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Man in his Natural State.
THE examination of thy character and state, O my soul, should have occupied thy deep attention. The inquiry was calculated to display, in the most engaging colours, the infinite love of God in all his dispensations towards thee as thy Creator, thy Preserver, thy everlasting Redeemer. Insensible hast thou been, if the lively emotions of gratitude have not been enkindled by the review. Insensible hast thou been, if the infinite mercies which thou hast reviewed, exciting every tender affection, have not been celebrated in the ascription of praise to the greatest and best of beings, thy Father, Redeemer, and God.
Thou hast been exposed to the holy inspection of that God, who brings to light the most secret actions. The inquiry in which thou hast been engaged, involves thy present peace, thy everlasting welfare. If, then, the examination has been conducted with that solicitude and impartiality, which these awful considerations are calculated to excite, thou hast found, O my soul, that thou art guilty, deeply guilty, in the sight of thy holy Judge. The searching beams of the Spirit of God have disclosed the depths of thy depravity and guilt. The view of the infection of sin, which diffuses itself through thy powers and affections, must have laid prostrate thy claims to that purity which rendered thee the delight of thy Maker, when at the first his voice arrayed thee with the glories of his image. Alas! “ How has the gold become dim! how has the fine gold become changed! the crown has fallen from my head. Wo unto me, for I have sinned !"
An understanding once enlivened by the beams of divine light, no longer intuitively discerns the glory of God, and attains a fuši knowledge of his laws. Its powers, enfeebled and depraved, are the sport of prejudice and passion, which pervert its researches. A will, which once followed the enlightened dictates of the understanding, and centered all its pursuits in God, as the supreme object of its choice, now obeys the dictates of ignoble passions. With fearless presumption, it impiously turns, in rebellion against God, the very energies which it holds dependent on his power. It wilfully chooses those debasing pleasures, which are directly opposed to that divine law in which it once placed its perfection and delight. Affections, which glowed with love to God, in the fruition of whose favour they were rewarded with perfect bliss, are now bound in the chains of sensual appetite. Depraved and corrupt, they now eagerly pursue the perishing enjoyments of sense, and contemn the communion which it was once their glory to maintain with the source of purity and love. Now, disdaining the bliss which flows from the light of God's countenance, they seek the gratification of those grovelling propensities which ally the aspiring nature of man to the brutes that perish. O my soul! when I contrast the exalted powers which, in thy primeval state, conformed thee to the image of thy Creator, and admitted thee to the enjoyment of his love, with the corrupting passions by which thou art now enslaved ; can I wonder, that, till restored by his grace to the glorious image which thou hast forfeited, thou dost labour under the weight of his displeasure, under his awful curse?
Abasing to thy pride, painful to thy selflove, O my soul, but certain as the oracles of truth in which it is revealed, and as that divine plan of salvation of which it is the basis, is the truth, that human nature is degenerate and corrupt. When the holy Job, borne down by the blaze of divine glory which displayed the corruption of his nature, vents his contrition in the exclamation, “ I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes;" when the holy king of Israel, awakened to remorse at the view of crimes of the deepest dye, which, through the rage of fell lust, he had committed, follows back his guilt to its source, a degenerate nature,-declaring in penitential confession, that he was “ conceived in sin, and brought forth
in iniquity;" when an inspired apostle, tracing the assemblage of vices which had brutalized mankind, pronounces the alarming declaration, that “ all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,"—thou dost hear a truth, proclaimed, as it were, by the sacred lips of God himself, which the view of the world, which the history of man, which the testimony of conscience irresistibly confirm.
Sayest thou, man is not a fallen being? Trace then his perfection in the world which he inhabits. Is it decked with those glories which render it a habitation worthy of the illustrious being for whose enjoyment it was ereated ? Is the strain of harmony and peace poured forth from this august temple, where man, pure and perfect, enjoys the smiles of his Maker's love? Ah! scourged by war, pestilence, and famine, the earth sends forth the sighs and groans of a wretched race; loaded with the guilt of human crimes, it trembles under the frown of the Almighty ; blasted often by the lightning of heaven, it waits the dread fiat, which will whelm it in destruction, for the sin of man.
Sayest thou, man is a perfect being? Display then his virtues in the records of his history. Alas! these records are dyed in blood. They exhibit the portrait of human guilt in glaring colours. Do the fair forms of justice, benevolence, and mercy rise to view, and, extending their benignant reign over the human race, pronounce that man is blest and happy? Does one soul of celestial love pervade the family of mankind, united by the most endearing ties, by common wants, by common feelings, by an exalted and eternal destiny? Ah! oppression lays her sceptre on her sullen victims; ambition erects the trophies of triumph amidst the ruins into which her merciless spirit has swept the proudest boasts of human grandeur; the spectre of revenge, brandishing the steel streaming with gore, urges man to seal the purpose of vengeance in his brother's blood.
Alas! the world, groaning under the curse of God, and waiting the final execution of the sentence of his wrath; the history of human nature, presenting the dreadful picture of crimes and misery, illumined only by some scattered rays of virtue and happiness, proclaim the degeneracy, the corruption, the guilt
ALMIGHTY GOD! who, at the first, didst create man in thine own image, and impress on his soul the seal of immortality, if by transgression he has forfeited his primeval glories, and sunk his nature in sin and misery, on his own wilful folly, and not on thy decree, most boly God, be the shame and guilt. I acknowledge that I perceive the fatal proofs of my degeneracy in my clouded understanding, in my perverse will, in my corrupt affections. I acknowledge that every view which I take of the