Billeder på siden

it is sown an atural body." He means "a fleshly body." This expresses his sentiment more clearly; for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom." The Apostle, in the chapter containing the words under discussion, declares, respecting the future happiness of the good, that " eye hath not seen the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, but God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit." In reference to the same things, he afterwards says, the natural or sensual man, he who is immersed in sensual indulgences, receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; that is, the things which he hath revealed unto us by his Spirit. 66 They are foolishness unto him." Why? Because spiritual joys, the bliss of virtue, has no charms for the sensualist. "Neither can he know them." Why? "Because they are spiritually discerned." They are of a purely intellectual and spiritual nature; they are not to be understood, or valued by one whose gross mind is bound to the earth, and who has never experienced a felicity which has no relation to the gratifications of sense. His moral perceptions and taste, are blunted, obscure, perverse. He sees no attractions in the prospect of a happiness, whose nature he cannot comprehend,-whose worth he is incapable of appreciating. Let his mind be spiritualized-let it be restored to purity and virtue, he will then discern spiritual things.

Before I close this protracted discussion, allow me for a moment to advert to some popular charges, brought against those who adopt our views of the subject we have been considering.

1. It is often alleged that we diminish the evil of sin, make it a trifling matter, and are disposed to think most men good enough as they are. But how does this appear? Our argument concerns a false account of the origin, and a very exaggerated statement of the amount of sin among mankind. We leave room for the whole

mass of facts which have been, or may be gathered out of human history, to prove that a man is a sinner, and a great sinner too. But we stand in front of these facts, and beg our opponents not to add to them a pile of their fanciful creation. We think that there is as much danger of overstating in a case of this kind, as there is where only an individual's reputation is concerned. We desire only to have the whole truth told. And beside the dark picture of guilt, we would hang that of virtue, and point to the one as well as to the other, when we are describing man. It surely does not affect the magnitude of any evil to trace it to one, rather than another source. Or if it does, the evil of sin is enhanced by a doctrine which attributes it to every man's own folly, and perverse abuse of his nature, instead of deriving it from that nature itself, which, being a gift of God, ought to be presumed worthy of the giver. We do not make sin an infinite evil, for the same reason that our opponents do not make virtuous qualities infinite. There can be nothing infinite in a finite being. We do not deny that there is much wickedness among men; we believe that the whole world once "lay in wickedness." But we are unwilling, for the sake of accounting for this amount of guilt, to resort to a theory which makes God its author. No man, in his right mind, can regard sin as

[ocr errors]

a "trifle." We believe every form of it a subject of great sorrow. With intense anxiety have we seen the mad course of the ungodly, and we lift up our voices with our brethren, to entreat them to fly from the wrath

come. And we can do this with more consistency, for our peculiar views of the point in question. Not sheltering ourselves under the broad covering of native, hereditary, given corruption, we are compelled to feel more earnestly the danger to which we have exposed ourselves by our acquired guilt. We look at sin as it is exhibited in the individual transgressor, and are thus assisted in our efforts to impress its evil on our hearts, and fill them with apprehension at the thought of partaking it. All excuse is taken away, where each one is represented as the author of his own ruin.

The standard of Christian holiness is common to all Christians. We compare men with Jesus, and the precepts of Jesus. Thus we judge of their virtues, and their depravity. This can hardly produce the fault of thinking the majority good enough as they are. None are good enough; Regenerate or Unregenerate, we all come far short of the mark of our high calling. It is not always they who most decry the virtue of mankind, that most justly appreciate their sins, or feel the most solicitude for their improvement.

2. It is also alleged that we take away the proper ground of humility. In reply, I need only remind you of a well known principle. That which we possess in common with every body else, never makes us proud. So that which we suppose all the world has as well as we, never causes the feeling of humility. You are not proud

[ocr errors]


because you are a rational animal. You are not humble, because you are no angel; you may be proud of that which raises you above others, and humbled by that which sinks you in their esteem. If human nature be depraved, yet it is no more so in one, than all; and therefore, I believe few would venture to assert, that they are humbled by the thought of native depravity alone. No humility is a just sense of our own imperfections and unworthiness; and he will have the most of it, who compares, most faithfully, his heart and life, with the characters which deserve admiration, and perceives his want of resemblance; who studies his duty well, and understands the defects in his performance of it. We are not disposed to boast of our humility; but there is nothing in our opinions which destroy it. There is a spiritual pride whose appropriate food is sought in rehearsing to others, the corruptions it really does not feel ashamed of; and bemoaning a guilt, the charge of which, it would resent, should it come from another's lips.

3. Again, we are accused of undervaluing "the great Salvation" by our views of human nature; but just the opposite is true. It is for the very reason that we think as we do of our nature, that we are disposed to set a high value on the Christian scheme of mercy. We feel that by our sins, we have done a wrong to ourselves, the most mournful and dangerous. We compare the nature God has given us, which is "but a little lower than the angels," with our own conduct, and confess that we deserve a heavy punishment for so degrading it. We look up to the bright eminence, from which the sinner falls, and bless more earnestly the hand which lifts him from

the dust, and leads him back to virtue and to God. We welcome the Saviour, who comes to restore self-ruined men. But did we believe that God gave us at first, a ruined nature, and sent us helpless and abandoned into the waste, howling wilderness, with no capacity to do good, and condemned to woes eternal for doing evil, we should not value highly the grace which afterward calls home a few of us, leaving all besides, to perish without relief. We do not, and we cannot feel grateful for a Gospel made up of decrees of Election, irresistible influences, and eternal death. But we rejoice, yea, and will rejoice, in that Gospel of the blessed God, which reveals a Saviour to the world, and opening wide the gates of Heaven, proclaims the soul-cheering words, "Whosoever will, let him come." We do, and we will give thanks to the Father of Jesus, and of us, that he sent his Son to turn us from our iniquities, reconcile us to himself, and, by forming us to virtue here, prepare us, for a holy rest hereafter.

Brethren, while we divert your attention from false views of human nature, and strive to banish them from your minds, we still call upon you to look steadfastly to the characters you have yourselves acquired. If, for the sin of our first father, we be neither guilty nor exposed to punishment, for our own, we most assuredly are. May God incline our hearts to repentance, cherish in us every good desire and affection, fill us with the love of his own perfections, and give us fervent charity toward all mankind!

« ForrigeFortsæt »