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laboured Panegyrics do we now read and hear on the Dignity of Human Nature! One eminent Preacher, in one of his sermons preached and printed a few years ago, does not scruple to affirm, first, That men in general (if not every individual) are very wise: secondly, That men in general are very virtuous: and thirdly, That they are very happy. And I do not know, that any one yet has been so hardy as to controvert the assertion.
3. Nearly related to these were the sentiments of an ingenious gentleman, who being asked, "My Lord, what do you think of the Bible?" answered, "I think it is the finest book I ever read in my life. Only that part of it which indicates the Mediatorial Scheme, I do not understand. For I do not conceive there is any need of a Mediator between God and man. If indeed," continued he, "I was a sinner, then I should need a Mediator. But I do not conceive I am. It is true I often act wrong for want of more understanding. And I frequently feel wrong tempers, particularly proneness to anger. But I cannot allow this to be a sin for it depends on the motion of my blood and spirits, which I cannot help. Therefore it cannot be a sin. Or if it be, the blame must fall not on me, but on him that made me." The very sentiments of pious Lord Kaim, and modest Mr. Hume.
4. Some years ago a charitable woman discovered, That there was no sinner in the world, but the devil. "For," said she, "he forces men to act as they do, therefore they are not accountable. The blame lights on Satan." But these more enlightened gentlemen have discovered, "That there is no sinner in the world but God. For he forces men to think, speak, and act as they do; therefore the blame lights on God alone." Satan, avaunt! It may be doubted, whether he himself ever uttered so foul a blasphemy as this.
5. But whatever unbaptized or baptized Infidels may say, concerning the innocence of mankind, He that made man, and that best knows what he has made, gives a very different account of him. He informs us, that "the heart
of man," of all mankind, of every man born into the world, " is desperately wicked," and that it is "deceitful above all things," so that we may well ask, "Who can know it?"
I. 1. To begin with this: "The heart of man is desperately wicked." In considering this, we have no need to refer to any particular sins. (These are no more than the leaves, or at most the fruits, which spring from that evil tree :) but rather to the general root of all. See how this was first planted in heaven itself, by Lucifer, Son of the morning; till then undoubtedly “one of the first, if not the first archangel;" "Thou saidst, I will sit upon the side of the North." See self-will, the first-born of Satan! "I will be like the Most High." See pride, the twin-sister of self-will. Here was the true origin of evil. Hence came the inexhaustible flood of evils upon the lower world. When Satan had once transfused his own self-will and pride into the parents of mankind, together with a new species of sin; love of the world, the loving the creature above the Creator, all manner of wickedness soon rushed in, all ungodliness and unrighteousness, shooting out into crimes of every kind, soon covering the whole face of the earth with all manner of abominations. It would be an endless task, to enumerate all the enormities that broke out. Now the fountains of the great deep were broken up. The earth soon became a field of blood: revenge, cruelty, ambition, with all sorts of injustice, every species of public and private wrongs, were diffused through every part of the earth. Injustice in ten thousand forms, hatred, envy, malice, bloodthirstiness, with every species of falsehood, rode triumphant, till the Creator looking down from heaven, would be no more intreated for an incorrigible race, but swept them off from the face of the earth. But how little were the following generations improved by the severe judgment! They that lived after the flood do not appear to have been a whit better than those that lived before it. In a short time, probably before Noah was removed from the earth, all unrighteousness prevailed as before.
2. But is there not a God in the world? there is and it is he that hath made us, not we ourselves. He made us gratuitously, of his own mere mercy: for we could merit nothing of him before we had a being. It is of his mercy that he made us at all; that he made us sensible, rational creatures, and above all, creatures capable of God. It is this, and this alone, which puts the essential difference between men and brutes. But if he has made us, and given us all we have; if we owe all we are and have to him, then surely he has a right to all we are and have, to all our love and obedience. This has been acknowledged by almost all who believed themselves to be his creatures, in all ages and nations. But a few years ago a learned man frankly confessed, "I could never apprehend, that God's having created us, gave him any title to the government of us. Or, that his having created us laid us under any obligation to yield him our obedience." I believe that Dr. Hutcheson was the first man that ever made any doubt of this. Or that ever doubted, much less denied, That a creature was obliged to obey his Creator. If Satan ever entertained this thought, (but it is not probable he ever did,) it would be no wonder he should rebel against God, and raise war in heaven. And hence would enmity against God arise in the hearts of men also; together with all the branches of ungodliness, which abound therein at this day. Hence would naturally arise the neglect of every duty which we owe to him as our Creator, and all the passions and hopes which are directly opposite to every such duty.
