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of thine hand, therefore thou wast not grieved." Isa. Ivii. 10. They are sometimes ready to faint in the pursuit of their lust, because of the disappointments they find in them, or the evils that attend them: but yet they will not give over the chace; they say not "There is no hope;" and the reason is, "They find the life of their hand:" something or other daily comes in, from their employments, their company, or their expectations, which keeps their hope alive, and makes them unwilling to change their present condition. They find it none of the best; but do not think there can be a better. Could they but obtain more mirth, wealth, health, honour; more suitable objects to their sensual desires, then they think it would be better than it is: but as for any thing differing from these in its whole kind, they can entertain no respect for it. In this state of mind the spiritual blessings of the Gospel are proposed. At first sight, they judge that these things will not promote their carnal pleasures; and they rightly judge; they will not countenance nor help the lusts of men. Nay, it is no hard matter for them to discover that the power of the Gospel once admitted, will crucify their corrupt affections; for this is the avowed design of it. It leaves men, unless on extraordinary occasions, the possession of their wealth and reputation, if lawfully obtained; but it forbids the abuse of them, and dissolves the league that is between the mind and these objects. They must no more be looked on as the chief good, nor as the matter of satisfaction; but must give way to spiritual and eternal things. Now this secretly alienates the carnal mind, and prejudice is excited against it, as threatening to deprive the soul of all its present satisfaction; for, through the power of this darkness, it cannot discern the excellency of heavenly objects, nor have any suitable affections for them. Hereby this prejudice becomes invincible; they neither do, nor can, nor will admit of those things which are utterly inconsistent with their carnal views.
(2.) The mind, by this darkness, is filled with prejudices against the mystery of the Gospel. As natural men cannot receive, so they despise the wisdom of
God in it, and look on its doctrines as empty and unintelligible notions;-and this is the prejudice whereby this darkness prevails in the minds of men otherwise knowing and learned; it has done so in all ages, and in none more effectually than in the present. The spiritual wisdom of God in the Gospel, appears to the wisest men in the world, while under the power of this darkness, fanatical, chimerical, and foolish. To demonstrate this, is the design of the apostle (1 Cor. i. and ii. chapter); for he directly affirms that the doctrine of the Gospel is the wisdom of God in a mystery; that this wisdom cannot be discerned by the wise and learned of the world who have not received the Spirit of Christ; and, therefore, that the things of it are weakness and folly to them; and that which is foolish is to be despised; yea, folly is the only object of contempt; and hence we see that some, with the greatest contempt imaginable, despise the purity, simplicity, and whole mystery of the Gospel, who yet profess to believe it; but to clear the nature of this prejudice, a few things may be distinctly observed.
There are two sorts of things declared in the Gospel, First, Such as are absolutely its own, and which have no footsteps in the law or light of nature. Of this kind are all things concerning the love of God in Christ Jesus; the mystery of his incarnation and mediation; the dispensation of the Spirit; our adoption, justification, and sanctification; in short, every thing that belongs to the purchase and application of saving grace. These things are purely and properly evangelical,— peculiar to the Gospel alone.
There are also other things in the Gospel which have their foundation in the law and light of nature; such are all the moral duties. These are in some measure known by the light of nature; men are able to form a judgment of their actions, whether they be good or evil, before the Gospel is preached to them; but the word directs to the right performance of our duty, from a right principle, by right rule, and to a right end. Hereby it gives them a new nature, and turns moral duties into evangelical obedience.
Hence it follows that this is the method of the Gospel. It first proposes things which are peculiarly its own: it reveals its own mysteries as the foundation of faith and obedience: it inlays them in the mind, and thereby conforms the whole soul unto them; and then it grafts all duties of moral obedience on this stock of faith in Christ. This is the method which the apostle Paul observes in all his epistles; he first declares the mysteries of faith that are peculiar to the Gospel, and then descends to those moral duties which are regulated thereby.
