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such as the offices of Christ, the dispensation of the Spirit, with those graces and duties which are purely evangelical, these are foolishness to them, and the preaching of them is canting and folly. And some of these persons, who do not go so far as the friar at Rome, who said, that 'St. Paul fell into great excesses in these things,' have yet dared to accuse his writings of darkness and obscurity! and for no other reason, but because he insists on the declaration of these spiritual mysteries.
The event of the dispensation of the Gospel proves, that the spiritual things of it are foolishness to the most; for as such they reject them. Suppose a man of reputation should go to his neighbours, and with much earnestness assure them, that by a certain method, they may greatly increase their worldly substance, until they exceed the wealth of kings: if in this case they do not follow his advice, it must be because they judge the means prescribed to be no way suited to the end proposed, that is, to be foolish :-and this is the state of things with respect to the mysteries of the Gospel. Men are informed. how great and glorious they are, and what blessed effects will follow their reception of them: the beauty and excellency of Christ; the inestimable privilege of adoption; the great and precious promises; the glory of the world to come; and the necessity and beauty of holiness are preached to them, and pressed upon them; yet after all, we see how few apply themselves with any industry to receive them, or at least do actually receive them; and the reason is, because indeed to their darkened minds these things are foolishness, whatever they pretend to the contrary.
As the foregoing instance. shews why a natural man will not receive the things of the Spirit, so the apostle adds a reason why he cannot; and that is taken from the manner in which alone they may be usefully received, and which he cannot attain unto; they are spiritually discerned. The natural man, by natural light, discerns natural things; the things of a man knoweth the spirit. of a man.' And the spiritual. man, by a spiritual light, discerns spiritual things; for none knoweth the things of God but the Spirit of God, and he to whom He will reveal them.' This ability he denies to a natural man. And this he proves, (1.) Because it is the work of the
Spirit to endow the minds of men with that ability; which would be needless if they had it by nature; and (2.) The light itself, whereby alone spiritual things can be discerned, is created in us by almighty power. 2 Cor.
From these premises it is evident, that there is in the mind of a natural man both a natural and a moral impo tence, whereby it cannot receive the things of God; the first immediately affects the mind; the latter the will and affections; by reason of the one he cannot receive them, for want of light; by the other he will not, because they are foolishness.
(1.) There is a natural impotence, through the deprarity of the faculties of the mind, whereby a natural man is absolutely unable, without a special renovation of the Holy Ghost, to discern spiritual things in a saving maner-and yet this is no excuse for the sin of rejecting them; for though it have the nature of a punishment, and 18 our misery, yet it is our sin also it is the misery of our persons, and the sin of our natures; and no man can plead his sin as an excuse for another sin of any kind. This impotence is natural, because it consists in the deprivation of a power that was originally in our minds; and this is consistent with what we said before of the natural power of the mind to receive spiritual things; for that power respects the natural capacity of our faculties; this impotence, the depravation of them with respect to spiritual things.
(2.) There is also a moral impotence, whence the mind never will receive them, but will always reject and refuse them; and that because of various corruptions and prejudices invincibly fixed in them, causing them to look on them as foolishness. Hence it will come to pass, that no man will be judged and perish at the last day, merely on account of his natural impotence; every one to whom the gospel has been preached, shall be convinced of positive actings in their minds rejecting it for the love of self, sin, and the world. Thus, our Saviour tells the Jews that no man can come unto him, unless the Father draw him:' such is their natural impotence, that they cannot ; and yet he tells them elsewhere, You will not come to me that you might have life! The present thing in question was not the power or impotence of their minds, but
the obstinacy of their wills and affections, for which men shall be judged at the last day: For this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.' Hence it follows, that the will and affections being more" corrupted than the understanding, no man actually applies his mind to the receiving the things of God to the utmost of his ability. There is not a due improvement of the capacity of his natural faculties, for the discharge of his duty towards God.
