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It was my design not only to hint at the sources of prevailing error on this subject, but also to notice the pernicious effects, which those errors produce. In order to this, it is necessary to observe, that the doctrine of the entire moral corruption of man is closely and inseparably connected with the other great doctrines of inspiration ; so that the denial of the one involves the denial of the others, and erroneous views of the one are followed by erroneous views of the others. To descend to a few particulars; it is a well known fact, that those who deny the moral corruption of man, deny also the atonement of Jesus Christ. And it is consistent that they should. For if mankind be not by nature in the most depraved, guilty, ruined state, the common notion of redemption by the Son of God is marked with absurdity. Christ's dying for all implies that all were dead in trespasses and sins. If man were not of this character, and therefore justly obnoxious to the endless wrath of God, the cross of Christ would lose its glory and be turned into foolishness. Not only the necessity, but the propriety and justice of God’s sending his Son to suffer and die, rest upon the question, What is the moral state of man 2 If he be so depraved and criminal that, according to God’s holy law, he is without help and without hope, righteously doomed to everlasting punishment; then redemption appears the work of infinite wisdom and love.
These two doctrines are as intimately connected in the experience of believers, as in correct reasoning. The more deeply they
are affected with their own guilt, deformity, helplessness, and misery, the more clearly do they discern the necessity, the nature, and the glory of the atonement. While they have proper views of their own character, every petition for pardon, every desire of salvation, every hope of the eternal inheritance is associated with the precious blood of Jesus. But if persons are insensible of their pollution and ill desert; what can they understand of Christ's mediation ? What conception can they have of the infinite value of the sacrifice, which he offered up to God 2 The doctrine of depravity is nearly related to the doctrine of regeneration. When our Saviour taught the necessity of the new and heavenly birth, he taught it in connexion with the innate corruption of man. “ That which is born of the flesh, is flesh ; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” So did the apostle. “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” What need of quickening, if mankind are not dead : What need of a new creation, if they are not the subjects of radical and native corruption ? What occasion for being born again, if the first birth left them pure ? If they retain any degree of real goodness, that goodness, without a renovation of nature, may be cultivated, improved, and perfected. How can they, who deny or overlook the complete sinfulness of their nature, be convinced, that they must be regenerated by the Spirit of God, in order to be admitted into heaven This important scripture doctrine is weakness and
folly to all, who see not the desperate wickedness of their hearts. The doctrine of justification by the grace of God rises or falls according to men's ideas of themselves. If we consider our moral nature, as totally alienated from God, and our actions altogether unholy ; on what can we found our hopes of justification before God, but the perfect righteousness of Christ : But if we are so blinded by pride, as to consider our nature pure, and our life only interspersed with occasional deviations from rectitude ; what idea shall we have of justification by the free and abounding grace of God : How unmeaning or disgusting must this doctrine be to the self-righteous, arrogant spirit of unhumbled sinners | The same connexion is obvious between the doctrine now under consideration, and the gosfiel doctrine of sovereign election. Admitting that mankind are universally in a state of such extreme sinfulness, or criminal depravity, as the scripture affirms, we at once conclude, that everlasting punishment might be justly inflicted upon the whole world, and that the salvation of any part of such a guilty race must be the effect of mere mercy. And as similar traits of moral character belong to all ; those who are saved must be considered the objects of discriminating grace. The hypothesis, that God etermally chose men to salvation, on account of any virtue or good works foreseen in them, or that they are actually regenerated, on account of any thing in their character, which renders them more worthy than
others of the divine favour, implies the denial of the scripture doctrine of human guilt. Duly attending to this doctrine, and deeply impressed with it, we shall easily understand the consistency and necessity of divine predestination. We shall perceive the richest grace in God’s electing some to everlasting life, and the purest justice in his punishing the rest according to their demerit. If we object against God’s exercising his sovereign wisdom and love in this manner, it must be because wa ignorantly overrate our own merit, and think ourselves too good to be threatened on such principles. Insensibility to the moral state of man will always lead to wrong conclusions respecting the purposes and ways of God, and will, especially, conceal the beauty, consistency, and sublimity of the doctrine of eternal predestination. But to those, who yield full and cordial assent to the awful account, which scripture gives of apostate man, the doctrine of sovereign election will not only appear plain, and worthy of humble belief; but will be reviving and glorious, the spring of all their hopes, the firm ground of their confidence, the rock of their salvation. It would be easy, if needful, to show in a more enlarged view the natural and unalterable connexion between this doctrine and the other principles of evangelical truth. There can be no just notion of these without the belief of human depravity. If we do not believe this doctrine, we may as well cast away the whole Bible, and return to the darkness of heathenism. And let me add, brethren, that there is no danger of having too impressive apprehensions of a truth so fundamental in the gospel scheme. The clearer, the more extensive and affecting your views of human corruption, the juster and more efficacious will be your ideas of all the truths, which relate to the divine work of redemption. But the most important consideration still remains ; viz. that the denial of the native and entire corruption of man has a most hurtful fractical influence. This will appear with peculiar force, if we contemplate the salutary practical effects produced by the cordial belief of this doctrine. Those, who, through divine illumination, well understand the nature of human corruption, and are seriously impressed with the evils implied in it, have the most powerful motives to constant femitence and se!fabasement. In view of this, in his own case, Paul pronounced himself the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints, and cried out, oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death! It has been under the deep impression of this doctrine, that all believers have abhorred themselves, and beca clothed with humility. The full belief of this doctrine is nearly connected with faith in the Redeemer. Christians, seeing themselves to be guilty and helpless, and approving the character of the Saviour, gratefully receive him in all his offices, and trust in him as able to save to the utterinost. The more clearly they discover that their hearts are defiled, that there is nothing in them to answer the demands of the law, and nothing to furnish
