« ElőzőTovább »
upon. The human mind is wholly vain, and is a fruitful womb of monstrous births. The world is now almost six thousand years old, and yet is no nearer the bottom of its springs of vanity than it was the first day that sin entered into the world. New sins, new vices, new vanities continually appear : nor is there any way to prevent them, but by the renewing influences of the Holy Ghost. The world may alter its shape, may change its scenes, and act its part in new habits, but still it will be altogether vain, so long as natural, uncured vanity predominates in the human mind.
Again : It is an important duty, incumbent on all believers, to watch over the remains of this vanity in themselves. This distemper of our natures is not entirely cured at once; and there are several effects of it sensibly felt among real Christians. Hence they find instability in holy duties. How ready is the mind to wander in them, and to entertain vain and foolish thoughts! How ready is it to unbend and let down its intention ! Now all this is from the uncured relics of our natural vanity. Another sad effect of it is, that it leads professors of the Gospel to an undue conformity to the world, in its customs, dress, and conversations so that in many instances it is hard to distinguish between them and the world. Further : It discovers itself in foolish imaginations, whereby it secretly makes provision for the flesh;' and these, if not soon checked, will proceed to such an excess as greatly to taint the whole soul. It is therefore an important duty diligently to oppose this radical distemper.
Having considered the nature of this darkness, we may proceed to consider the effects that are ascribed to it, with respect both to the disposition of the minds in this state, and its actings with regard to spiritual
1. As to its dispositions or inclinations, it is so pera verse and depraved, that it is alienated from the life of God.' Unregenerate men are said to be alienated, and enemies in their minds, by wicked works. All life is from God. The life which we have in common with all other living creatures, is from him ; and particularly that life which we have by the union of the rational soul with the body: but it is a special life unto God which is here intended. It is the life which God requires of us, that we may please him here and enjoy him hereafter :--the life of faith and obedience by Jesus Christ ; that life of which God is the Author; that life whereby God liveth in us by his Spirit. It is the life of which the Gospel is the law and rule : a life, all whose fruits are holiness, and evangelical obedience. It is a life that never dies ; it is eternal life.
The carnal mind is alienated from this life; it has no inclination to it; but carries away the whole soul with aversion from it : and this appears, in its unreadiness to receive instruction about the concerns of it. Hence men are dull and • slow of heart to believe ; ' • heavy in hearing;' and slow in the apprehension of what they hear. So are all men with respect to what they dislike. Hence also they prefer any other life before it. The first choice a natural mind makes, is of a life of sin and pleasure : this it delights in, and woukl never willingly depart from. But if by afflictions or convictions it be forced to give it up, then it will choose and extol a moral life ; a life in, by, and under the law; though at last it will avail no more than the former, which it was forced to leave. The thoughts of this spiritual life it cannot away with ; the notions of it are uncouth ; the description of it unintelligible, and the practice of it only odious folly, or needless superstition.
2. The power of the mind also, with respect to spiritual things, is to be considered: and this, in short, is. none at all; for the mind of a natural man, however excited and improved, is not able in a spiritual manner to receive and embrace spiritual things, unless it be renewed by the Holy Ghost. This the apostle plainly asserts.: • The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' 1 Cor. ii. 14.
The subject spoken of is (fuxixus cv@panor) the natural man. The epithet is in Scripture opposed to (Tvsurtimes) spiritual ; and is explained by Jude to signify not having the Spirit ;'-one who has all that can be derived from the first Adam ;endowed with a rational soul.*
* Some persons tell us, that by the natural man is intended. A man given up to sensual pleasures and brutish. affections: not go
The words suppose the proposal of some things to this natural man ; and these are the things of the Spirit of God;'— The wisdom of God in a mystery ;'--' the things that are freely given to us of God; the mind of Christ;' and · Jesus Christ, and him crucified.'
That which is affirmed of the natural man is doubly espressed, • He receiveth them not;' and · He cannot know them.' A power of receiving them is in this assertion denied; and a will of rejecting them is implied. But to free this assertion from objections, let it be observed, That it is not the mere literal sense of doctrines that is intended. For instance, that Jesus Christ was crucified, is a proposition that any natural man may un derstand and assent to, and be said to receive : and all the doctrines of the Gospel may be taught in propositions, the meaning of which a natural man may understand ; but it is denied that he can receive the things themselves ; for there is a wide difference between the mind's receiving doctrines notionally, and receiving the things taught in them really.
It is necessary to our receiving of spiritual things really, that we receive them under an apprehension of their conformity to the wisdom and holiness of God. The reason why men receive not Christ crucified as preached in the Gospel
, is because they see not a consistency in it with the divine perfections ; nor can they receive it till they see an expression of divine power and wisdom in it.