But the prejudice which we speak of, inverts the order of these things. Those who are under the power of it, fix their minds first and principally on those things which have their foundation in the light of nature. These they make the foundation; whereas the Gospel allows them to be only the necessary superstructions on the foundation; and resolving to give the pre-eminence to moral duties, they often treat the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel with contempt, as of no importance comparatively; and to avoid the trouble of examining them, they reject them at once as unintelligible or unnecessary; or else, by forced interpretations, enervating the spirit and perverting the mystery of them, they square them to their own low and carnal apprehensions. They would reduce them all to their own light, as some; to reason, as others; to philosophy, as the rest. Hereby advancing morality above the grace of the Gospel, they at once reject the Gospel and destroy Morality; for taking it off from its proper foundation, it falls into the dirt, of which the conversation of such men is no small evidence.
It was thus of old. God says of Ephraim, "I have written to him the great things of the law; but they were counted as a strange thing.' 99 The law was the entire means of God's communicating his mind and will to that people, as his whole counsel is revealed to us in the Gospel; these he wrote unto them-made them plain and perspicuous: but after all, they were esteemed by them, as the gospel now is, a thing foreign and alien to their minds. They will regard what is
akin to the principles of their nature, morally good or evil; but the hidden wisdom of God in the gospel is a strange thing.
The power of this darkness will further appear by considering the nature and use of the mind, which is the faculty affected with it. The mind may be considered either as it is theoretical or contemplative, or as it is practical, determining the will to its actual opera, tions, moral and spiritual. Hence it follows, that neither the will nor affections can desire or cleave to any good but what is presented to them by the mind, and as it is presented. That good which the mind cannot discover, the will cannot chuse, nor the affections cleave unto. The mind is the eye of the soul; and if this "eye be evil, the whole soul is full of darkness." As the soul cannot, by any other faculty, receive and embrace that good which the mind does not apprehend,
-so when the mind is practically deceived, and captivated by the power of prejudices, the will and affections cannot deliver themselves from entertaining that evil which the mind has perversely assented to. Where the mind is reprobate, so as to call good evil,-and evil good, the heart, affections, and conversation, will be conformable thereto; and therefore, in Scripture, the deceit of the mind is commonly laid down as the principle of all sin.
And this is a brief delineation of the state of the human mind while unregenerate with respect to the things of God; and from hence we conclude that it is so depraved, vitiated, and corrupted, that it is not able upon the proposal of spiritual things in the preaching of the Gospel, to understand, receive, and embrace them in a proper spiritual and saving manner, without the internal, supernatural, and effectual influence of the Holy Ghost.
Life and Death, Natural and Spiritual, compared.
ANOTHER Scriptural description of unregenerate men is, that they are spiritually dead; and hence, in like manner, it follows, that there is a necessity of an internal effectual work of the Holy Ghost on the souls of men, to deliver them out of this state by regeneration; and this principally respects their wills and affections, as the darkness before described does their understandings. There is a spiritual life whereby men live to God; this, they being strangers to, and alienated from, are spiritually dead: and this the Scripture declares concerning all unregenerate persons, partly in direct words, and partly in other assertions of the same import. Of the first sort the testimonies are many and express: "You were dead in trespasses and sins;" Eph. ii. 1. ver. 5. "When you were dead in sins.' Col. ii. 13. "And you being dead in your sins." 2 Cor. v. 14. "If one died for all, then were all dead;" and the same is asserted in the second way, where the recovery of men by the grace of Christ is called their quickening, or the bestowing a new life upon them; for this supposes they were dead.
Spiritual death is metaphorically so called, from its analogy to natural death. It may therefore be useful to consider the nature of life and death natural, in allusion to which the state of unregenerate men is thus described.
By life, in general, we understand, The act of a quickening principle on a subject to be quickened, by virtue of their union; and this includes (1.) The principle of life itself, which in man is the rational living soul; "God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." Having formed his body of the dust of the earth, he creates for him distinct animating soul, and infuses it into the matter prepared for its reception; and as he did thus in the creation of the human species at first, he continues so to do in the ordinary course of his providence for the