« السابقةمتابعة »
Hab. i. 3, 4. (5.) Consider what necessity often appears of amending old laws, and making new ones; which have their rise from new crimes that man's nature is very fruitful of. There would be no need of mending the hedge, if men were not like unruly beasts, still breaking it down. It is astonishing to see what figure the Israelites, who were separated unto God, from among all the nations of the earth, do make in their history; what horrible confusions were among them, when there was no king in Israel, as you may see, Judges xviii. xix. xx. xxi. How hard it was to reform them, when they had the best of magistrates; and how quickly they turned aside again, when they got wicked rulers. I cannot but think, that one grand design of that sacred history was to discover the corruption of man's nature, the absolute need of the Messiah, and his grace : And that we ought, in the reading of it, to improve it to that end. How cutting is that word the Lord has to Samuel, concerning Saul, 1 Sam. ix. 17. The same shall
reign over (or, as the word is, shall restrain) my people. O the corruption of man's nature! the awe and dread of the God of heaven restrains them not; but they must have gods on the earth to do it, to put them to shame, Judges xviii, 7.
Sixthly, Consider the remains of that natural corruption in the saints. Though grace has entered, yet corruption is not quite expelled: Though they have got the new creature, yet much of the old corrupt nature remains: And these struggle together within them, as the twins in Rebekah's womb, Gal. v. 17. They find it present with them at all times, and in all places, even in the most retired corners. If a man have an ill neighbour, he may remove If he have an ill servant, he may put him away at the term: If a bad yoke-fellow, he may sometimes leave the house, and be free of molestation that way. But should the saint go into a wilderness, or set up his tent in some remote rock in the sea, where never foot of man, beast, or fowl, had touched, there will it be with him. Should he be, with Paul, caught up to the third heavens, it shall come back with him, 2 Cor. xii. 7. It follows him as the shadow doth the body: It makes a blot in the fairest line he can draw. It is like the fig tree in the wall, which, how nearly soever it was cut, yet still grew till the wall was thrown down: For the roots of it are fixed in the heart
while the saint is in the world, as with bands of iron and brass. It is especially active when he would do good, Rom. vii. 21. then the fowls come down upon the carcases. Hence, often, in holy duties, the spirit even of a saint, as it were, evaporates; and he is left, ere he is aware, like Michal, with an image in the bed, instead of an husband. I need not stand to prove the remains of the corruption of nature in the godly, to themselves, for they groan under it; and to prove it to them, were to hold out a candle to let men see the sun: And as for the wicked they are ready to account mole-hills in the saint, as big as mountains; if not to reckon them all hypocrites. But consider these few things on this head (1.) If it be thus in the green tree, how must it be in the dry? The saints are not born saints, but made so by the power of regenerating grace. Have they got a new nature, and yet so much of the old remains with them? How great must that corruption be in others, where it is altogether unmixed with grace? (2.) The saints groan under the remains of it, as a heavy burden. Hear the apostle, Rom. vii. 24. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" What though the carnal man lives at ease and quiet, and the cor -ruption of nature is not his burden; is he therefore free from it? No, no: Only he is dead, and feels not the sinking weight. Many a groan is heard from a sick-bed, but never one from a grave. In the saint, as in the sick man, there is a mighty struggle; life and death striving for the mastery: But in the. natural man, as in the dead corpse, there is no noise; because death bears full sway. (3.) The godly man resists the old corrupt nature; he strives to mortify it, yet it remains: He endeavours to starve it, and by that means to weaken it, yet it is active: How must it spread then, and strengthen itself in that soul, where it is not starved but fed? And this is the case of all unregenerate, who make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. If the garden of the diligent afford him new work daily, in cutting off and rooting up; surely that of the sluggard must needs be all grown over with thorns.
Lastly, I shall add but one observe more, and that is, That in every man naturally the image of fallen Adam does appear. Some children, by their features and linaments of their face, do, as it were, father themselves: And thus
we do resemble our first parents. Every one of us bear the image and impress of their fall upon him: And to evince the truth of this, I do appeal to the consciences of all in these following particulars:
1st, Is not a sinful curiosity natural to us! And is not this a print of Adam's image? Gen. iii. 6. Is not men naturally much more desirous to know new things, than to practise old known truths? How like to old: Adam do we look in this itching after novelties, and disrelishing old solid doctrine? We seek after knowledge rather than holiness; and study most to know these things which are least edifying. Our wild and roving fancies need a bridle to curb them, while good solid affections must be quickened and spurred up.