It is necessary also that we discern the suitableness of these things of the Spirit to the great ends for which they are proposed : unless we see this distinctly, we cannot but judge them weakness and foolishness. These ends being the glory of God, and our deliverance from a state of sin and misery, with a translation into a state of grace and glory, unless we perceive their fitness to effect them, we cannot receive them aright.
verned by the dictates of reason.
But it is evident that the apostle disa tributes all men into natural and spiritual. He who is not a spiritual man,. let him be as rational as they presume themselves
to be, or would have the world believe they are, is a natural man. The supposition of a middle state destroys the design of this whole discourse of the apostle. Besides, this is the best and softest name ever given in Scripture to unregenerate men; and there is no reason why it should be thought to.s express the worst sort of them.
It must be observed, that there is a twofold capacity, or ability, of receiving or knowing spiritual things in the mind of man. 1. There is a natural power, consisting in the suitableness of the faculties of the soul to receive them in the way that they are proposed to us. This is supposed in all the exhortations, promises, precepts, and threatenings of the Gospel ; for in vain would they be proposed : to us, if we had not rational minds to apprehend their sense and importance. None pretend that men are, in : their conversion to God, like stocks and stones that have : no understanding; if we were such, as to the capacity of our nature, it would not become the wisdom of God to employ the means before mentioned for the effecting that work *. 2. There is, or may be, a power in the mind to discern spiritual things, which it can immediately exercise upon their being proposed to it, in the same manner that a man who has a visive faculty can discern visible objeccs when placed before him. This-power must be spiritual and supernatural.
Of the assertion thus explained, the apostle gives us a. double reason; the first, taken from the nature of the things themselves with respect to the mind, is, that they are foolishness. They are in themselves the wisdom of God ;' the wisdom of God in a mystery, or full of deep mysterious wisdom. But to the natural man, they are foolishness; not only though they are the wisdom of God, but because they are so ; for the carnal mind is enmitys against God. Now that is esteemed foolishness which is either weak and impertinent; or disproportionate to its designed end ; or undesireable, compared with other. things; or ineligible on the terms on which it is proposed : and it is on one or all of these accounts that spiritual things appear to be foolishness to the natural man : which we shall demonstrate by some instances.
That they were so to the learned philosophers of old, is: evident from the testimony of our apostle, 1 Coro.i. 22-28.
* Some pretend, that whatever is required of us as a duty, ws have a power 'in' ourselves to perforni. If by this power they mean, that our minds are fit and meet, as to their natural capacity, for such acts, it is freely granted; but if they intend such an active powdr as is of itself able to answer the commands of God in a due manner, they deny the corruption of our natures, and render the grase af. Christ useless,
and from the history of the first ages of the Church. Had spiritual things been suited to the minds of natural men, then those who had most improved their minds, and were raised to the highest exercise of their rational powers, would have embraced the Gospel far more readily than the poor and illiterate; for we always find that valuable improvements in natural things are first adopted by the wise and intelligent. But here it was quite otherwise. They were the wise, rational, and learned men of the world, who made the strongest opposition to spiritual things'; and that avowedly, because they were foolishness to them, and their opposition was managed with scorn and contempt, as they thought foolish things ought to be treated.
The principal mysteries of the Gospel are rejected by many as foolish, because they think thèm false; though, indeed, they have no reason to think them false, because they suppose them to be foolish ; and they only charge them with falsity, to countenance themselves in judging them to be folly. Whatever concerns the incarnation of the Son of God, the satisfaction he made for sin, the imputation of his righteousness, and the effectual workings of his grace, are rejected by many, because they judge them to be false ; and that which induces them so to determine, is because they look on them as foolish, and unsuited to their rational principles.
Many plainly scoff at them, and despise them as the most contemptible notions in the world. Such were prophesied of in old time, as mentioned by the apostle Peter, 2 epist. iii. 3, 4. The world swarms with scoffers at spiritual things, as being unfit for rational spirits to receive, because they are so foolish. But these things were foretold, that we should not be troubled or shaken in our minds :
: yea, the Atheism of some, is a mean of confirming the faith of others.
It is not much better with some, who dare not thus, openly oppose the Gospel, for they profess to believe and obey it; and so much of it as consists in the confirmation and improvement of the moral principles of the law of nature, they will highly extol : they will shew. how agree
reason; and what expressions suitable to them may be found in the ancient philosophers: but as to those things which most properly belong to the Gospel, and are communicated by supernatural revelation onlys
able they are