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tional creatures to love God; but sin has brought am additional obligation on us who are guilty creatures, not only to love God, but also to loath ourselves. Without, this we can neither know his righteousness, nor his loving kindness, which he bids us glory in ; his righteousness in all we suffer, his loving kindness in all we enjoy : how unworthy we are of the one, how richly we have deserved the other ; that is, without a right sense of the doctrine in the text, we can neither practise due submission in our afflictions, nor due gratitude for our comforts; and consequently run the greatest risk of losing the one, and having the other multiplied upon us. · In discoursing on this doctrine in such a manner as may be a mean, through divine grace, to give us a right impression of the importance and certainty of it, it will be proper to treat of these following things. 1. To consider some observations, from Scripture and experience, to shew, that the unworthy thoughts of God, which the text rebukes, however unreasonable, are, notwithstanding, very ordinary, and do a great deal of harm to men's souls, as well as dishopour to God. In the next place, we shall collect the evidences we have for the doctrine in the text, from God's works and ways; and shall consider the arguments that are most proper for resisting these injurious thoughts of God, which the apostle warns us against. These will afford us sufficient answers to all the objections and prejudices that natural corruption suggest against the doctrine. After considering which, it will be easy to reflect, what improvement we should make of a truth of so great moment, and in which, the honour of God is so much concerned.
I. First, There are several obvious things, that may easily convince us, that these impious thoughts, which the apostle rebukes, are too common and ordinary.
1. It is not the way of the Scriptures, to caution men against imaginary sins, i. e. sins that men are seldoni or never guilty of, but sins wbich natural cor
ruption really inclines them to; especially we cannot suppose that the Scriptures would caution men against sins of the heart and thought, which the heart is not really liable to. It can never be the intention of the Holy Ghost to raise evil thoughts in men's hearts that were not there before ; but to discover those that are there, to discover them, in order to cure them. An ingenuous Christian will not stand to acknowledge that this text represents to him what has been sometimes the suggestion of his own heart, and has much troubled his repose ; (and it is great matter of comfort to him, that he has been troubled for such thoughts, and struggled against them); he will not stand to acknowledge that this text is a confirmation of that character, which the epistle to the Hebrews gives of the word of God, " That it is a discerner of the
thoughts and intents of the heart." He was a person of eminent goodness otherwise, as well as inge nuity, who was wont to confess,“ That whatever
curiosity others had in perusing the writings of li“bertines and heretics against Divine truths, for his
own part, he could find nothing in them that was "new to him, nothing but what he had read before " in the imaginations of his own corrupt heart; and “that the chief prejudices against God's perfections “and precepts were enforced there, with as much "eloquence and efficacy perhaps, and set in as strong
a light, as in any heretical book in the world.” It is certain, while a man is under the slavery of sin, be carries in his breast a capacious source of heretical thoughts against God's attributes, as well as of libertine thoughts against his laws; the former of which, have as great influence in hindering due love and es. teem of God in his heart, as the latter have in hindering obedience to bim in his life : And it is certain, that of all the ungodly thoughts that arise from unrestrained corruption, none flow more naturally from it, than those, by which men justify or excuse them. selves, which they cannot do without blaming God.
2. Men's inclination to blame God for their sins,
discovers itself by their forwardness in blaming him for their sufferings. Sin is the cause of their trouble; and therefore were men perfectly and sincerely convinced, that God is infinitely free from the blame of the cause, they could not be so prone to blame him for the effect. It requires no great insight into human nature, to observe an unaccountable inconsistency that appears in the way of thinking many men have about God's providence. They ascribe the good that befals them to chance or to themselves, and the evil that befals them to God. They are very ready to acknowledge his providence in their affliction, in order to repine and fret against him; while perhaps they seldom or never seriously acknowledge it in their prosperity, to thank him for it; while they overlook his undeserved goodness in what they enjoy, they pretend it is undeserved displeasure that makes them suffer.
