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by men, or beasts, or inanimate creatures.
"Oh may thine angels, while I sleep,
How often may it please
And may not the Father of spirits allot this office jointly to angels, and human spirits waiting to be made perfect?
13. It may indeed be objected, that God has no need of any subordinate agents, of either angelical or human spirits, to guard his children, in their waking or sleeping hours, seeing " he that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep.' And certainly, he is able to preserve them by his own immediate power: yea, and he is able, by his own immediate power only, without any instruments at all, to supply the wants of all his creatures, both in heaven and earth. But it is, and ever was, his pleasure, not to work by his own immediate power only, but chiefly by subordinate means, from the beginning of the world. And how wonderfully is his wisdom displayed in adjusting all these to each other! So that we may well cry out, "Oh Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all!"
14. This we know, concerning the whole frame and arrangement of the visible world. But how exceeding little do we now know concerning the invisible! And we should have known still less of it, had it not pleased the author of both worlds to give us more than natural light, to give us "his word, to be a lantern to our feet, and a light in all our paths." And holy men of old, being assisted by his Spirit, have discovered many particulars of which otherwise we should have had no conception.
15. And without Revelation, how little certainty of invisible things did the wisest of men obtain! The small glimmerings of light which they had were merely conjectural. At best, they were only a faint, dim. twilight, delivered from uncertain tradition; and so obscured by hea then fables, that it was but one degree better than utter darkness.
16. How uncertain the best of these conjectures was, may easily be gathered from their own accounts. The most finished of all these accounts, is that of the great Roman poet. Where observe how warily he begins, with that apologetic preface?-Sit mihi fas audita loqui ?— "May I be allowed to tell what I have heard ?"—And in the conclusion, lest any one should imagine he believed any of these accounts, he sends the relater of them out of hades, by the ivory gate, through which he had just informed us, that only dreams and shadows pass. A very plain intimation, that all which has gone before, is to be looked upon as a dream!
17. How little regard they had for all these conjectures, with regard to the invisible world, clearly appears from the words of his brother poet; who affirms, without any scruple,
"Esse aliquos manes et subterranea regna
"That there are ghosts or realms below, not even a man of them now believes."
So little could even the most improved reason discover concerning the invisible and eternal world. The greater cause have we to praise the Father of lights, who hath opened the eyes of our understanding, to discern those things which could not be seen by eyes of flesh and blood; that he who of old time shined out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, and enlightened us with the light of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, "the author and finisher of our faith;" "by whom he made the worlds;" by whom he now sustains whatever he hath made: for,
"Till nature shall her Judge survey,
These things we have believed upon the testimony of God, the Creator of all things, visible and invisible: by this testimony we already know the things that now exist, though not yet seen, as well as those that will exist in their season, until this visible world shall pass away, and the Son of man shall come in his glory.
18. Upon the whole, what thanks ought we to render to God, who has vouchsafed this "ovidence of things unseen" to the poor inhabitants of earth, who otherwise must have remained in utter darkness concerning them? How invaluable a gift is even this imperfect light, to the benighted sons of men! What a relief is it to the defects of our senses, and, consequently, of our understanding; which can give us no information of any thing, but what is first presented by the senses. But hereby a new set of senses (so to speak) is opened in our souls: and, by this means,
"The things unknown to feeble sense,
The clouds disperse, the shadows fly;
London, January 17, 1791.
SERMON CXXVII.—The Deceitfulness of the Human Heart.
"The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jer. xvii, 9.
