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That natural men are not sensible of their blindness, and the misery they are under by reason of it, is no argument that they are not miserable. For it is very much the nature of this calamity to be hid froin itself, or from those who are under it. Fools are not sensible of their folly. Solomon says, “ The fool is wiser in his own conceit, than seven men that can render a reason," Prov. xxvi. 16. The most barbarous and brutish heathens are not sensible of their own darkness ; are not sensible but that they enjoy as great light, and have as good understanding of things, as the most enlightened nations in the world.
2. Another degree of this misery, is of those who are judicially given up of God, to the blindness of their own ininds. The Scripture teaches us that there are some such. “ What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election bath obtained it, and the rest were blinded,” Rom. xi. 7. “ But their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away,” 2 Cor. iii. 14. “And he said, Go and tell this people, Hear deed, and understand not; and see ye indeed, and perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and convert and be healed,” Isa. vi. 6, 10. This judgment, when inflicted, is commonly for the contempt and abuse of light which has been offered, for the commission of presumptuous sins, and for being obstinate in sin, and resisting the Holy Ghost, and many gracious calls and counsels, warnings and reproofs.
Who the particular persons are, that are thus judicially given up of God to the blindness of their minds, is not known to men. But we have no reason to suppose that there are not multitudes of them; and most in places of the greatest light. There is no manner of reason to suppose, that this judgment, which is spoken of in Scripture, is in a great measure peculiar to those old times. As there were many who fell under it in the times of the prophets of old, and of Christ and his apostles; so doubtless there are now also. And though the persons are not known, yet doubtless there may be more reason to fear it concerning some than others. All who are under the power of the blindness of their own minds, are miserable; but such as are given up to this blindness, are especially miserable; for they are reserved, and sealed over to the blackness of darkness for ever.
Address to Sinners. The consideration of what has been said of the desperate blindness which possesses the hearts of us all naturally, may well be terrifying to such as are yet in a Christless condition, in this place of light; where the gospel has been 80 long enjoyed, and where God has in times past so wonderfully poured out his Spirit.
And let such persons, for their awakening, consider the following things:
1. That they are blinded by the god of this world. Their blindness is from hell. This darkness which natural men are under, is from the prince of darkness. This the apostle says expressly of those who remain in unbelief and blindness under the gospel : “ But if our gospel be hid, it is hid from them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that be. lieve not,” 2 Cor. iv.3,4. They belong to the kingdom of darkness. In that darkness which reigns in their souls, the devil reigns; and he holds his dominion there.
2. Consider how God in his word manifests his abhorrence and wrath towards those who remain so sottishly blind and ignorant, in the midst of light. How VOL. IV.
does God speak of them! " Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge ?” Psal. xiv. 4. “ Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways, unto whom I sware in my wrath, that they should not enter into my rest :' Psal. xcv. 10, 11. “ The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master'scrib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah, sinful nation-they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger,” Isa. i. 3, 4.“ It is a people of no understanding ; therefore he that made then will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will show them no favor,” Isa. xxvii. 10. "My people is foolish, they have not known me, they are sottish children, and they have no understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge,” Jer. iv. 22. “Declare this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in the house of Judah, saying, Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding, which have eyes and see not, which have ears and hear not. Fear ye not me ? saith the Lord; will ye not tremble at My presence ?” Jer. v. 20, 21, 22.
3. Consider how much wilfulness there is in your ignorance. Sinners are ready wholly to excuse themselves in their blindness; whereas, as observed already, the blindness that naturally possesses the hearts of men, is not a merely negative thing ; but they are blinded by “ the deceitfulness of sin,” Heb. iii. 13. There is a perverseness in their blindness. There is not a mere absence of light, but a malignant opposition to the light; as God says, "they know not, neither will they understand, they walk on in darkness," Psal. Ixxii. 5. Christ observes,“ that every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light.” And that “this is their condemnation, that light is come into the world, yet men loved darkness rather than light,” John iii. 19, 20. And I may appeal to your own consciences, whether you have not wilfully rejected the many instructions you have had ; and refused to hearken ? Whether you have not neglected to seek after the light, and neglected your Bible? Whether you have not been a very negligent hearer of the word preached, and neglected other proper means of knowledge ? Whether you have not neglected to cry to God for that wisdom which you need ? Yea, have you not resisted the means of knowledge ? Have you not resisted and quenched the motions of the Spirit, which at times you have had ? And taken a course to make yourself more and more stupid, by stifling the convictions of your own conscience, and doing contrary to the light thereof; whereby you have done those things that have tended to sear your conscience, and make yourself more and more senseless and sottish.
