on scripture grounds, that man's heart is by nature wholly corrupt, and that this radical corruption diffuses itself universally through his actions, which, considered in relation to the moral law, are all unholy. In this sentiment you may depart exceedingly from the common opinion; but you will secure the advantages of agreeing with the Spirit of truth.

But there is another unfailing source of error on this subject, which must not be overlooked; that is, the delusive influence of pride, and the other evil passions of the heart. These passions are a dark mist, which prevents clear vision. Pride excludes spiritual light. Under its influence, men turn away from that picture of human nature, which is drawn by the pencil of truth. They can readily understand and admit speculations, which leave to pride the full possession of the heart, its chosen throne. But how can they admit the mortifying belief, that mankind, and themselves in

particular, are so defiled, so criminal, and so degraded, as the scripture declares them to be ? In opposition to the serious belief of this doctrine all the imposing eloquence of pride and every corrupt passion is exerted. No won der, that a truth so wounding to selfconceit, so destructive to unlawful pleasure, so alarming and distressing, is so seldom belieyed, so much obscured, and so violently assaulted. No wonder, considering what the human heart is, that any error, however palpable, is admitted, rather than a doctrine, which sullies man's glory, and covers bim with dishonour and shame. Here is the grand source of mistake on this subject. If there were less pride in the world, the doctrine of hu man depravity would meet a less vigorous resistance. From this source even Christians are in danger. Although the scriptures are open before them, and the pure light of heaven has shone in their hearts; still their pride is not wholly subdued, and they are not sufficiently disposed to submit, without reservation, to the whole word of God. Let the churches of Christ, therefore, guard with sacred vigilance against the influence of every unhallowed passion, so that they may preserve from diminution and alteration the doctrine of human corruption, as it stands in the sacred volume. Let the whole salutary truth be received and felt, however painful to those feelings, which would shun the light; and let every error and misrepresentation, however soothing to human nature, be rejected as the bane of Christian virtue.

It was my design not only to hint at the sources of prevailing error on this subject, but also to notice the pernicious effects, which those errors produce. In order to this, it is necessary to observe, that the doctrine of the entire moral corruption of man is closely and inseparably connected with the other great doctrines of inspiration; so that the denial of the one involves the denial of the others, and erroneous views of the one are followed by erroneous views of the others. To descend to a few particulars; it is a well known fact, that those who deny the moral corruption of man, deny also the atonement of Jesus Christ. And it is consistent that they should. For if mankind be not by nature in the most depraved, guilty, ruined state, the common notion of redemption by the Son of God is marked with absurdity. Christ's dying for all implies that all were dead in trespasses and sins. If man were not of this character, and therefore justly obnoxious to the endless wrath of God, the cross of Christ would lose its glory and be turned into foolishness. Not only the necessity, but the propriety and justice of God's sending his Son to suffer and die, rest upon the question, What is the moral state of man? If he be so depraved and criminal that, according to God's holy law, he is without help and without hope, righteously doomed to everlasting punishment; then redemption appears the work of infinite wisdom and love.

These two doctrines are as intimately connected in the experience of believers, as in correct reasoning. The more deeply they

are affected with their own guilt, deformity, helplessness, and misery, the more clearly do they discern the necessity, the nature, and the glory of the atonement. While they have proper views of their own character, every petition for pardon, every desire of salvation, every hope of the eternal inheritance is associated with the precious blood of Jesus. But if persons are insensible of their pollution and ill desert; what can they understand of Christ's mediation? What conception can they have of the infinite value of the sacrifice, which he offered up to God?

The doctrine of depravity is nearly related to the doctrine of regeneration. When our Saviour taught the necessity of the new and heavenly birth, he taught it in connexion with the innate corruption of man. "That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit." So did the apostle. "You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." What need of quickening, if mankind are not dead? What need of a new creation, if they are not the subjects of radical and native corruption? What occasion for being born again, if the first birth left them pure? If they retain any degree of real goodness, that goodness, without a renovation of nature, may be cultivated, improved, and perfected. How can they, who deny or overlook the complete sinfulness of their nature, be convinced, that they must be regenerated by the Spirit of God, in order to be admitted into heaven? This important scripture doctrine is weakness and

folly to all, who see not the desperate wickedness of their hearts.

