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by his sin, had lost that primitive light wherewith he was endued in his creation, it pleased God to make a gracious revelation of his mind and will to him, touching the way of salvation, Gen. iii. 15. This was handed down by him, and other godly fathers, before the flood; yet the natural darkness of the mind of man prevailed so far against that revelation, as to carry off all sense of true religion from the old world, except what remained in Noah's family, which was preserved in the ark. After the flood, as men multiplied on the earth, the natural darkness of mind prevails again, and the light decays, till it died out among the generality of mankind, and is preserved only among the posterity of Shem. And even with them it was well near its setting, when God called Abraham from serving other gods, Josh. xxiv. 15. God gives Abraham a more clear and full revelation, and he communicates the same to his family, Gen. xvii. 19. Yet the natural darkness wears it out at length, save what of it was preserved among the posterity of Jacob. They being carried down into Egypt, that darkness prevailed so, as to leave them very little sense of true religion; and a new revelation behoved to be made them in the wilderness. And many a cloud of darkness got above that, now and then, during the time from Moses to Christ. When Christ came, the world was divided into Jews and Gentiles. The Jews, and the true light with them, were within an inclosure, Psal. cxlvii. 19, 20. Betwixt them and the Gentile world there was a partition-wall of God's making, namely, the ceremonial law; and upon that there was reared up another of man's own making, namely, a rooted enmity betwixt the parties, Eph. ii. 14, 15. If we look abroad, without the inclosure, (and except those proselytes of the Gentiles, who, by means of some rays of light breaking forth unto them from within the inclosure, having renounced idolatry, worshipped the true God, but did not conform to the Mosaical rites,) we see nothing but dark places of the earth, full of the habitations of cruelty, Psal. Ixxiv. 20. Gross darkness covered the face of the Gentile world; and the way of salvation was utterly unknown among them. They were drowned in superstition and idolatry; and had multiplied their idols to such a vast number, that above thirty thousand are reckoned to have been worship
ped by those of Europe alone.Whatever wisdom was among their philosophers, the world by that wisdom knew not God, 1. Cor. i. 21. and all their researches in religion were but groping in the dark, Acts xvii. 27. If we look within the inlcosure, and, except a few that were groaning and waiting for the Consolation of Israel, we will see a gross darkness on the face of that generation. Though to them were committed the oracles of God, yet they were most corrupt in their doctrine. Their traditions were multiplied, but the knowledge of these things wherein the life of religion lies was lost: Masters of Israel knew not the nature and necessity of regeneration, John iii. 10. Their religion was to build on their birth-privilege, as children of Abraham, Matth. iii. 9. to glory in their circumcision, and other external ordinances, Philip. iii. 2, 3. And to rest in the law, (Rom. ii. 17.) after they had, by their false glosses, cut it so short, as they might go well near to the fulfilling of it, Matth. v.
Thus was darkness over the face of the world, when Christ, the true light, came into it; and so is darkness over every soul, till he, as the day-star, arise in the heart. The former is an evidence of the latter. What, but the natural darkness of mens minds, could still thus wear out the light of external revelation, in a matter upon which eternal happiness did depend? Men did not forget the way or preserving their lives, but how quickly did they lose the knowledge of the way of salvation of their souls, which are of infinite more weight and worth! When patriarchs and prophets teaching was ineffectual, men behoved to be taught of God himself, who alone can open the eyes of the understanding. But, that it might appear that the corruption of man's mind lay deeper than to be cured by nere external revelation, there were but very few converted by Christ's preaching, who spake as never man spoke, John xii. 37, 38. The great cure on the generation remained to be performed, by the Spirit accompanying the preaching of the apostles; who, according to the promise, (John xiv. 12.) were to do great works. And if we look to the miracles wrought by our blessed Lord, we will find, that, by applying the remedy to the soul, for the cure of bodily distempers, (as in the case of the man sick of the palsy, Matth. ix 2.) he plainly
discovered, that it was his main errand into the world, to cure the diseases of the soul. I find a miracle wrought
upon one that was born blind, performed in such a way as seems to have been designed to let the world see in it, as in a glass, their case and cure, John ix. 6. "He made clay, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay." What could more fitly represent the blindness of mens minds, than eyes closed up with earth? Isa. vi. 1. Shut their eyes; shut them up by anointing or casting them with mortar, as the word would bear. And, chap. xliv. 18. He hath shut their eyes; the word properly signifies, He hath plaistered their eyes: as the house in which the leprosy had been was to be plaistered, Lev. xiv. 42. Thus the Lord's word discovers the design of that strange work; and by it shews us, that the eyes of our understanding are naturally shut. Then the blind man must go and wash off this clay in the pool of Siloam; no other water will serve this purpose. If that pool had not represented him, whom the Father sent into the world, to open the blind eyes, (Isa. xlii. 7.) I think the evangelist had not given us the interpretation of the name, which he says, signifies sent, John ix. 7. And so we may conclude, that the natural darkness of our minds is such, as there is no cure for, but from the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ, whose eye-salve only can make us see, Rev. iii. 18.