any ground of confidence ; the more complete and firm is their faith in the Son of God. This doctrine, rightly understood, gives believers the firofoundest sense of their obligations to God. If they are permitted to indulge the reviving idea, that they are delivered from the slavery of sin, and introduced into the happy family of the saints; they forget not to acknowledge the divine hand which delivered them. Ascribing nothing to themselves, they say, with the liveliest, humblest gratitude, by the grace of God we are ovhat we are. The knowledge, which scripture and experience have given them of the deceit and wickedness of their hearts, produces a fractical conviction of their constant defiendence on divine aid. Sensible that, without Christ, they can do nothing, they rely on his grace, and go forth to every duty and every suffering in his strength. By the same views they are excited to constant frayer. When duly affected with their own blindness, guilt, poverty, and wretchedness, how fervent are their supplications to God : With what sincerity, with what unceasing earnestness do they approach the throne of grace, saying, “I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me. Behold, I am vile. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Work in me both to will and to do.” Such language agrees with the feelings of believers in all ages. Their heart affecting views of human depravity become the strongest motives to fervent
prayer not only for themselves, but also for others. They are filled with pious concern for mankind. They feel the tenderest pity for perishing sinners, and with many sighs and tears cry to God, that Christ may be formed in them the hope of glory. The same views tend to promote a spirit of love and candour. Knowing the plague of their own hearts ; how far they come short of duty ; how strongly their remaining corruptions urge them to sin ; and how much they need the candour and forbearance of man, and the foriveness of God, they put away all wrath and bitterness, and evil speaking, and become more and more kind, tender hearted, and for iving. “ This brief and imperfect statement of the practical effects, which the serious belief of human depravity produces, directly shows how hurtful must be the effects of denying it. Persons, who overlook or deny their depravity and guilt, exclude repentance, humility, and faith. How faintly do they acknowledge their obligation to redeeming love . How little do they feel themselves indebted to the blood of
Christ : Instead of a due conviction of their constant dependence on God’s help, they trust in themselves. Listed up with a high opinion of their own wisdom. and goodness, they naturally indulge an uncharitable, overbearing, unforgiving spirit towards, others. And as to devotion,-, they are the persons, who, “through the pride of their countenance, will not seek after, God.” If they pretend to pray, they do it as the Pharisees did, with that unhumbled, self-righ eous heart, which is an abominal. tion in the sight of the Lord. In .. short, they who deny the doctrine now under consideration, or are not duly affected with it, are hardened through the deceitful-, ness of sin, and have yet to learn the first lesson of Christian wisdom. Let the churches, then, watch and pray, that they may not be misled by the spirit of error, which has so extensively gone forth, aiming, by various means, and with awful success, to blind the eyes of men to their own deplorable corruption and guilt, and to harden their hearts against all the gracious doctrines of the everlasting gospel. PAstor.
SACRED CRITICISM. On the offence of David, and the fleosile, in his numbering them 3 and
1 Chron. xxi.
Chron. xxiv. 6.) It was not like that in other nations, to know the strength of the government; for God was their king in a peculiar manner, and promised to protect them from their enemies, and to multiply them as the stars of the sky, while they obeyed his laws. David’s crime, therefore, seems to have lain in converting a sacred action to a civil purpose. He was culpable both in the thing itself, and the manner of doing it. For whereas by the rule given to Moses, in the passages referred to above, they were to number the males from twenty years old and upwards; David gave orders, that all should be numbered, who were fit for war, though under that age. (See 2 Sam. xxiv. 1. . 1 Chron. xxvii. 23.) This must have been highly criminal in David now in his old age, after so many instances of the divine favour expressed towards him. And as to the people, their of fence seems to have consisted in their compliance with that order. He was culpable in giving the order, and they in obeying it. And therefore Joab, who was sensible of this, and unwilling to execute the command, asks David, Why he would be the cause of trespasses in Israel 2 1 Chron. xxi. 3. For by that means he reduced them to the difficulty of disobeying God, or himself, as their prince. It was doubtless their duty to have obeyed God; but we find, as it generally happens in such cases, that the majority at least choose to obey their king. However, it appears, that Joab was weary of the office, (1 Chron. xxvii. 23.) and did not go through it. Probably he might find many of the
people uneasy, and averse to submit to the order. Besides, it was expressly enjoined, that when the people were to be numbered from twenty years old and upwards, the Levites should be excepted, as being appointed for the service of the tabernacie. (Num. i. 47.) And as they were not called out to war, so they had no share in the land of Canaan allotted to them, when it was conquered by the other tribes, who were therefore ordered to give them a number of cities, each tribe out of their portion, which was accordingly done. (Num. xv. Josh. xxi.) And Josephus assigns that reason for it, when he says: “Moses, because the tribe of Levi were exempted from war and expeditions, being devoted to the service of God, lest being needy and destitute of the necessaries of life, they should neglect the care of their sacred functions; ordered the Hebrews, that when, by the will of God, they possessed the land of Canaan, they should give to the Levites forty eight large and handsome cities, with two thousand cubits of land round the wall.” But David seems to have ordered them likewise to be mustered, with a military view, which perhaps was an aggravation of his crime. For it is said, that when Joab, by his command, numbered the people, they were eleven hundred thousand men that drew sword. And it is added; But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them, for the king’s wort was abominable unto Joab. (1 Chr. xxi. 5, 6.) So that it looks as if his orders were to count them with the rest. Indeed we find them once armed