The doctrine of justification by the grace of God rises or falls according to men's ideas of themselves. If we consider our moral nature, as totally alienated from God, and our actions altogether unholy; on what can we found our hopes of justification before God, but the perfect righteousness of Christ? But if we are so blinded by pride, as to consider our nature pure, and our life only interspersed with occasional deviations from rectitude; what idea shall we have of justification by the free and abounding grace of God? How unmeaning or disgusting must this doctrine be to the self-righteous, arrogant spirit of unhumbled sinners!

The same connexion is obvious between the doctrine now under consideration, and the gospel doctrine of sovereign election. Admitting that mankind

are

universally in a state of such extreme sinfulness, or criminal depravity, as the scripture affirms, we at once conclude, that everlasting punishment might be justly inflicted upon the whole world, and that the salvation of any part of such a guilty race must be the effect of mere mer-. cy. And as similar traits of moral character belong to all; those who are saved must be considered the objects of discriminating grace. The hypothesis, that God eternally chose men to salvation, on account of any virtue or good works foreseen in them, or that they are actually regenerated, on account of any thing in their character, which renders them more worthy than

others of the divine favour, implies the denial of the scripture doctrine of human guilt. Duly attending to this doctrine, and deeply impressed with it, we shall easily understand the consistency and necessity of divine predestination. We shall per

ceive the richest grace in God's electing some to everlasting life, and the purest justice in his punishing the rest according to their demerit. If we object against God's exercising his sovereign wisdom and love in this manner, it must be because we ignorantly overrate our own merit, and think ourselves too good to be threatened on such principles. Insensibility to the moral state of man will always lead to wrong conclusions respecting the purposes and ways of God, and will, especially, conceal the beauty, consistency, and sublimity of the doctrine of eternal predestination. But to those, who yield full and cordial assent to the awful account, which scripture gives of apostate man, the doctrine of sovereign election will not only appear plain, and worthy of humble belief; but will be reviving and glorious, the spring of all their hopes, the firm ground of their confidence, the rock of their salvation.

It would be easy, if needful, to show in a more enlarged view the natural and unalterable connexion between this doctrine and the other principles of evangelical truth. There can be no just notion of these without the belief of human depravity. If we do not believe this doctrine, we may as well cast away the whole Bible, and return to the darkness of heathenism. And let me add, brethren, that there is no danger

of having too impressive apprehensions of a truth so fundamental in the gospel scheme. The clearer, the more extensive and affecting your views of human corruption, the juster and more efficacious will be your ideas of all the truths, which relate to the divine work of redemption.

But the most important consideration still remains; viz. that the denial of the native and entire corruption of man has a most hurtful practical influence. This will appear with peculiar force, if we contemplate the salutary practical effects produced by the cordial belief of this doctrine. Those, who, through divine illumination, well understand the nature of human corruption, and are seriously impressed with the evils implied in it, have the most powerful motives to constant fienisence and selfabasement. In view of this, in his own case, Paul pronounced himself the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints, and cried out, oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death! It has been under the deep impression of this doctrine, that all believers have abhorred themselves, and been clothed with humility. The full belief of this doctrine is nearly connected with faith in the Redeemer. Christians, seeing themselves to be guilty and helpless, and approving the character of the Saviour, gratefully receive him in all his offices, and trust in him as able to save to the uttermost. The more clearly they discover that their hearts are defiled, that there is nothing in them to answer the demands of the law, and nothing to furnish

any ground of confidence; the more complete and firm is their faith in the Son of God. This doctrine, rightly understood, gives believers the profoundest sense of their obligations to God. If they are permitted to indulge the reviving idea, that they are delivered from the slavery of sin, and introduced into the happy family of the saints; they forget not to acknowledge the divine hand which delivered them. Ascribing nothing to themselves, they say, with the liveliest, humblest gratitude, by the grace of God we are what we are. The knowledge, which scripture and experience have given them of the deceit and wickedness of their hearts, produces a practical conviction of their constant dependence on divine aid. Sensible that, without Christ, they can do nothing, they rely on his grace, and go forth to every duty and every suffering in his strength. By the same views they are excited to constant prayer. When duly affected with their own blindness, guilt, poverty, and wretchedness, how fervent are their supplications to God! With what sincerity, with what unceasing earnestness do they approach the throne of grace, saying, "I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me.

Behold, I am vile. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Work in me both to will and to do." Such language agrees with the feelings of believers in all ages. Their heart affecting views of human depravity become the strongest motives to fervent

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