Evid. 2. Every natural man's heart and life is a mass of darkness, disorder, and confusion; how refined soever he appear in the sight of men. "For we ourselves also," saith the apostle Paul, "were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts, pleasures,” Tit.iii. 3. and yet at that time, which this text looks to, he was "blameless, touching the righteousness which is in the law," Phil. iii. 6. This is a plain evidence that "the eye is evil, the whole body being full of darkness," Mat. vi. 23. The unrenewed part of mankind is rambling through the world, like so many blind men; who will neither take a guide, nor can guide themselves; and therefore are falling over this and the other precipice, into destruction. Some are running after their covetousness, till they be pierced through with many sorrows; some sticking in the mire of sensuality; others dashing themselves on the rock of pride and self-conceit; every one stumbling on some one
stone of stumbling or other: All of them are running themselves upon the sword-point of justice, while they eagerly follow whither their unmortified passions,and affections lead them; and while some are lying alone in the way, others are coming up, and falling headlong over them. And, therefore, "Wo unto the (blind) world, because of offences," Math. xviii. 7. Errors in judgment swarm in the world; because it is "night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth." All the unregenerate are utterly mistaken in the point of true happiness; for though Christianity hath fixed that matter in point of principle, yet nothing less than overcoming grace can fix it in the practical judgment. All men agree in the desire to be happy; but amongst unrenewed men, touching the way to happiness, there are almost as many opinions as there are men; they being "turned every one to his own way," Isa. liii. 6. They are like the blind Sodomites about Lot's house, all were seeking to find the door, some grope one part of the wall for it, some another; but none of them could certainly say, he had found it; and so the natural man may stumble on any good but the chief good. Look into thine own unregenerate heart, and there thou wilt see all turned up-side down; heaven lying under, and earth a-top: Look into thy life; there thou mayest see how thou art playing the madman, snatching at shadows, and neglecting the substance, eagerly flying after that which is not, and slighting that which is, and will be for ever.
Evid. 3. The natural man is always as a workman left without light; either trifling or doing mischief. Try to catch thy heart at any time thou wilt, and thou shalt find it either weaving the spider's web, or hatching cockatriceeggs, (Isa. lix. 5.) roving through the world, or digging into the pit; filled with vanity, or else with vileness, busy doing nothing, or what is worse than nothing. A sad sign of a dark mind.
Evid. 4. The natural man is void of the saving knowledge of spiritual things. He knows not what a God he has to deal with; he is unacquainted with Christ; and knows not what sin is. The greatest graceless wits are blind as moles in these things. Ay, but some such can speak of them to good purpose; and so might these Israelites of the temptations, signs, and miracles, their eyes had seen,
(Deut. xxix. 3.) to whom nevertheless the Lord had not "given an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto that day," ver. 4. Many a man that bears the name of a Christian may make Pharaoh's confession of faith, Exod. v. 2. "I know not the Lord," neither will they let go when he commands them to part with. God is with them as a prince in disguise among his subjects, who meets with no better treatment from them, than if they were his fellows, Psal. 1. 21. Do they know Christ, or see his glory, and any beauty in him, for which he is to be desired? If they did, they would not slight him as they do; a view of his glory would so dazzle all created excellency, that they would take him for, and instead of all, and gladly close with him, as he offereth himself in the gospel, John iv. 10. Psal. ix. 10. Matth. xiii. 44, 45, 50. Do they know what sin is, who hug the serpent in their bosom, hold fast deceit, and refuse to let it go? I own, indeed, they may have a natural knowledge of those things, as the unbelieving Jews had of Christ, whom they saw and conversed with; but there was spiritual glory in him, perceived by believers only, John i. 14. and in respect of that glory, the unbelieving world knew him not, ver. 10. But the spiritual knowledge of him they cannot have; it is above the reach of the carnal mind, 1 Cor. ii. 14. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." He may indeed discourse of them; but no other way than one can talk of honey or vinegar, who never tasted the sweetness of the one, nor the sourness of the other. He has some notions of spiritual truths, but sees not the things themselves, that are wrapt up in the words of truth, 1 Tim. i. 7. "Understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." In a word, natural men fear, seek, confess they know not what. Thus may you see man's understanding naturally is overwhelmed with gross darkness in spiritual things.
Thirdly, There is in the mind of a man a natural bias to evil, whereby it comes to pass, that whatever difficulties it finds, while occupied about things truly good, it acts with a great deal of ease in evil; as being, in that case, in its own element, Jer. iv. 22. The carnal mind drives heavi