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ON THE CAUSES OF UNBELIEF.
CONSIDERING unbelief as an evil, the seeds of which are sown in every heart throughout the world, it is plain, if traced up to its original source, that it is derived from our first parents. They became unbelievers through the prevalence of Satan against them, and from that period to the present, unbelief has awfully characterised all mankind.
But as this chapter is more particularly designed for that class of readers, who make professions of outward respect to the gospel, though really unbelievers, it will be here enquired, “What are “ the causes of their continuance in unbelief?” A preliminary remark may be proper. It is fully admitted, that the sinner is dead in trespasses and sins; that he is consequently without strength; that every faculty of the soul is dePraved; that of himself he is not able to deliver his soul from this state, either in whole or in
part; that it is alone by divine agency that men are brought truly to believe, and that by this alone they become new creatures. Eph. ii. 1. Rom. v. 6. 2 Cor. ii. 5. ] Cor. ii. 11. and John iii. 3. But it is also carefully to be noticed, that God addresses himself to men in his gospel as moral agents, or “ that God herein declares his r will to men as to accountable creatures; the “ gospel is therefore morally adapted to the fa“ culties of their nature, and to the circum“ stances of their condition. So far as the gospel “partakes of this moral adaptation to the nature 6 and condition of men, it is properly fitted to “ be an instrument of exercising God's righteous
government over intelligent creatures." * The inability of man to receive the gospel being of a moral nature, and arising out of his disinclination to the things of God, it leaves him accountable to God for that inability; while at the same time it is his duty to believe the gospel, and the vengeance of God awaits hiin, if he obey not the gospel. 2 Thess. i. 8. But this procedure against the unbeliever can in no other way appear just, than by admitting, that his unbelief is his sin; and that however he is fallen, the moral claims of God are not weakened, nor the creature's responsibility impaired.f
* See W. BENNET, on the Gospel Dispensation. of " The natural man is absolutely unable, without a
These things premised, we apprehend the sinner's unbelief may be ascribed to one or the other of the following causes.
I, The power of Satan over the mind. As the principle of unbelief was at first engendered in the mind by Satan, so it has ever been his aim to hold the souls of men under its influence. He first put out the light of truth, and now contrives to keep the soul in darkness. He first gave the will a wrong bias, and from that period until now, he has been trying to divert it farther and farther from God.
“special renovation of the Holy Ghost, to discern spiritual " things in a saving manner. And yet this is no excuse “ for the sin of rejecting them; for though it have the na"ture of a punishment, and be our misery, yet it is our “ sin also: it is the misery of our persons, and the sin of
our natures: and no man can plead his sin, or fault, as
an excuse for another sin of any kind." OWEN on the Spirit.
Mír. BENNET, after speaking of man's competency before the fall, observes, “Nor was it possible, that any subsequent "change in the circumstances of human nature, could in " the least weaken man's moral obligation to approve and
comply with the revealed will of his Maker. For when " he abused his liberty as a moral agent, and sunk into a “ state of defection, his relation to God, as a dependant " accountable creature, still remained; and though he “ justly became exposed to divine displeasure by revolting “ from his allegiance, yet he did not thereby disengage " himself from divine authority, as a subject of God's “ equitable government.” Page 156. ut supra.
The scriptures every where suppose the greatness of his power over natural men. Thus he is called the god of this world, 2 Cor. iv. 4. the prince of this world, John xii. 31. xiv. 30. the prince of the power of the air, Eph. ii. 2. the ruler of the darkness of this world, Eph. vi. 12. and, he which deceiveth the whole world, Rev. xii. 9. To shew us further the complete possession he has got, and his authority over us, wicked men are called his house. Matt. xii. 29. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house? Who are taken captive by him at his will, 2 Tim. ii. 26. Paul says, he was sent, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, Acts xxvi. 18. and believers are said to be delivered from the power of darkness, Col. i. 13. It must be very observable what frequent representations the scripture makes of the darkness of our minds. It is upon thişi that Satan works. By means of this he holds his authority over us. For let it be noticed, this darkness is universal over the whole soul: the God of this world hath blinded the eyes of them which believe not.
So that mankind are in total darkness, respecting every subject relating to God and their souls.
There is no fear of God before their eyes. Rom. iii. 18. Yea, Paul says, the mind by nature is darkness itself,
in the abstract; ye were sometimes darkness. Eph. v. 8. While, then, Satan can keep the mind under this darkness, he can make it subservient to pride, evil lustings, enmity against God, and can fill it with prejudice against all the mysteries contained in the gospel of Christ. Indeed, this darkness and its concomitants must be removed, before the gospel can appear in its true importance; for while it remains, the gospel will not only be as a dead letter, but it will, and must, appear destitute of any meaning. And this character of the human mind
lead easily to see, why Christ appears as a root out of a dry ground; why he is rejected of men ; and why the gospel is to the Jew a stumbling block, and to the Greek foolishness. And we may be assured, that while Satan knows what an effectual barrier this ignorance is in the way of a true belief respecting divine things, he will keep the veil over the mind until the last moment. But, blessed be God, Satan's designs shall be bafilled; though he may do his utmost to keep the soul in darkness and bondage, God will say, Let my son go, that he may serve me ; and then he is made free. Yes, that wicked-the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. 2 Thess. ii. 8.
II. A spirit of self-righteousness. Though