1. THE most eminent of the ancient heathens have left us many testimonies of this. It was indeed their common opinion, that there was a time when men in general were virtuous and happy: this they termed the "golden age." And the account of this was spread through almost all nations. But it was likewise generally believed, that this happy age had expired long ago; and that men are now in the midst of the "iron age." At the commencement of this, says the poet,
Irrupit venæ pejoris in ævum
"Immediately broke in,
With a full tide, all wickedness and sin:
2. But how much more knowing than these old pagans are the present generation of Christians! How many laboured panegyrics do we now read and hear on the dignity of human nature! One eminent preacher, in one of his sermons, preached and printed a few years ago, does not scruple to affirm; first, That men in general (if not every individual) are very wise: secondly, That men in general are very virtuous and thirdly, That they are very happy :—and I do not know, that any one yet has been so hardy as to controvert the assertion.
3. Nearly related to them, were the sentiments of an ingenious gentleman, who being asked, "My lord, what do you think of the Bible?" answered, "I think it is the finest book I ever read in my life. Only that part of it which indicates the mediatorial scheme, I do not understand: for I do not conceive there is any need of a mediator between God and man. If indeed," continued he, "I was a sinner, then I should need a mediator: but I do not conceive I am. It is true, I often act wrong, for want of more understanding; and I frequently feel wrong tempers, particularly proneness to anger: but I cannot allow this to be a sin; for it depends on the motion of my blood and spirits, which I cannot help. Therefore it cannot be a sin: or if it be, the blame must fall not on me, but on him that made me." The very sentiments of pious lord Kames, and modest Mr. Hume!
4. Some years ago a charitable woman discovered, that there was no sinner in the world, but the devil. "For," said she, "he forces men to act as they do; therefore they are unaccountable: the blame lights on Satan." But these more enlightened gentlemen have discovered, that there is no sinner in the world but God! For he forces men to think, speak, and act as they do; therefore the blame lights on God alone. Satan, avaunt! It may be doubted, whether he himself ever uttered so foul a blasphemy as this!
5. But whatever unbaptized or baptized infidels may say concerning the innocence of mankind, He that made man, and that best knows what he has made, gives a very different account of him. He informs us, that "the heart of man," of all mankind, of every man born into the world, "is desperately wicked;" and that it is "deceitful above all things" so that we may well ask, "Who can know it?"
I. 1. To begin with this: "The heart of man is desperately wicked." In considering this, we have no need to refer to any particular sins; (these are no more than the leaves, or, at most, the fruits, which spring from that evil tree;) but rather to the general root of all. See how this was first planted in heaven itself, by "Lucifer, son of the morning;" till then undoubtedly "one of the first, if not the first archangel:" "Thou saidst, I will sit upon the side of the north." See self will; the first-born of Satan! "I will be like the Most High." See pride; the twin sister of self will. Here was the true origin of evil. Hence came the inexhaustible flood of evils upon the lower world. When Satan had once transfused his own self will and pride into the parents of mankind, together with a new species of sin,-love of the world, the loving the creature above the Creator,-all manner of wickedness, soon rushed in; all ungodliness and unrighteousness; shooting out
into crimes of every kind; soon covering the whole face of the earth with all manner of abominations. It would be an endless task, to enumerate all the enormities that broke out. Now the fountains of the great deep were broken up. The earth soon became a field of blood : revenge, cruelty, ambition, with all sorts of injustice, every species of public and private wrongs, were diffused through every part of the earth. Injustice, in ten thousand forms, hatred, envy, malice, bloodthirstiness, with every species of falsehood, rode triumphant; till the Creator, looking down from heaven, would be no more entreated for an incorrigible race; but swept them off from the face of the earth. But how little were the following generations improved by the severe judgment! They that lived after the flood do not appear to have been a whit better than those that lived before it. In a short time, probably before Noah was removed from the earth, all unrighteousness prevailed as before.
