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happen to the parts, if a gangrene seize on any member, nothing can resist its course but the application of outward means; it cannot be cured by the internal principles of its constitution. And proportionably in moral agents, when the faculties which are the principles of action are corrupted, it is impossible, without the virtue of a divine cause, they should ever be restored to their original rectitude. As the image of God was at first imprinted on the human nature by creation, so the renewed image is wrought in him by the same creating power, Ephes. iv. 24. This will be more evident, by considering that inward and deep depravation of the understanding and will, the two superior faculties which command the rest.
1. The understanding hath lost the right apprehension of things. As sin began in the darkness of the mind, so one of its worst effects is the increasing of that darkness which can only be dispelled by a supernatural light. Now what the eye is to the body, that the mind is for directing the will, and conducting the life; and if the light that is in us be darkness, how great is that darkness !" How irregular and dangerous must our motions be! Not only the lower part of the soul is under a dreadful disorder ; but the spirit of the mind,” the divinest part, is depraved with ignorance and error. The light of reason is not pure; but as the sun, when with its beams it sends down pestilential influences, corrupts the air in the enlightening of it, so the carnal mind corrupts the whole man, by representing good as evil, and evil as good. The wisdom of the flesh is enmity against God; and the apostle describes the state of the Gentile world, that their understandings were darkened, “ being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” Ephes. iv. 18. The corruption of their manners proceeded from their minds; for all virtues are directed by reason in their exercise, so that if the understanding be darkened, all virtuous operations cease.
Besides, corrupt man being without light and lise, can neither discern nor feel his misery. The carnal mind is insensible of its infirmity, ignorant of its ignorance, and suffers under the incurable extremes of being blind, and imagining that it is very clear-sighted. More particularly, the reasons why the carnal mind hath not a due sense of sinful corruption, are-because it is natural, and cleaves to the principles of our being from the birth and conception; and natural things do not affect us. It is confirmed by custom, which is a second nature, and hath a strange power to stupify conscience, and render it insensible; as the historian observed concerning the Roman soldiers, that by constant use their arms were no more a burthen to them than their natural members. In the transition from the infant state to the age of discerning, man is incapable of observing his native corruption ; since at first he acts evily, and is in constant conversation with sinners, who bring vice into his acquaintance; and, by making it familiar, lessen the horror and aversion from it. Besides, those corrupt and numerous examples wherewith he is encompassed, call forth his sinful inclinations, which as they are heightened by repeated acts and become more strong and obstinate, so are less sensible to him.
And by this we may understand how irrecoverable man is by his own reason. The first step to our cure is begun in the knowledge of our disease, and this discovery is made by the understanding, when it is seeing and vigilant, not when it is blind. A disease in the body is perceived by the mind; but when the soul is the affected part, and the rectitude of reason is lost, there is no principle remaining to give notice of it. And as that disease is most dangerous which strikes at the life and is without pain, for pain is not the chief evil, but supposes it, it is the spur of nature urging us to seek for cure; so the corruption of the understanding is very fatal to man; for although he labours under many pernicious lusts, which, in the issue will prove deadly, yet he is insensible of them, and from thence follows a carelessness and contempt of the means for his recovery.
2. The corruption of the will is more incurable than that of the mind; for it is full not only of impotence, but contrariety to what is spiritually good. There are some weak strictures of truth in lapsed man, but they die in the brain, and are powerless and ineffectual as the will, which rushes into the embraces of worldly objects. This the universal experience of mankind, since the fall, doth evidently prove, and the account of it is in the following considerations.
There is a strong inclination in man to happiness. This desire is born and brought up with him, and is common to all who partake of the reasonable nature. From the prince to the poorest wretch, from the most knowing to the meanest in understanding, every one desires to be happy; as the great
flames and the little sparks of fire, all naturally ascend to their sphere.
The constituting of any thing to be our happiness, is the first and universal maxim, from whence all moral consequences are derived. It is the rule of our desires, and the end of our actions. As in natural things, the principles of their production operate according to their quality, so, in moral things, the end is as powerful to form the soul for its operations in order to it. Therefore as all desire to be happy, so they apply themselves to those means which appear to be convenient for the obtaining of happiness.