3. From the devil, the spirit of independence, self-will, and pride, productive of all ungodliness and unrighteousness, quickly infused themselves into the hearts of our first parents in Paradise. After they had eaten of the tree of knowledge, wickedness and misery of every kind, rushed in with a full tide upon the earth, alienated us from God, and made way for all the rest: Atheism, (now fashionably termed Dissipation,) and idolatry, love of the world, seeking happiness in this or that creature, covered the whole earth.
"Upright both in heart and will,
We by our God were made:
And o'er the creatures stray'd:
4. It would be endless to enumerate all the species of wickedness, whether in thought, word, or action, that now overspread the earth, in every nation, and city, and family. They all centre in this Atheism, or Idolatry: Pride, either thinking of themselves more highly than they ought to think, or glorying in something which they have received, as tho' they had not received it: Independence and self-will, doing their own will, not the will of him that made them. Add to this, seeking happiness out of God, in gratifying the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life. Hence, it is a melancholy truth, that (unless when the Spirit of God has made the difference) all mankind now, as well as four thousand years ago, "have corrupted their ways before the Lord and every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is evil, only evil, and that continually." However, therefore, men may differ in their outward ways, (in which undoubtedly there are a thousand differences,) yet in the inward root, the enmity against God, Atheism, Pride, Self-will, and Idolatry, it is true of all, that the heart of man, of every natural man, is desperately wicked.
5. But if this be the case, how is it that every one is not conscious of it? For who should "know the things of a man, like the spirit of a man that is in him?" Why is it that so few know themselves? For this plain reason, Because the heart is not only "desperately wicked, but deceitful above all things." So deceitful, that we may well ask, "Who can know it?" Who indeed, save God that made it? By his assistance, we may, in the second place consider this, the deceitfulness of man's heart.
II. 1. "It is deceitful above all things," that is, in the
highest degree, above all that we can conceive. So deceitful that the generality of men are continually deceiving both themselves and others. How strangely do they deceive themselves, not knowing either their own tempers or characters: imagining themselves to be abundantly better and wiser than they are. The ancient Poet supposes, there is no exception to this rule; that no man is willing to know his own heart." At nemo in sese tentat descendere, nemo!" None but those who are taught of God.
2. And if men thus deceive themselves, is it any wonder that they deceive others also, and that we so seldom find 66 an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!" In looking over my books some years ago, I found the following memorandum, "I am this day thirty years old, and till this day I know not that I have met with one person of that age, except in my father's house, who did not use Guile, more or less."
3. This is one of the sorts of desperate wickedness which cleaves to the nature of every man, proceeding from those fruitful roots, Self-will, Pride, and Independence on God. Hence springs every species of vice and wickedness; hence every sin against God, our neighbour, and ourselves. Against God: forgetfulness and contempt of God, of his name, his day, his word, his ordinances; Atheism on one hand, and Idolatry on the other; in particular, love of the world, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life; the love of money, the love of power, the love of ease, the love of the "honour that cometh of men," the love of the creature more than the Creator, the being lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Against our neighbour: ingratitude, revenge, hatred, envy, malice, uncharitable
4. Hence there is in the heart of every child of man, an inexhaustible fund of ungodliness and unrighteousness, deeply and strongly rooted in the soul, that nothing less than Almighty Grace can cure it. From hence naturally
arises a plentiful harvest of all evil words and works: and to complete the whole, that complex of all evils,—