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preaching of the doctrine of the cross, and the rod of discipline for the reformation of offenders ; which in the hands of the apostles, seems to have been attended with the power of inficting temporal judgments, and particularly bodily sicknesses; and which St. Paul here threatens lo exercise upon such of the Corinthians as continued obstinate in their opposition to his ministry.
These powers he here calls weapons of war. This tent-maker and a few fishermen were sent out upon a grand expedition, in opposition to the united powers of Jews and Gentiles, of earth and hell. All the world, with their gloomy god, were ready to join against them. They were ready to oppose them with all the force of philosophy, learning, authority, threatenings, and all the cruel forms of persecution. For the christian cause in which these soldiers of Jesus Christ were engaged, was contrary to their lusts and prejudices, their honour, and secular interests. This opposition of the world to the gospel, the apostle also describes in the military style. Their lusts, prejudices, and interests, their vain imaginations and false reasonings, are so many strong holds and high things or castles in which they, as it were, fortify and entrench themselves. These they hold and garrison under the prince of darkness; in these they stand out in their rebellion against heaven, and fight against God, against his gospel, and against their own consciences. And with what weapons did the apostles attack these rebels in their strong holds ! Not with carnal weapons, such as the heroes and conquerors of the world are wont to use, but with weapons of a spiritual nature, the force of evidence and conviction, the purity of their doctrines and lives, the terrors of the Lord, and the all-conquering love of a dying Saviour. With these weapons they encountered the allied powers of men and devils ; with these they propagated, the religion of their Master; and not with the sword, like Mahomet; or with the bloody artillery of persecution, like the church of Rome ; or by the dragoonade, like the tyrants of France.
What unpromising weapons were these? What avails the light of evidence in a world that loves darkness rather than light, and where lust, prejudice, and interest generally prevail against truth and reason? Is the contemptible weapon of the cross likely to do execution ? Are the unpopular mortifying doctrines of one that was crucified like a malefactor and a slave, likely to prevail against all the prejudices of education, the attachment of mankind to the religion of antiquity, established by law; the policy of priest
craft ; the love of gain ; the powers of the world ; and the various oppositions of the depraved hearts of mankind ? Are such gentle and weak weapons as these likely to have any success ? Yes, these weapons, though not carnal, were mighty, resistless, all-conqueringbut then you must observe, they were mighty through God. The excellency of the power was of God, and such unpromising arms were used on purpose to shew this. It was he that gave edge to the weapons, and force to the blow. Without the energy of his grace, they could have done nothing, even in the hands of apostles. But, by the might of his spirit, they became almighty, and carried all before them : these contemptible weapons, with his concurrence, pulled down strong holds ; cast down towering imaginations, and reasonings* that seemed impregnable, and demolished every high thing, every battery, castle, or citadel, that was erected against the knowledge of God, that knowledge of him which the gospel brought to light, and reduced every thought into captivity, to the obedience of Christ. Sinners were brought not only to compliment Jesus with a bended knee, and profess subjection to him with their lips, but to bow their stubborn hearts to him, and let him reign in their affections. That gospel to which they were so averse, gained a complete victory over their minds ; their minds, which the Alexanders and Cesars of the world could not subdue ; and reduced not only their external conduct, but their thoughts ; not only some thoughts, but every thought, to the obedience of Christ. When God gives the commission, the stately walls of Jericho will fall, even at the feeble sound of rams' horns.
To bring into captivity, is generally understood in a bad sense, and signifies the carrying away of loyal subjects against their wills, into a foreign country, and there enslaving them to the enemy. But here it is a significant catachresis, and signifies the deliverance of sinners from the slavery of sin and Satan, and their restoration into a state of liberty, and into favour with God, and this too by their own free consent. And it is called a captivating, to intimate, that, though when the sinner submits he does it voluntarily, yet he had really made a strong resistance, and did not submit till sweetly constrained to it ; and that he looked upon his state of slavery to sin as a state of freedom, and was as unwilling to leave it as a free-born subject would be to be captivated and enslaved in an enemy's country.
I foresee I cannot take time to do justice to this copious subject, But I shall endeavour to comprise my thoughts in as little room as possible, in a few propositions, to which each head in my text may be reduced.
And the whole will be but a short history of the revolt of mankind against the great God, their rightful Sovereign, and their miserable slavery to sin and Satan—of an important expedition set on foot and carried on by the ministry of the gospel, to recover them from their state of slavery, and reduce them to their obedience-of their various niethods of oppo. sition to this design ; or the various ways in which they fortify themselves against the attacks made upon them by divine grace for this end of the issue of this siege, particularly the terms of surrender-and their consequent deliverance from the dominion of sin and Satan, and their willing subjection to their rightful Lord and Proprietor.
I. All mankind, in their present state of apostasy, have revolted from God, and surrendered themselves slaves to sin and Satan.