It remains that we consider what is the power and eff cacy of this darkness, to keep natural men in a constant aversion from God and the Gospel. To this purpose some testimonies of Scripture must be considered.
We are said, in Col. i. 13, 'To be delivered from the power of darkness: the word () signifies authority or rule;-that which bears sway. Hence the sins of men are called works of darkness;' not only such as are usually perpetrated in the dark, but such as the darkness of men's minds inclines them to, and naturally produses. This is elsewhere called the power of Satan;' for it is not only the internal darkness of the mind that is intended, but the whole state of darkness, with what is contributed thereto by Satan and the world; but yet all is resolved into this internal darkness; for Satan has no power or authority over men, but by means of it; hereby alone he works effectually in the children of disobedi ence; hereby he seduces and corrupts them; nor has he any way to fortify their minds against the Gospel, but by increasing this darkness in them. The power of this darkness will appear in the following instances:
1. It fills the mind with enmity against God and all the things of God. You were enemies in your minds;' Col. i. 21. The carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be.' Rom. viii. 7. Now God in himself is infinitely good and desireable. How great is his goodness, how great is his beauty! There is nothing in him but what is suited to excite and satisfy the affections of the soul. To them that know him, he is the only delight, rest, and satisfaction. Whence then is it that the minds of men should be possessed with enmity against him? Enmity againsthim who is absolute and infinite goodness, seems
incompatible with human affections: but it arises from this darkness, which is the corruption of our nature.
This enmity exerts itself either closely or openly, even in persons who sit under the preaching of the word, until they are effectually prevailed upon by victorious grace. And however they may be doctrinally instructed in true notions concerning God, yet in the application of them to themselves, they always err in their hearts.' All the practical notions they have of God, tend to alienate their hearts from him, either by contempt or by undue terror. They think that God is such an one as themselves!' at least that he will accept of them, though they continue in their sins! Now this is a fruit of the highest enmity against God, though palliated with the pretence of the highest apprehensions of his goodness: for as it is the heinous crime of gross idolaters that they represent the Deity in the shape of men or beasts, so it is a sin of higher provocation to conceive of him as so far like to bestial men, as to approve and accept of them in their sin : and where this is not the case, this darkness in the minds of men will, on the other hand, epresent God as all fire and fury, inexorable and intractable.
Again: This darkness fills the mind with enmity against all the ways of God; for as the carnal mind is enmity against God, so it is not subject to his law;' it dislikes the whole way and work of living to him through this blindness; and esteems the whole rule and measure of it to be foolishness.
2. This darkness fills the mind with wills or perverse lusts that are directly contrary to the will of God. There are (Senuara Siavci) the wills or lusts of the mind (Eph. 3.); that is, its habitual inclinations to sensual objects-it minds earthly things.' And hence the mind is said to be fleshly.-It savours, approves of nothing but what is sensual and vain. The thoughts and imaginations of the mind are always employed in providing sensual objects for this vain and fleshly frame; and are therefore evil continually.' This is the course of a darkened mind; its fleshly will excites vain thoughts, it minds the things of the flesh and the particular bent of these imaginations, answers the predominance of any special lust in the heart or mind.
3. It fills the mind with prejudices against spiritual
things as proposed in the Gospel; and from these prejudices it has neither light nor power to extricate itself. No small part of its depravity consists in its readiness to embrace them, and pertinacious adherence to them. Some few of these prejudices may be instanced.
(1.) The mind, from the darkness that is in it, apprehends that spiritual things are inconsistent with true contentment and satisfaction. These are what all men eagerly pursue in a thousand different ways; and these suppose themselves in the way to those little tastes of pleasure which they have already obtained. Now these hopeful beginnings they will not forego. Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidest thou not, there is. no hope! Thou hast found the life of thine hand, therefore thou wast not grieved.' Isa. lvii. 10. They are sometimes ready to faint in the pursuit of their lusts, 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