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most of the dreadfulness of a natural condition, say but little. And they, who are most sensible, are sensible of but a small part of the misery of a natural state.
APPLICATION. I. We may derive from this Doctrine much useful and practical instruction.
1. Hence we may learn the stupidity and sottishness of many natural persons.
If we consider those things, which we have now heard concerning their dreadful condition, and then see how the greater part of natural men behave themselves, we may well be astonished, that there should be such stupidity in the heart of man. If we rightly considered it, we should be ready to cry out with astonishment. Their sottishness appears in the following things.
1. That though they are in such a dreadful condition, they can go about easy and quiet, and in little or no concern respecting it. What might rationally be expected of such persons ? If it were a new thing to us, and we had heard there was a person in a particular town or country, of such a name, who was in this awful condition ; who had no interest in bis Creator, who had the wrath of almighty God abiding on him, that wrath which is great and terrible enough to make him miserable with devils in hell to all eternity; that he was a captive in the hands of the devil, was made bis slave and was under his power and dominion; that his soul was a habitation of devils; that he was condemned to be cast into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, to drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation, and to suffer in an inexpressible, inconceivable extremity in both body and soul for ever and ever, without hope or end; to be liable to sink in this misery every day, and the longer he continued out of it, the worse his condition; the more dreadful the wrath, and the hotter the flames of hell; I say, supposing we had just now for the first time heard there was a person in this awful condition, how should we expect to see him behave himself? If he was in the exercise of his reason, should we not expect to see him trembling and quaking on account of his misery, with all the manifestations of continual terror and amazement, regardless of all things else, spending his days and nights in tears, and groans, and lamentations, crying for pity and help, crying with an exceedingly loud and bitter cry, crying to every one to pity him, and pray for him ? Yea, how many are there in this dreadful condition, are easy and quiet, and appear to have nothing to trouble them! They go about the world without anxiety or alarm as if they had no more reason to be disquieted, than if VOL. VIII.
they had already secured their salvation. Though they are told
. how dreadful their condition is bundreds of times, their tranquillity is wholly undisturbed. They can sit and hear of its certainty and its nearness, of its dreadful nature, and its inconceivable degree; and then can go away with as quiet and easy hearts as they had before. There is no moving them by telling them of such things. They can sleep as quietly, and go about their business with as perfect unconcern. They can eat and drink and enjoy the pleasures of social life with no apparent load on their minds; and without beiūg sensible of any thing in their circumstances, which should hinder them from such enjoyment. And not only so, but,
2. They can go about with a merry heart. There are many of them, who not only seem to be quiet in their minds, but they are very cheerful, as if all were well with them, and every thing smiled upon them; as if they were in happy circumstances, and had every thing as they desired; and are even disposed to be merry and sportive about their own condition and the dreadful realities of the future world. For their part they choose to take their ease and pleasure, and not disturb or molest themselves with such dark and melancholy thoughts, like the persons mentioned by Isaiah. “Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant."
3. They are so senseless, that they do not think it worth their while to make any considerable effort to escape from this dreadful condition. They will not take half so much pains for it, as for a little wordly gain; and they do not think it worth the while even to ask God to deliver them from it. They think it too much labour to withdraw once or twice each day to ask God to be merciful to them, that they might not continue in their natural state. And they foolishly neglect the precious opportunities, which they enjoy to get into a better state. God gives them great advantages for it, and they are called upon, and warned, and exhorted to improve them. They are told what good opportunities they have, and the danger of letting them slip, but all is to no purpose. Thus persons will let slip the time of youth, which is a precious season to escape from their natural condition. So they will let slip a time of the moving of God's spirit in the place where they live. They act as if they had a wish to continue in the same state. They will put themselves so little out of the way to escape from it; they are so backward to deny themselves a little, or to make a little effort they seem to grudge it, and think it needless. If they have a great advantage put into their hands, it is to no purpose. They had as good be without it, as with it; for they have no heart to improve it. Proverbs xvii. 16. “Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?"
4. Instead of using means to get into a better state, they are wilfully doing those things, which make it worse and worse. Instead of striving for deliverance, they are striving against it. They are provoking God more, and increasing their guilt, and hardening their hearts, and setting themselves farther and farther from conversion : and this too, when they are told, that the things, which they practise, have this tendency. They act, as if they wished to be sure never to be converted. Thus it is with innumerable multitudes. So exceedingly senseless and stupid are many natural per
2. Hence we need not wonder, that we are directed in scripture to strive and to be very earnest to be delivered from our natural condition. This is the direction, which God gives us from time to time. Luke xiii. 24. “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” Matt. xi. 12. “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence." Eccl. ix. 10. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” 2 Peter i. 10. “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” Hebrews vi. 18.“ Fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." The direction which was given to Lot, relating to his flight out of Sodom, was designed for the direction of all, who are in a natural condition. Gen. xix. 17. “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain ; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” This doctrine shows us the reason, why persons should be directed in such a way as this to seek their salvation. That it is such a dreadful condition is reason enough why persons should thus vehemently strive, and be violent to get into a better state, and why they should haste for their lives, and fee from the wrath to come.
