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for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth : neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.” And yet, when “the Lord looked upon every thing that he had made, behold it was very good.” So we are told in the conclusion of the account of the Creation, in the first chapter of Genesis. Man then must have been entirely altered ; and the third Chapter shews us how this was effected in the sin and fall of our first parents.
In this chapter there is surely information enough to satisfy a modest mind of the depraved and accursed state to which we are naturally reduced ; information, which is no where else to be obtained, and which facts are continually confirming in the world; though not such as to gratify impertinent curiosity, or to humour the vain reasonings of men, who would undertake to fathom what is above them. And so long as Moses continues to relate the history of mankind, so long the proof, by experience, proceeds. We first trace it from the murder of Abel to the flood, and to the universal depravity then prevailing. But, surely, after so terrible an example, the next race of human beings will be quite different. We have heard the Lord declaring far otherwise in the text. Corruption, like a torrent, soon breaks down the fences of the most wholesome divine restraints; and soon the knowledge and worship of the true God is lost. Nor is there an instance of any person or people ever recovering themselves from idolatrous and universal wickedness, by the force of their reason or the strength of their resolutions.
Against the direct tendency of our nature, and by a special interposition and a succession of miracles, Almighty God preserves some knowledge and worship of himself in one people only, the Jews. Yet, what does all their history shew, but the strength of overbearing natural wickedness, continually breaking down all fences, and prevailing against the greatest encouragements and the strongest means to the contrary. Israel is constantly prone to evil. Their history is a history of rebellion. “ Ye have been rebellious against the Lord since the day that I knew you,” says Moses. And future generations of them were no better. The few excellent men among them, whom divine grace raised up and directed to preach to and warn them, how were they treated ? Hear Saint Stephen's account, “ Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye.
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted ?” It is not then by a text here and there only that we prove Original Sin. The proof of it is every where, in every page of sacred story.
Yet particular testimonies might be enumerated. “ I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” David confesses. all as an unclean thing; and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” is the confession of Isaiah, in the name of the whole Church; and, in his own name he laments thus, “Wo is me, for I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips.” The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?” Not this or that man's only, but man's in general,
" We are
Jeremiah declares. “ The way of man is froward and strange," Solomon confesses, “ but as for the
, pure, his work his right.” Why so? Through divine grace. But without it, of himself by nature, man is froward and strange, yea,
filthy and abominable.” For in the book of Job we find these words, “ who drinketh iniquity like water.” When the Divine Saviour preaches the necessity of being born again, he says, “ that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” This is declaring in the strongest manner that man is, in his natural state, totally depraved. He would not need to be renewed in his whole disposition, if this were not the case. A little outward reformation, or some amendments and alterations for the better would be sufficient. These satisfy pharisaical persons in all ages, and are sufficient in the opinion of those who do not believe themselves lost sinners. But Christ tells us, that, “ the Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost.”. In many other passages, Original Sin is confessed in all its strength. What a renewed man is through grace is called spirit, in the Scriptures. What he is of himself is called FLESH. St. Paul confesses, “ I know that in me, in my flesh, dwelleth no good
He also speaks of “ sowing to the flesh, and of sowing to the spirit,” shewing us, that the flesh is ours properly. Therefore he says his flesh. But the spirit, the new nature, is of God in Christ altogether.
The third chapter of the epistle to the Romans contains a map of man's nature.
" There is none righteous, no, not one ; there is none that seeketh
after God; they are all gone out of the way; they are altogether become unprofitable; destruction and misery are in their ways; there is no fear of God before their eyes.” The Scripture proof of the doctrine is thus invincible.
Let us now recur to facts. If men who have accustomed themselves to take notice of any thing rather than what passes in their own breasts, and whose eyes and ears are open to every thing around them, while they take no observation of the frame of their own spirits, would retire inward, and consider how it has been with them all their days, conviction would soon follow. Long before example and habit could do any thing, they certainly shewed the imagination of their hearts to have been evil from their youth. “As soon as they were born, they
. went astray and spake lies.” They always shewed a predominant love of the world. From infancy we discover this propensity. To have the attention quite taken up with present things; to seek to gratify our senses and our passions ; to live as if this world were to last always, and we always to live in it; not to make it an object of any consequence to please our Maker--whoever honestly weighs the frame of his own spirit by nature, must see that this description applies to his case.
What means the excessive unwillingness to think at all of God and a future life? Whence the variety of excuses to satisfy conscience, and to make ourselves easy without prayer? How exceedingly difficult is it to bring the mind to think seriously, for five minutes together, on the concerns of the soul : But this is not for want of capacity and power of attention. We
can think long enough on things that we love. The gay pleasurable young man is not fatigued with prosecuting schemes of lewdness and intemperance: Nor is the careful man of business soon tired with thinking, labouring, and conversing on objects of trade : And the trifler and newsmonger, and busy body in other men's matters, is not soon tired with his enquiries, or with tattling about what he hears in every company.
The world, Brethren, in one shape or another, according to the variety of tastes and tempers, and education and circumstances, fills the mind of man by nature. Conscience is indeed importunate with him at times; but he has a thousand ways to stifle it, and drown its voice; and he can live
year without seeking God, without making it a point of any great consequence with himself, how matters stand between God and his soul. Yet men can conceive how much eternity is to be preferred before time: And the patience and labour with which many go through disagreeable present hardships, in hopes of growing rich, and reaping the reward of their care and toils, shew that men have a capacity of denying themselves present pleasures in hopes of future good things. Why do they not exercise this to secure the happiness of eternity? Why? but because of the entire wickedness of their natures, alienated and turned wholly from God, and at enmity with him. Indeed it is a strong sign of our natural depravity, that we are disposed to behave worse to God, when he favours us with prosperity, than when he chastises us with adversity. Instead of studying to shew gratitude to him, we grow pre