We might produce abundant evidence of this from the sacred writings ; but as the evidence from plain undeniable fact may be more convictive, I shall insist chiefly upon it. Mankind are secretly disaffected to God and his government in their hearts; and hence they do not take pleasure in his service. They are not solicitous for the honour and dignity of his government. They will not bear the restraints of his authority, nor regard his law as the rule of their conduct, but will follow their own inclinations, let him prescribe what he will. Nay they have no disposition to return to their duty, or listen to proposals for reconciliation ; and hence they disregard the gospel (which is a scheme to bring about a peace) as well as the law. In short, they will not do any thing that God commands them, unless it suit their own corrupt inclinations ; and they will not abstain from any thing which he forbids, for his sake, if they have any temptation to it from their own lusts. These things, and a thousand more which might be mentioned, fix the charge of rebellion upon them. It is undeni. able they are disaffected to his government in their hearts, whatever forced or complimental expressions of loyalty some of them may at times give him. Look into your own hearts, and take a view of the world around you, and you will find this is evidently the case. VOL. II.
But though they are thus disobedient to their rightful Sove. reigh, yet to sin and Satan, those usurping and tyrannical masters, they are the most tame and obsequious slaves. For these, they will go through the most sordid drudgery, for no other wages than death. For these, they will give up their most important interests, and exchange their souls, and their share in heaven, without any retaliation, but the sorry transitory pleasures of sin. Let temptation but beckon, they immediately take the signal, and obey Let sin command them to hurt their souls and bodies, and perhaps their estates, with excessive drinking, the poor slaves comply. Let sin order them to swear, to lie, to defraud, they submit, though eternal damnation be the consequence. Let sin order them to pursue riches, honour, or sensual pleasures, through right and wrong, at the loss of their ease, the danger of their lives and the destruction of their souls, they engage in the drudgery, and toil all their days in it. Let sin forbid them to serve God, to attend seriously to his word, to pray to him im. portunately, in secret and in their families, to reflect upon their miserable condition, to repent and believe the gospel ; let sin but lay them under a prohibition to these things, they will cautiously refrain from them; and all the arguments which God and man can use with them will have little or no weight. In short, let sin but order them to give up their interest in heaven, and run the risk of eternal ruin ; let sin but command them to neglect and disregard the God that made them, and the Saviour that died for them, they will venture upon the self-denying and destructive enterprize: They will do more for sin than they will do for the great God their rightful Sovereign and constant Benefactor. Sin has more influence with them than all the persuasions of parents, ministers, and their best friends ; nay, more influence than the love, the dying groans and agonies of a crucified Saviour. There is nothing so sacred, so dear or valuable in heaven, but they will give it up if sin requires them. Nothing so terrible in hell, but they will rush into, if sin sets them upon the desperate attempt. They are the most tame, unresisting captives to sin. Sin is an arbitrary, absolute, despotic tyrant over them; and, which is most astonishing, they are not weary of its tyranny, nor do they pant and struggle for liberty. Liberty to them has lost its charms, and they hug their chains and love their bondage. Alas! are there not many free-born Britons in this assembly, who are slaves in this sense? slaves in a worse sense than the poorest negro
among us: slaves to sin, and consequently to Satan ; for sin is commander in chief under the prince of darkness, the gloomy god of this world : it is by sin, as his deputy, that he exercises his power, and therefore șinners are in reality slaves to him ! This, one would think, would be a shocking reflection to them, that they are slaves of the most malignant being in nature ; a being not only malignant, but also very powerful ; that they have broken off from the indulgent and equitable government of the Sovereign of the universe, and sold themselves slaves to such a lawless tyrannical usurper ! But, alas! they do not resent the usurpation, nor struggle to throw off the yoke, and regain their liberty. They resign themselves voluntary slaves, and love their master and his drudgery.
This is a very melancholy, but, alas! it is a true history of human nature in its present state. Thus are mankind disaffected to the divine government, and held in a wretched captivity to sin and Satan. This is indeed a very dismal and threatening state, and we might tremble for the consequences had we no gospel to inform us of a plan of reconciliation. Here I may borrow, the words of one of the greatest and best of christians.*
66 When we hear of a sort of creatures that were fallen from God, and gone into rebellion against him ; that were alienated and enemies to him in their minds, by wicked works; one would be in sus. pense, and say, Well, and what became of the business? How did it issue? What was the event ? and would expect to hear, Why fire came down from heaven upon them, and consumed them in a moment ; or the earth opened and swallowed them up quick ; yea, and if the matter were so reported to us, if we did hear that fire and brimstone, fames and thunder-bolts came down instantly upon them, and destroyed them in a moment, who would not say, So I thought : who could expect better ?” But what grateful astonishment may it raise in heaven and earth, to hear that their offended Sovereign has been so far from this, that he has sent his Son, his only Son, to die for them, in order to bring about a peace ! and that,
II. He has set on foot an important expedition, and is carry. ing it on from age to age by the ministry of the gospel, to recover these rebels from their voluntary slavery to sin and Satan, and reduce them to their duty, and so bring them into a state of liberty and happiness!
I • Mr. Howe, in his discourse on Reconciliation between God and Man.