If the case of natural men be, as we have heard, no wonder that they should have such advice given them, and that God expects that the pains which they take, and the endeavours they use for it, should be in some measure answerable to its importance. No wonder, that the jailer, when made sensible of his condition, should conduct himself as we have the account in the text. No wonder that he should be in such haste as not only to run in, but to spring, or leap in, to the place where Paul and Barnabas were, and fall down before them, and ask in such an earnest manner, “What must I do to be saved ?" If he had not been indeed in a dreadful state, he would have acted like one distracted. But considering that he was in a natural condition, which is so dreadful, it was not the least wonder.
3. Hence we may learn how dismal are the effects, wbich the fall of man has brought upon the world. It has brought all mankind into this dreadful condition of which we have heard. The far greater part of those who live in this world, are in this state, and the greater part of those, who die in the world, die in this state. What a miserable world, therefore, is the world in which
This world lies under a curse. God has denounced wo against it; and what an immeasurable amount of wo is brought upon it! What woful devastation has sin made in the world!
II. What has been said of the dreadfulness of their condition may well awaken and terrify the impenitent. How many things are there in your circumstances, which are awful and terrible to think of. There is no one of those things which have been mentioned, but that the thought of it may well be frightful to you. It may well be a dreadful thought that you have no goodness in you, nor have ever done any thing which has the least goodness in it; that you never exercised one act of love, or true thankfulness, or obedience to God in your life; nor ever did the least thing out of true respect to God. The consideration of the dreadful depravity and wickedness of your heart, may well be frightful to you; to think what a sink of corruption it is, how full of all manner of wickedness, how full of enmity against God; to think that there are the same corruptions in your heart, as in the heart of the devil, and that there are the seeds of the same enmity against God, and that you are in the very image of the devil. If you look into your own heart, and strictly examine what it would entice you to do, if all restraints of fear and self-interest were taken off, it might well affright you. How awful may the thought well be to you, when you consider that you are a creature, separated from your Creator; that there is an alienation between you and that great Being, in whom you live, and move, and have your being; that you are a poor desolate creature, that have no God to protect you, and guide you, and provide for you in the world; and that you are secure from no manner of mischief, into which human nature is capable of falling, either in soul or body! How terrifying
! should it be to you, to think how good, how mighty and terrible that God is, under whose wrath you lie down and rise up, and eat and drink, and engage in the daily business of life! How frightful should it be to you, when you consider in what relation you stand to the devil; that you are his child, and that he owns you ; that you are his servant, his possession, and that your heart is his dwelling place; that you are without Christ, and so without hope, and have no good thing in another world, in which you have any inheritance! And how amazing may it well be to you, when you consider how great that future misery is to which you are exposed and condemned, wherein God shows his wrath, and makes his power known in the destruction of the ungodly, in which they are vessels of wrath filled to the brim; and that you are in danger of being plunged in a bottomless gulf or deluge of wrath, where mighty waves and billows of wrath shall pass over you; and wlien you consider the torment of your body in that great urnace of fire, where every part, every organ, every vein, and every limb shall be filled full of fire, and yet full of quick sense, and that this torment shall remain to an endless duration, a duration which shall always be beginning, but never ending! And how well may it affright you, and strike a terror upon you, when you consider, that if you die in your present condition, it is as impossible that you should escape this misery, as that God should cease to be just and true; and that the greater part of those who are in your condition will suffer this misery, and that you have no security that you shall be kept from it one day, or one hour! How terrifying may it well be to you, when you consider how much more dreadful your case continually grows! How frightful may it be to you every night, when you sit down, and consider how much greater your guilt is, and how much deeper your condemnation is than it was in the morning! How awful and doleful may it be to you to consider, that if you live and die in your present state, every thing is cursed to you ; even your greatest mercies and best enjoyments, your food, your raiment, your nearest friends, and your earthly possessions : and not only so, but the light of the gospel, and the means of grace, and life itself will be cursed to you! All will be but an occasion of your greater misery. Such persons shall wish they had been born and brought up among the heathen. They shall wish that Christ had never come into the world; they shall wish they had never been born. How awful may it be to you when you think that death will most certainly come upon you, and you know not how soon: and what dismal circumstances you would be in, if you were in your present condition on a death-bed! How many things are there in your case which are of a terrifying, awful nature ! How can you live in such circumstances, without living in continual terror?
Here consider further the following things :
1. There is nothing which you see, but what may justly minister torment to you, while you remain in a natural condition. If you lift up your eyes, and behold the sun, moon, and stars, and cast your eyes abroad on the face of the earth, and see the mountains, and fields, and trees, it may justly put you in mind of the dolefulness of your condition; that the great God, who made all these things, who stretched forth the heavens as a curtain, who ordained the sun, moon, and stars, and laid the foundations of the earth, and causes the grass and trees to grow; is a God in whom you have no interest, but who is continually angry with you, and that his wrath abides on you. So when you look on your own body, and consider how it is formed and contrived, it may be a frightful thing to you to consider, that he who made you is not at peace with you, and that you are the object of his displeasure. if you have pleasures and enjoyments, and are in flourishing circumstances, if you see the faces of your near friends and dear re