4. Consider what is the course that God will take to teach those who will not be taught by the instructions of his word. He will teach them by briers and thorns, and by the flames of hell. Though natural men will remain to all eternity ignorant of the excellency and loveliness of God's nature, and so will bave no spiritual knowledge; yet God in another world will make them thoroughly to understand many things, which senseless unawakened sinners are sottishly ignorant of in this world. Their eyes in many respects shall be thoroughly opened in hell. Their judgments will be rectified. They shall be of the same judgment with the godly. They will be convinced of the reality of those things which they would not be convinced of here; as the being of God; his power, holiness, and justice: that the Scriptures are the word of God; that Christ is the Son of God; and that time is short and uncertain. They will be convinced of the vanity of the world; of the blessed opportunity they had in the world ; and how much it is men's wisdom to improve their time. We read of the rich man who was so sottishly blind in this world, that“ in hell he lift
up his eyes, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom,” Luke xvi. 23. With many men, alas! the first time they open their eyes is in hell.
God will make all men to know the truth of those great things which he speaks of in his word, one way or another; for he will vindicate his own truth. He has undertaken to convince all men. They who will not be convinced in this world, by the gentle and gracious methods which God uses with them now, shall be convinced hereafter by severe means. If they will not be convinced for salvation, they shall be convinced by damnation. God will make them know that he is the Lord. And he will make them know that he bears rule. • Consume them in wrath, that they may not be; and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob, unto the ends of the earth," Psal. lix. 13. “Let them be confounded and troubled for ever : yea, let them be put to shame, and perish. That men may know that thou, whose name is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth,” Psal. lxxxiii. 17, 18.
What great care we had need all have, that we be not deceived in matters of religion. If our hearts are all naturally possessed with such an extreme brutish ignorance and blindness in things of religion, and we are exceedingly prone to delusion; then surely great care ought to be taken to avoid it. For that we are naturally prone to delusion, shows our danger: but the greater our danger of any calamity is, the greater had our watchfulness need to be. Let us therefore be hence warned to take heed that we be not deceived about our duty; about our own hearts ; about our ways; about our state; and about our opportunities
. Thousands are deceived in these things, and thousands perish by that means. Multitudes fall on our right hand and on our left, and are ruined eternally by their delusion in these things.
How foolish a thing it is for men to lean to their own understanding, and trust their own hearts. If we are so blind, then our own wisdom is not to be depended on; and that advice of the wise man is most reasonable : “ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding,” Prov. jä. 5, and “He that trusteth in his own heart, is a fool,” Prov. xxviii. 26.—They therefore are fools, who trust to their own wisdom, and will question the mysterious doctrines of religion ; because they cannot see through them, and will hot trust to the infinite wisdom of God.
Let us therefore become fools; be sensible of our own natural blindness and folly. There is a treasure of wisdom contained in that one sentence : “ If any , among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise,” 1 Cor. iii
. 18. Seeing our own ignorance, and blindness, is the first step towards having true knowledge. “If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know," 1 Cor. viii. 2.
Let us ask wisdom of God. If we are so blind in ourselves, then knowledge is not to be sought for out of our own stock, but must be sought from some other source. And we have nowhere else to
for it, but to the fountain of light and wisdom. True wisdom is a precious jewel ; and none of our fellowcreatures can give it us, nor can we buy it with any price we have to give. It is the sovereign gift of God. The way to obtain it, is to go to him, sensible of our weakness, and blindness, and misery on that account. “ If any lack wisdom let him ask of God," James i. 5.
MEN NATURALLY GOD'S ENEMIES.
Romans v. 10.– For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.
The apostle, from the beginning of the epistle to the beginning of this chapter, hath insisted on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. And having particularly spoken to that, in this chapter he goes on to consider the benefits that are consequent on justification. And there are three that flow from justifcation, which are here spoken of, viz., peace with God, present happiness, and hope of glory. Peace with God is mentioned in the first verse. “ Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the following verses he speaks of present blessedness, and hope of glory, as benefits accompanying justification. *“ By whom also we have access by faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
And concerning this benefit of the hope of glory, the apostle does particularly take notice of two things, viz., the blessed nature of this hope, and the sure ground of it.