2. But is there not a God in the world? Doubtless there is: and it is "he that hath made us, not we ourselves." He made us gratuitously; of his own mere mercy for we could merit nothing of him before we had a being. It is of his mercy that he made us at all; that he hath made us sensible, rational creatures; and, above all, creatures capable of God. It is this, and this alone, which puts the essential difference between men and brutes. But if he has made us, and given us all we have; if we owe all we are and have to him; then surely he has a right to all we are and have,-to all our love and obedience. This has been acknowledged by almost all who believed themselves to be his creatures, in all ages and nations. But a few years ago a learned man frankly confessed, "I could never apprehend, that God's having created us, gave him any title to the government of us: or, that his having created us laid us under any obligation to yield him our obedience." I believe that Dr. Hutcheson was the first man that ever made any doubt of this. Or that ever doubted, much less denied, that a creature was obliged to obey his Creator. entertained this thought, (but it is not probable he ever did,) it would If Satan ever be no wonder he should rebel against God, and raise war in heaven. And hence would enmity against God arise in the hearts of men also; together with all the branches of ungodliness, which abound therein at this day. Hence would naturally arise the neglect of every duty which we owe to him as our Creator, and all the passions and hopes which are directly opposite to every such duty.
3. From the devil the spirit of independence, self will, and pride, productive of all ungodliness and unrighteousness, quickly infused themselves into the hearts of our first parents in paradise. After they had eaten of the tree of knowledge, wickedness and misery of every kind rushed in with a full tide upon the earth, alienated us from God, and made way for all the rest: atheism, (now fashionably termed dissipation,) and idolatry, love of the world, seeking happiness in this or that creature, covered the whole earth.
"Upright both in heart and will,
We by our God were made:
And o'er the creature stray'd:
4. It would be endless to enumerate all the species of wickedness, whether in thought, word, or action, that now overspread the earth, in every nation, and city, and family. They all centre in this,-atheism, or idolatry: pride; either thinking of themselves more highly than they ought to think, or glorying in something which they have received, as though they had not received it: independence and self will;-doing their own will, not the will of him that made them. Add to this, seeking happiness out of God; in gratifying the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life. Hence, it is a melancholy truth, that (unless when the Spirit of God has made the difference) all mankind now, as well as four thousand years ago, "have corrupted their ways before the Lord; and every imagination of the thought of man's heart is evil, only evil, and that continually." However, therefore, men may differ in their outward ways, (in which undoubtedly there are a thousand differences,) yet in the inward root, the enmity against God, atheism, pride, self will, and idolatry, it is true of all, that "the heart of man," of every natural man," is desperately wicked."
5. But if this be the case, how is it that every one is not conscious of it? For who should "know the things of a man, like the spirit of a man that is in him?" Why is it that so few know themselves? For this plain reason, because the heart is not only "desperately wicked, but deceitful above all things." So deceitful, that we may well ask, "Who can know it?" Who indeed, save God that made it? By his assistance we may, in the second place, consider this, The deceitfulness of man's heart.
II. 1. "It is deceitful above all things;" that is, in the highest degree, above all that we can conceive. So deceitful, that the generality of men are continually deceiving both themselves and others. How strangely do they deceive themselves; not knowing either their own tempers or characters; imagining themselves to be abundantly better and wiser than they are. The ancient poet supposes there is no exception to this rule; that no man is willing to know his own heart.—“ Ât nemo in sese tentat descendere, nemo!" None but those who are taught of God.
2. And if men thus deceive themselves, is it any wonder, that they deceive others also, and that we so seldom find " an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!" In looking over my books some years ago, I found the following memorandum: "I am this day thirty years old; and till this day I know not that I have met with one person of that age, except in my father's house, who did not use guile more or less."
3. This is one of the sorts of desperate wickedness, which cleaves to the nature of every man, proceeding from those fruitful roots, self will, pride, and independence on God. Hence springs every species of vice and wickedness; hence every sin against God, our neighbour, and ourselves. Against God;-forgetfulness and contempt of God, of his name, his day, his word, his ordinances; atheism on the one hand, and idolatry on the other; in particular, love of the world, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life; the love of money, the love of power, the love of ease, the love of the "honour that cometh of men," the love of the creature more than the Creator, the being lovers of d'easure more than lovers of God :—against our