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no love of God in the heart? They see discharged, and sometimes quite honourably, the offices of parent, husband, brother and child, and all the other domestic and social relations, and impute it all, though to be accounted for on other principles, to native moral excellence. Hence they are precipitated into a controversy with that plain and humbling testimony of heaven, that " The carnal mind is enmity against God, is not subject to his law nor indeed can be.”
Why will not men believe, what the scriptures so plainly teach, that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and from this truth infer, that very different motives may lead to the same deeds. We often see that an amiable disposition, a'tameness and mildness, such as distinguish the lamb from the wolf, and the vulture from the dove; and that results in the exercise of many an amiable affection, and the doing of many a kind action; may consist with the practice of sin, the habit of a daily violation of the divine law, a prompt rejection of all the overtures of the gospel, and an inveterate disgust for the duties of a cordial and secret piety. We have recognized, where there was all the instinctive amiableness that is ever claimed, the existence of a polished and fashionable infidelity; have marked offence taken, at the distinguishing doctrines of revelation, at the scruples of a well disciplined conscience, at the frequency and fervency of devotional exercises, and the elevated views and affections of the revived and happy believers. Still
there were high pretensions to kindness, rectitude, generosity, and even piety. There was not a consciousness of the deep-rooted enmity of the heart to whatever is holy and heavenly. Men have wept under the sound of the gospel, and seemed the veriest converts to the truths under discussion, the affections enforced, and the duties urged, and ere they have passed the threshold of the sanctuary, have vented their spleen against the man, who reached their sensibilities, and drew from them in an unguarded hour, their reluctant testimony to the gospel he announced.
We do not deny, that there has been seen in men, not sanctified, much that it would be disgraceful not to admire, and envious not to praise, and e vil not to imitate; and still we may have had indubitable evidence, that in the very same bosom there beat a heart hostile to God, and holiness, and heaven. Not certainly will God, who compares the temper of the heart with his law, approve always the very deeds that men have praised, or the men who may have stood immeasurably high in human estimation.
On this point the truth must not be concealed. We cannot say to sinners, that if they please man, God will assuredly be pleased; that if they speak kindly to man, and do deeds of mercy to him, the Eternal will say, “Ye have done it unto me."
Their is no such assurance given in the record. And the time, or rather the eternity, will be here so soon, when their whole character must be known, when they must stand before the omniscient God, and all their heart be opened, and their whole life be read ; that to deceive them, and cry peace, peace, when there is no peace, would be cruel as death.
Their is neither the necessity nor the wish to deny, that unsanctified men have exhibited many natural exellencies of character. On this point I know not that there will be at last any controversy betweeen God and them. Our Saviour looked at the young man in the gospel, and loved him, while yet he was unquestionably in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity. We yield them traits of character that are amiable, and useful and endearing, and wish most sincerely that their need be no reserve in our praise. But while they have been kind, and neighbourly, and pitiful, and even generous to their fellows, they have robbed God. They have wept at the tale of distress, and hasted to succour the perishing, and bled in sympathy over the diseased and the dying, but have never shed a tear at the cross. They have believed man, and confided in him, and spoken truth to him, and have well earned his confidence and affection, but they have practically made God a liar. They have never fully credited either his threatenings or his promises, nor thought it necessary to take sanctuary in his Son. There has not been a moment in their whole life, take the time when their conscience was the most tender, and their sensibilities the most awakened, and their deportment the most religous, and their hopes of heaven the most profound ; when some other object beside God, had not the high and distinct ascendency in their affections. While they could treat men mildly, and be rebuked without wrath, and even endure divine Judgments without the appearance of rebellion ; they could still browbeat all the anathemas of the law, and parry every thurst of the gospel, and live on, without reflection, and without prayer, and without repentance, and without God in the world. They still cared not for all the melting entreaties of divine mercy. God was not in all their thoughts, nor his religion in their lips, nor his throne in their hearts, nor his will controlled them ; while as the friends of the poor, the patrons of moral virtue, and the benefactor of the world, they were illustrious, and were promised in human eulogy a luminous and happy immortality.
Thus has the human character, all deformity as God views it, been exhibited as sound and good. Distinctions have not always been made, between what is nature, and what is grace; what is mere instinct, and what is holiness. The multitudes of the ungodly have been blessed and dismissed, doubting whether their character was at all deficient, or they needed to be born again; and high in the hope that a slight reform, and a little care, would soon prepare them to stand accepted of God. Even men who have worn noted marks of the apostacy, the covetous, the proud, the vain, and the worldly, have retired with a smile, to enjoy their good opinion of themselves, and feed quietly, and sleep sweetly, while the wrath of God abode upon them. They have gone to their farms and their merchandize, to love and pursue supremely the cares of the life that now is, or bury themselves in scenes of dissipation and folly, not suspecting but that all was well, and all safe, till either the Spirit of God awakened them, or they sunk to a hopeless perdition: or they live still, and are filling up the measure of their iniquity, and are preparing for a deeper despair, than if they had perished far sooner. And they must thus perish it seems because they are amiable, while publicans and harlots, who have no such virtues to screen them from conviction, believe in the Saviour, and live forever!
II. Men have been led to controvert this doctrine because they are not conscious of the wrong motives by which they are actuated. Through the workings of a deceitful heart, ignorance of the scriptures, and sometimes by the aid of a heterodox ministry, men have totally mistaken their whole moral character. They are rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. What the prophet says of the idol-maker, is more or less true of all unregenerate men in all ages, “A deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ?” Hazael could not believe that he de