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Their first sinful exercises were as really criminal, as any of their past sinful exercises. They began to sin freely and voluntarily, as Adam did at first; and they have always continued to sin freely and voluntarily. The reason why they have not always loved God is, because they have hated him without a cause. The reason why they have not come to Christ is, because they would not come to him that they might have lise. Such free, voluntary enmity to God and to Christ is unspeakably criminal, and admits of no excuse; and is the very thing for which they deserve eternal death. And of course, it lays them under no natural inability to love God supremely, or to believe in Christ immediately. They can act as freely in loving as in hating God, and in believing in Christ as in rejecting him. They have no excuse for neglecting to do their first work till a more convenient season. God now commands every one who is in the state of nature to put away his native depravity and immediately comply with the terms of mercy which he has proposed in the gospel. He does not allow him to plead his old, obstinate heart as an excuse; but requires him to put off the old man and put on the new, and walk in newness of life the residue of his days. Life and death are now set before every one, and his free choice must determine his eternal destiny.
I must not conclude this discourse, without applying it to parents in particular, who are deeply concerned in it, not merely on their own account, but more especially on account of their children. These are committed to their peculiar care and instruction. Notwithstanding their children have so many amiable natural qualities which excite their fondest affections, yet they are by nature depraved, and children of wrath. Their hearts are fully set in them to do evil, and as soon as possible they go astray, speaking and acting wrong. They carry about with them evil hearts, which expose them to run into the paths of the destroyer, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. And it depends, under God, upon parents, whether they shall avoid every evil and false way, and pursue the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life. You do, in a very important sense, hold the temporal and eternal interests of your children in your own hands. And can you bear the thought that they should perish for ever, through your guilty negligence? God has required you to give up your children to him, and bring them up for him. It never more concerned parents to instruct and restrain their children faithfully than at this day. All the duties of parents are very closely connected ; but there seems to be a more visible connection between the happiness of parents and their duty towards their
children, than in respect to almost any other duty. If you neglect your duty to your children, your children will very probably correct you for your neglect in ways that will pierce your hearts with the keenest sorrow and anguish. But have you any reason to expect that you shall take proper care of your children, if you do not take proper care of yourselves ? You must give God your hearts, before you can give your children to him, or expect that he will teach you how to teach them. Will you, for a moment, anticipate the tremendous consequences of neglecting yourselves and your children? Be entreated to avoid those tremendous consequences, and resolve to do all in your power to prepare yourselves and your children for the kingdom of glory.
SERMON X X XVII.
THE NATURE, EXTENT AND INFLUENCE OF THE
MORAL DEPRAVITY OF SINNERS.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law
of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the
flesh cannot please Cod. -- ROMANS, viii, 7, 8.
It has been much disputed of late, among those who call themselves Calvinists, whether all the doings of unregenerate men are altogether sinful. There would be no difficulty in deciding this question, if those who profess to believe the total corruption of human nature would only agree to draw the same inference from it. But there are many who acknowledge that the hearts of sinners are totally depraved, and yet deny that their actions are altogether criminal. It seems necessary, therefore, in order to bring this point to a fair and final decision, not only to prove that sinners are totally depraved, but also to prove that their total depravity extends to all their actions, and turns them into sin. And the words which I have read naturally lead us to consider this subject in this manner. “ Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." By the carnal mind the apostle means the carnal heart; for it is the heart only, which is enmity against God. And this carnal heart he represents as corrupting all the actions which proceed from it. He lays down the total depravity of sinners as a first principle, from which he draws the only fair and natural conclusion, that they cannot please God. His plain meaning, therefore, may be clearly expressed in this simple proposition :
The total depravity of sinners renders all their actions totally depraved.
To illustrate this subject, I shall show,
There is no truth more clearly and fully taught in scripture, than the total depravity of sinners. They are represented as spiritually deaf and blind. “ Bring forth the blind people that have eyes,
and the deaf that have ears." “ Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.” They are represented as spiritually dead.
“ Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." “ And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." They are represented as incapable of discerning the moral beauty of divine objects. “But the natural man receiv- . eth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." These are plain though figurative descriptions of the total depravity of sinners. Their hearts are also represented as not only destitute of moral goodness, but as full of moral evil. We read, “ God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Solomon says, “ The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” Our Lord told the unbelieving Jews, " I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you."
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do."
6 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?" The apostle Paul paints the total depravity of sinners in the strongest colors. “ They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre ; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known; there is no fear of God before their eyes.” Agreeably to these representations, we find such appellations and epithets given to sinners as strongly express their total depravity. They are called the unjust
, the unrighteous, the ungodly, the unholy, the unbelieving, and enemies of the cross of Christ. Such persons as justly deserve these characters, must be entirely destitute of every holy and virtuous affection.
But the manner in which the scripture distinguishes saints from sinners, affords the clearest and most convincing evidence, that all who are not saints are totally depraved. According to scripture, he that loveth God is a saint, but he that loveth him not is a sinner; he that repenteth of sin is a saint, but he that repenteth not is a sinner; he that believeth in Christ is a saint, but he that believeth not is a sinner; he that is born of God is a saint, but he that is not born of God is a sinner; he that is in the Spirit is a saint, but he that is in the flesh is a sinner; he that is for Christ is a saint, but he that is against him is a sinner. This mode of distinction necessarily implies that saints have some grace, but that sinners have none; that saints have some holiness, but that sinners have none; and that nothing short of total depravity can justly denominate any person a sinner in distinction from a saint. Though the plainest passages of scripture in favor of total depravity may be perverted to some other meaning, yet the argument in favor of this doctrine, drawn from the scriptural manner of distinguishing saints from sinners, admits of no evasion, and cannot be rejected without rejecting the very distinction itself. Whoever undertakes to describe a sinner without taking total depravity into his character, will describe a saint. If he say, a sinner is one who sometimes does good, and sometimes does evil; this is a description of a saint. For every saint sometimes does good and sometimes does evil. If he say, a sinner is one who does more evil than good; this is a description of a saint. For every saint has more sin than holiness. If he say, a sinner is one who has the lowest degree of grace; this is a description of a saint. For the least degree of love, faith, repentance, or any other holy affection, forms the character of a saint, and entitles him to the divine favor. Indeed, ask any intelligent, frank, candid man, who denies total depravity, to tell you the essential difference between a saint and a sinner, and he will freely acknowledge that it is out of his power. For he knows, that if all men are possessed of some real holiness, the only moral difference between one person and another is, that one has more and another has less true love to God. But this is the difference between one saint and another, and not the difference between a saint and a sinner. The most celebrated writers, who deny total depravity, appear to be unable to point out any essential difference between saints and sinners. We
read all the sermons of Barrow, Clarke, Hoadley and Tillotson, and never find a single instance in which they have drawn two essentially different moral characters. They speak of saints and sinners in scripture language; but they never show wherein they essentially differ, nor describe that particular act or exercise of mind, by which a