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Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 'Nor is it strange that the natural man should not discern the things of the Spirit; for, in all other cases, a simple perception can only be excited by its proper object. The ideas of sound and colour, of proportion and symmetry, of beauty and harmony, are never found in the mind, till the objects, by which these pleasing sensations or emotions are inspired, have been presented to our observation. How then shall we rightly apprehend the nature and effects of communicated grace, before they are felt? or how can we explain to others sensations for which language has no words, and to which the persons whom we would enlighten have no feeling analogous in their own minds?'
The language of the heart of a natural man to God is, Depart from me; for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways. I say the language of the heart; because the existence of this diabolical aversion is by multitudes peremptorily denied. But every act of sin is rebellion against the authority of God in his law i a contumacious disregard of the sanctions by w hich it is enforced; and while men indulge themselves in criminal pursuits, in vain do they disown the being of a disposition hostile to the divine character. There have always been men that have professed to know God, but who have in works denied him: and, while this ignorance and aversion continue, the sinner will persevere in the paths of iniquity and of death, suspecting neither danger nor deception. 'Though he walk in the imaginations of his heart, to add drunkenness to thirst, yet doth he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace.' Selflove flatters him with undoubted assurance of mercy. Imagination pictures a God all benignity and love. No regard is paid to his truth and his holiness as rector of the world; nor is it. remembered that it is in the nature of things impossible divine justice shQiild, without satisfaction, remit punishment where transgressions are committed.
If the deluded sinner become at all serious, and the thought of eternity obtrude on his reflection, and disturb his quiet; he purposes amendment of life, as the most likely means of making God propitious.
'Remorse begets reform. His master lust
This alteration of conduct, joined to the mercy of God, will, he thinks, completely save him, though it be at the last hour. If, however, conscience do her work faithfully, he is exceedingly alarmed: he begins to proportion his diligence to his danger, 'and purposes,' as Hawkesworth expresses it, 'more uniform virtue and more ardent devotion, in order to secure himself from the worm that never dies, and the fire that is not quenched;' but until convinced by the Holy Spirit that • all his righteousness is as filthy rags,' he is never brought, even at the last extremity, to reject his own supposed moral worth.
Such are the views, and such the principles, on which the natural man reasons, when guilt arrests the conscience, and the salvation of his soul becomes a matter of serious inquiry. The tear of sorrow is to purchase oblivion for the past, and future reformation to merit the felicity of heaven. He never considers that the imperfection of his duties renders eternal blessedness in this way unattainable. But when the Spirit of God strips him of all his imaginary excellence, and shews him that the divine law is spiritual; that it requireth perfect purity of heart as well as of conduct, he then sees that he is indeed 'wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.' He cries, in the anguish of his soul, What! will nothing that I can do entitle me to happiness? If so, 'How then can man be justified with Cod? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?' . . t
Such is the inquiry of an awakened .soul: and such, Lavinia, I know is the language of your heart. While, therefore, I am endea* vouring to answer the inexpressibly important question, pray 'that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto
you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.'
In attempting this, we must return to that once happy paradise, where our first parents forfeited their title to present and to future happiness. Here, while lamenting over their apostasy from God, we discover the interposing hand of divine mercy extended to administer relief—to point the way to 'a paradise,' as Witsius expresses it, 'far preferable to the earthly, and to a felicity more stable than that from which Adam fell. Here a new hope shines upon ruined mortals, which ought to be the more acceptable, the more unexpected it comes. Here conditions are prescribed, to which eternal salvation is annexed; conditions, not to be performed again by us, which might throw the mind into despondency; but by him that would not part with his life before he had truly said—It is finished.' No sooner is the rebellion of our apostate ancestors acknowledged, than a Saviour is graciously promised—' The s«.ed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head.' • . •