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the earth!" so great, that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
This is God's account of man: from which I shall take occasion, first, To shew what men were before the Flood : Secondly, To enquire, Whether they are not the same now? And, Thirdly, To add some inferences.
I. 1. I am, first, by opening the words of the text to shew, what men were before the Flood. And we may fully depend on the account here given. For God saw it, and he cannot be deceived. He 6 saw that the wickedness of man was great.” Not of this or that man; not of a few men only; not barely of the greater part, but of man in general, of men universally. The word includes the whole human race, every partaker of human nature, 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 band in band. It is 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 household) 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.
2. “God saw all the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart:" of his soul, his inward man, the spirit within 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 include every word and action, as naturally, flowing from these foun. tains : 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 the 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 intermixed with the darkness ? No, none at all: “God saw 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 “ strive with man,” if haply he might repent, more especially during that gracious reprieve, the hundred and twenty years, while the ark was preparing. But still “ in his flesh dwelt no good thing ;" all his nature was purely evil. It was wholly consistent with itself, and unmixed with any thing of an opposite nature.
5. However, it may still be matter of enquiry, “ Was there no intermission of this evil? Were there no lucid intervals, wherein something good might be found in the heart of man?" We are not here to consider, what the grace of God might occasionally work in his soul. And abstracting from this, we have no reason to believe, there was any intermission of that evil. For God who “ saw the whole imagination of the thoughts of bis heart to be only evil,” saw likewise, that it was always the same, that it was only evil continually:" every year, every 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 knoweth what is in man, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins, hath left upon record for our instruction. Such were all men before God brought the flood upon the earth. We are, secondly, to enquire, whether they are the same now?
1. And this is certain, the Scriptures give us no reason to think any otherwise of them. On the contrary, all the abovecited passages of Scripture, refer to those who lived after the Flood. It was above a thousand years after, that God declared by David concerning the children of men, “ They are all gone out of the 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.” The 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 his natural state, unassisted by the grace of God, that all the imaginations of the thoughts of his 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 a man, born blind, continues so, he is scarcely 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, that is, folly and ignorance, sin and wickedness,
3. We see, when God opens our eyes, that we were before ASEOL EV TW xoouw, without God, or rather, Atheists in the world. We had, by nature, no knowledge of God, no ac
quaintance 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 the things that are seen, we inferred the existence of an eternal, powerful Being, that is not seen. But still, although we acknowledged his existence, 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 knew 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.
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 ancient King, who, being desirous to know what was the natural language of men, in order to bring the matter to a certain issue, made the following ex. periment. He ordered two infants, as soon as they were born, to be conveyed to a place prepared for them, where they were brought up without any instruction at all, and without ever hearing a human voice. And what was the event? Why, that when they were at 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 up 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 na. tural religion! Abstracted from tradițional, 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 no man has naturally any delight in God. In our natural state 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 bow down to the stock of a tree, to the work of our own hands. We do not pray to the angels or saints in heaven, any more than to the saints that are upon 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 although 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 bis own image on our hearts in self-will also. I will, said he, before he was