It is remarkable, the day in which men are to be called to an account for such thoughts, with all their other thoughts and actions, is called the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Rom. ii. 5. Men must then answer, not only for their disobedience in committing of sin, but also for their ar, rogancy in blaming him for it. Andas real aggravations of sin are now covered with pretended excuses, so when the books of that awful court shall be opens ed, it is certain pretended excuses will appear in their true colours, and, rising to view in their blackest forms, will be found to be real aggravations. Men must then give an account how they came to blame God for what they suffered, without thanking him for what they enjoyed. Happy were it for us, if we had the same view of sin now, that we shall certain. ly have then : And surely nothing can be more rational ; for what will appear true then, must really be so now; and therefore it is certainly an useful preparation for that day, to be active now in acquiring through God's grace, that view and sense of sin,
which will otherwise be forced upon us by his righteous vengeance.
But not to insist further on this : The principal evidence of this branch of the doctrine, that deserves to be carefully considered, is, the ingratitude of men to God for his infinite mercy, in sending his Son to save them from their sins; and the more we consi. der it, the more we may be convinced, that their cold thoughts about divine mercy in the work of redemption, flow, in a great measure, from their false thoughts of his righteousness in the works of providence ; that is, plainly, their hearts do not love him ardently for their deliverance, because they blame him secretly for their danger. This point deserves our particular attention, because gratitude for redeeming mercy being the soul and centre of Christianity, to which all religious meditations should be referred, the chief importance of the doctrine in the text, consists in its subserviency to that end. It is plain to any who considers the doctrine of redemption, that it represents to us such infinite love, such incomparable tenderness and condescension, that as God's conduct towards us is an incompréhensible mystery of kindness, so our conduct towards him, is, if we may so speak, an incomprehensible mystery of ingratitude. There are indeed many mysteries in human nature, but they come all far short of this ; for if we consider that hu. man nature, corrupt and perverse as it is, is not yet wholly lost to all sense of gratitude in other cases, but that freqoently the hearts even of the worst of men are softened with a kindly sense of singular favours; especially that the coldest and hardest hearts are sometimes melted with undeserved favours ; if we consider that, in other cases, our acknowledgments rise naturally in proportion to our obligations, and that, after all, the greatest temporal favours, when compared with eternal ones, are but trifles; and yet as insignificant as they are, they beget sometimes a very high degree of gratitude, and swell men's hearts with such generous sentiments toward their benefactors, that they take pleasure in nothing in the world more than in serving them. If we consider all this, and compare it with the returns we make to our greatest (yea, in effect, our only) Benefactor, for the greatest benefits he could give, or we receive, or imagine ; if we compare these things together, it may be a question, Whether we have more reason to be astonished at God's love, or at our own unthankfulness; or, which of them is the greatest wonder? To think that we should be so strongly affected with earthly faveurs; favours, from worms like ourselves; favours, of so little importance, of so short continuance; favours, proceeding from such imperfect love, and oftentimes mixed with many injuries; that we should be so strongly affected with such favours as these, and so little with the love of God in Christ, that love which is so perfectly pure, and disinterested, in the grounds of it, so free as to its motives, that it is exercised towards objects, who had neither merit to deserve it, nor power to requite it, nor used importunity in seeking after it; a love that is so infinitely tender in its nature, so inestimably precious in its ef. fects, so rich and abundant in its fruits, so constant, so lasting, yea everlasting, so glorious in all its manifestations; that this should be the only friendship to which most men make no returns, the only kind. ness, of which they have no grateful resentment, is such a miracle, or rather monster of stupidity, that it might seem incredible, if there were any arguing against experience.
The cause of it can never perhaps be perfectly known, while we are not perfectly free from that deceitfulness of the heart, which the prophet Jeremiah affirms to be so mysterious, that God only knows it: Yet some of the causes of it are unfolded to us in Scripture; and the more we consider the text, the more we may be convinced, that it makes a very remarkable discovery this way; for it is plain, men are incapable of due gratitude to God, for sending Christ to redeem them from sin, while they bare