2dly, If the Lord, by his holy law and wise providence, do put a restraint upon us, to keep us back from any thing; doth not that restraint whet the edge of our natural inclinations, and make us so much the more keener in our desires? And in this do we not betray it plainly that we are Adam's children; Gen. iii. 2, 3, 6. I think this cannot be denied; for daily observation evinceth, that it is a natural principle, that stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant, Prov. ix. 17. The very Heathens are convinced, that man was possessed with this spirit of contradiction, though they knew not the spring of it. How often do men give themselves the loose in these things, in which, if God had left them at liberty, they would have bound up themselves! But corrupt nature takes a pleasure in the very jumping over the hedge. And is it not a repeating of our father's folly, that men will rather climb for forbidden fruit, than gather what is shaken off the tree of good providence to them, when they have God's express allowance for it?
3dly, Which of all the children of Adam is not naturally disposed to hear the instruction that causeth to err? And was not this the rock our first parents split upon? Gen. iii. 4, 6. How apt is weak man, ever since that time, to parley with temptations! "God speaketh once; yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not," Job xxxiii. 14. but readily doth he listen to Satan. Men might often come fair off, if they would dismiss temptations with abhorrence, when first they appear; if they would nip them in the bud, they
would soon die away; but, alas! when we see the train laid for us, and the fire put to it, yet we stand till it run along, and we be blown up with its force.
4thly, Do not the eyes in our head often blind the eyes of the mind? And was not this the very case of our first parents? Gen. iii. 6. Man is never more blind than when he is looking on the objects that are most pleasant to sense. Since the eyes of our first parents were opened to the forbidden fruit, mens eyes have been the gates of destruction to their souls; at which impure imaginations and sinful desires have entered the heart, to the wounding of the soul, wasting of the conscience, and bringing dismal effects sometimes on whole societies; as in Achan's case, Joshua vii. 21. Holy Job was aware of this danger, from these two little rolling bodies, which a very small splinter of wood will make useless; so as (with that King who durst not, with his ten thousand, meet him that came with twenty thousand against him, Luke xiv. 31, 32.) he sendeth and desireth conditions of peace, Job xxxi. 1. « I have made a covenant with mine eyes,” &c.
5thly, Is it not natural for us, to care for the body, even at the expence of the soul? This was one ingredient in the sin of our first parents, Gen. iii. 6. O how happy might we be, if we were but at half the pains about our souls, that we bestow upon our bodies! If that question, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts xvi. 30.) did run but near as oft through our minds, as those other questions do, "What shall we eat; what shall we drink; wherewithal shall we be cloathed?" Mat. vi. 21. many a (now) hopeJess case would turn very hopeful. But the truth is, most men live as if they were nothing but a lump of flesh; or as if their souls served for no other use, but like salt to keep the body from corrupting : "They are flesh," John iii. 6. They mind the things of the flesh," Rom. viii. 5. and they live after the flesh," ver. 13. If the consent of the flesh be got to an action, the consent of the conscience is rarely waited for; yea, the body is often served, when the conscience has entered a dissent. dal
6thly, Is not every one, by nature, discontent with his present lot in the world, or with some one thing or other in it? This also was Adam's case, Gen. iii. 5, 6. Some one thing is always missing; so that man is a creature
given to changes. And if any doubt of this, let them look over all their enjoyments; and after a review of them, listen to their own hearts, and they will hear a secret. murmuring for want of something; though, perhaps, if they considered the matter right, they would see that it is better for them to want, than to have that something. Since the hearts of our first parents flew out at their eyes, on the forbidden fruit, and a night of darkness was thereby brought on the world; their posterity have a natural disease, which Solomon calls, "The wandering of the desires," (or, as the word is, "The walking of the soul,") Eccl. vi. 9. This is a sort of diabolical trance, wherein the soul traverseth the world; feeds itself with a thousand airy nothings; snatcheth at this and the other created excellency, in imagination and desire; goes here and there, and every where, except where it should go. And the soul is never cured of this disease, till overcoming grace bring it back, to take up its everlasting rest in God through Christ: But till this be, if man were set again in Paradise, the garden of the Lord; all the pleasures there would not keep him from looking, yea, and leaping over the hedge a second time.
7thly, Are we not far more easily impressed and influenced by evil counsels and examples, than by those that are good? You will see this was the ruin of Adam, Gen. iii. 6. Evil example, to this day, is one of Satan's master-devices to ruin men. And though we have by nature more of the fox than of the lamb; yet that ill property some observe in this creature, viz. That if one lamb skip into a water, the rest that are near will suddenly follow, may be observed also in the disposition of the children of men; to whom it is very natural to embrace an evil way, because they see others upon it before them. Ill example has frequently the force of a violent stream, to carry us over plain duty; but especially, if the example be given by those we bear a great affection to; our affection, in that case, blinds our judgment; and what we would abhor in others, is complied with, to humour them. And nothing is more plain, than that generally men chuse rather to do what the most do, than what the best do.
8thly, Who of all Adam's sons need be taught the art