Every one frames a happiness according to his temper. The apprehensions of it are answerable to the dispositions of the person ; for felicity is the pleasure which arises from the harmonious agreement between the object and the appetite. Now man by his original and contracted corruption is altogether carnal; he inherits the serpent's curse to creep on the earth; he cleaves to defiling and debasing objects, and is qualified only for sensual satisfactions. The soul is incarnated, and it shapes a happiness to itself, in the enjoyment of those things which are delicious to the senses. The shadow of felicity is pursued with equal ardour, as that which is real and substantial. The supreme part of man, the understanding, is employed to serve the lower faculties ; reason is used to make him more ingenious and luxurious in sensuality: so much more brutish than the brutes is he become, when besides that part which is so by its natural condition, the most noble part is made so by unnatural choice and corruption. From hence the apostle gives a universal character of men in their corrupt state, that they are foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures.” Tit. iii. 3. This pursuit of sensual pleasure is the service of a slave, who hath no other law of his life but the will of his master. The servitude is diverse, but all are slaves; the chains are not the same, some are more glittering, but not less weighty; and every one is deprived of true liberty. But the bondage is so pleasing, that corrupted man prefers it before spiritual and real freedom. Sensual lusts blind the understanding, and bind the will so, that he is unable, because unwilling, to rescue himself. He is deluded with the false appearance of liberty, and imagines that to live according to rule is a slavish confinement; as if the horse were free, because his rider
allows him a full career in a pleasant road, when the bridle is in his mouth, and he is under his imperious check at pleasure: or a galley-slave were free, because the vessel wherein he rows with so much toil, roams over the vast ocean. And whereas there are two considerations which are proper to convince man that the full and unconfined enjoyment of worldly things cannot make him happy, because they are wounding to the conscience and unsatisfying to the affections, yet these are ineffectual to take him off from an eager pursuit of them ; I will particularly consider this, to show how unable man, in his lapsed condition, is to disentangle himself from miserable vanities, and consequently to recover his lost holiness.
(1.) Sensual pleasures are wounding to the conscience. There is a secret acknowledgment in every man's breast of a superior power, to whom he must give an account; and though conscience be much impaired in its integrity, yet sometimes it recoils upon the sinner by the foulness of his actions, and its testimony brings such terror, as makes sin very unpleasant. The poet tells us, that of all the torments of hell, the most cruel, and that which exceeds the rest, is “Nocte dieque suum gestare in pectore testem.” And how can the sinner delight freely in that which vexes and frets the most vital and tender part ? He cannot enjoy his charming lusts without guilt, nor embrace them without the reluctancy of a contradicting principle within him. As the fear of poison will embitter the sweetest cup, so the purest pleasures are alloyed with afflicting apprehensions of the future, and the presage of judgment to come.
Now man, in his sensual state, tries always to disarm conscience, that he may please the lower appetites without regret. I will instance in the principal. He uses many pleas and pretexts to justify or extenuate the evil, and, if possible, to justify carnality and conscience too. Self-love, which is the eloquent advocate of sense, puts a varnish upon sin, to take off from its horrid appearance: and endeavours not onły to colour the object, but to corrupt the eye by a disguising tincture, that the sight of things may not be according to truth, but the desire. Thus the heathens allowed intemperance, uncleanness, and other infamous vices, as innocent gratifications of nature. Now if the principles in man are poisoned, so that evil is esteemed good, he then lives in the quiet practice of sin without refiection or remorse; there is no
sting remaining to awaken him out of security. But if he cannot so far bribe conscience, as to make it silent, or favourable to that which delights the sense, if he cannot escape its internal condemnation, the next method is by a strong diversion to lessen the trouble. When the carnal mind sees nothing within but what torinents, and finds an intolerable pain in conversing with itself, it runs abroad, and uses all the arts of oblivion to lose the remembrance of its true state ; as Cain, to drown the voice of conscience, fell to building cities, and Saul, to dispel his melancholy, called for music. The business and pleasures of this life are dangerous amusements to divert the soul, by the representation of what is profitable or unpleasant, from considering the moral qualities of good and evil. Thus conscience, like an intermitting pulse, ceases for awhile. Miserable consolation, which doth not remove, but conceal the evil till it be past remedy! But if conscience, notwithstanding all these evasions, still pursues a sinner, and, at times, something disturbs his reason and his rest, yet he will not part with carnal pleasures; for being acquainted with those things only that affect the senses, and having no relish for that happiness which is sublime and supernatural, if he part with them, he is deprived of all delight, which is to him a state more intolerable than that wherein there is a mixture of delight and torment. From hence it appears that the interposition of conscience, though with a flaming sword, between man carnal, and his beloved objects, is not effectual to restrain him.
(2.) All worldly things are unsatisfying to the affections. There are three considerations which depreciate and lessen the value of any good—the shortness of its duration—if it brings only a slight pleasure—if that pleasure is attended with torments: all which are contrary to the essential properties of the supreme good, which is perpetual and sincere, without the least mixture of evil, and produces the highest delight to the soul. Now all these concur to vilily worldly things. They are short in their duration. Not only the voice of heaven, but of the earth declares this, that “all flesh is grass, and the glory of it as the flower of the grass,” Isa. xl. 6,7 ; 1 Pet. i. 24, 25. Life, the foundation of all temporal enjoyments, is but a span: the longest liver can measure in a thought the space of time between his infant state and the present hour; how long soever, it seems as short to him as the twinkling of an eye. And all the glory of the flesh, as