1. He insists on the blessed nature of this hope, in that it enables us to glory in tribulations. This excellent nature of true Christian hope is described in the following words : “ And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope ; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us,” verses 3–5, q. d. Through hope of a blessed reward, that will abundantly more than make up for all tribulation, we are enabled to bear tribulation with patience; patiently bearing, and patiently waiting for the reward. And patience works experience; for when we thus bear tribulation with patient waiting for the reward, this brings experience of the earnest of the reward, viz., the earnest of the Spirit, in our feeling the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. So that our hope does not make us ashamed; though we do bear tribulation, our hope is not disappointed; for in the midst of our tribulation, we experience those blessed incomes of the Spirit in our souls, that make even a time of tribulation sweet to us; and is such an earnest as abundantly confirms our hope; and so experience works hope.
2. The apostle takes notice of the sure and abundant ground there is for this hope; or the abundant evidence we have, that we shall obtain the glory hoped for, in that peace we bave with God, in our justification through Christ's blood; because that while we were without strength, in due time Christ died for us; while we were ungodly and sinners, enemies to God and Christ, verses 6—10. The apostle's argument is exceeding clear and strong: that if God has done already so great a thing for us, as to give us Christ, to die and shed his precious blood for us, which was vastly the greatest thing, we need not doubt but that he will bestow life upon us, after all this is already done. It is but a small thing for God actually to bestow eternal life, after it is purchased, to what it is for him to give his own Son to die, to purchase it. The giving Christ to purchase it, was virtually all ; it included the whole grace of God in salvation. When Christ had purchased salvation at such a dear rate, all the difficulty was got through, all was virtually over and done. It is a small thing, in comparison,
for God to bestow salvation, after it has been thus purchased at a full price. Sinners that are justified by the death of Christ, are already virtually saved: the thing is, as it were, done; what remains is no more than the necessary consequence of what is done. Christ when he died made an end of sin ; and when he rose from the dead, he did virtually rise with the elect; he brought them up from death with him, and ascended into heaven with them. And therefore, when this is already done, and we are thus reconciled to God through the death of his Son, we need not fear but that we shall be saved by his life. The love of God appears much more in his giving his Son to die for sinners, than in giving eternal life after Christ's death.
The giving of Christ to die for us is here spoken of as a much greater thing, than the actual bestowment of life, on two accounts.
1. That this is all that has any difficulty in it.
2. When God did this for us, he did it for us as sinners and enemies. But in actually bestowing salvation on us after we are justified, we are not looked upon as sinners. After we are justified, God does not look on us any longer as sinners, but as perfectly righteous persons; he beholds no iniquity in us.
We are no more enemies, for then we are reconciled. When God gave Christ to die for the elect, he looked on them as they are in themselves; but in actually bestowing eternal life, he does not look on them as they are in themselves, but as they are in Christ.
There are three epithets used in the text and context, as appertaining to sinners as they are in themselves.
1. They are without strength, they cannot help themselves, verses 6–8. 2. They are ungodly, or sinners. 3. They are enemies, as in the text.
NATURAL MEN ARE GOD'S ENEMIES. God, though the Creator of all things, yet has some enemies in the world.
Men in general will own, that they are, or have been sinners. There are few, if any at all, whose consciences are so blinded as not to be sensible they have been guilty of sin. And most sinners will own that they have bad hearts. They will own that they do not love God so much as they should do ; and that they are not so thankful as they ought to be for mercies; and that in many things they fail. And yet few of them are sensible that they are God's enemies. They do not see how they can be truly so called; they are not sensible that they wish God any hurt, or endeavor to do him any.
But we see that the Scripture speaks of them as enemies to God. So in our text, and elsewhere, “ And you that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your minds by wicked works,” Col. i. 21. “ The carnal mind is enmity against God, "Rom. vii. 7.
And that all natural, or unregenerate men are indeed so, is what I shall endeavor now particularly to show. Which I propose to do in the following method:
1. I shall show, in what respects they are enemies to God. 2. To how great a degree they are enemies. 3. Why they are enemies. 4. I shall answer some objections. I. I am to show, in what respects they are enemies to God. 1. Their enmity appears in their judgments; in the judgment and esteem