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V. Hence we may learn the misery of all such persons, an are under the power of that darkness which naturally possesses their hearts. There are tivo degrees of this misery.
1. That of which all who are in a natural condition are the subjects. The doctrine shows, that all such as are in a natural condition, are in a miserable condition ; for they are in an extremely dark and blind condition. It is uncomfortable living in darkness. What a sorrowful state would we all be in, if the sun should no more rise upon us, and the moon were to withdraw her shining, and the stars to be put out, and we were to spend the rest of our time in darkness ? The world would soon perish, in such darkness. It was a great plague in Egypt, when they had a total darkness for three days. They who are deprived of sight are deprived of the most noble of the senses; they have no benefit of external light, one of the most excellent and needful of all the things which God has made in the visible creation. But they who are without spiritual sight and light, are destitute of that which is far more excellent and necessary.
That natural men are not sensible of their blindness, and the misery they are under by reason of it, is no argument that they are not miserable. For it is very much the nature of this calamity to be hid from itself, or from those who are under it. Fools are not sensible of their folly. Solomon says,
- The fool is wiser in his own conceit, than seven men that can render a
The most barbarous and brutish heathens are not sensible of their own darkness; are not sensible but that they enjoy as great light, and have as good understanding of things, as the most enlightened nations in the world.
2. Another degree of this misery, is of those who are judicially given up of God, to the blindness of their own minds. The scripture teaches us that there are some such. What then : Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.t But their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away. And he said, go and tell this people, hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes : lest they see with their eyes, and hear with iheir ears, and understand with their hearts, and convert and be healed. This judgment, when inflicted, is commonly for the contempt and abuse of light which has been offered, for the commission of presumptuous sins, and for being obstinate in sin, and resisting the Holy Ghost, and many gracious calls and counsels, warnings and reproofs.
Who the particular persons are, that are thus judicially given up of God to the blindness of their minds, is not known to men.
Prov. xvi. 16.
+ Rom. xi. 7.
| 2 Cor. ii. 14.
Tsai. vi. 6. 10.
But we have no reason to suppose that there are not multitudes of them; and most in places of the greatest light. There is no manner of reason to suppose, that this judgment, which is spoken of in scripture, is in a great measure peculiar to those old times: As there were many who fell under it in the times of the prophets of old, and of Christ and bis apostles ; so doubtless there are now also. And though the persons are not known, yet doubtless there may
be more reason to fear it concerning some than others. All who are under the power of the blindness of their own minds, are miserable ; but such as are given up to this blindness, are especially miserable ; for they are reserved, and sealed over to the blackness of darkness for ever.
Address to Sinners.
The consideration of what has been said of the desperate blind. ness which possesses the hearts of us all naturally, may well be terrifying to such as are yet in a Christless condition, in this place of light; where the gospel has been so long enjoyed, and where God has in times past so wonderfully poured out lois Spirit.
And let such persons, for their awakening, consider the following things :
1. That they are blinded by the god of this world. Their blindness is from hell. This darkness which natural men are under, is from the prince of darkness. This the apostle says ex• pressly of those who remain in unbelief and blindness under the gospel. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid from them that are lost; in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not.* They belong to the kingdom of darkness. In that darkness which reigns in their souls, the devil reigns, and he holds his dominion there.
2. Consider how God in his word manifests his abhorrence and wrath towards those who remain so sottishly blind and ignorant, in the midst of light. How doth God speak of them! " Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge ? Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, it is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways. Unto whom 1 sware in my wrath, that they should not enter into my rest. I The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation !--they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger. It is a people of no understanding; therefore he that made them
Cor. iv. 3, 4. f Psal. xiv. 4, Psal. air. 10, 11. lsai. i. 3, 4.
will not have mercy on them, and be that formed them will show them no favour.* My people is foolish, they have not known me, they are sottish children, and they have no understanding: they are wisc to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. Declare this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in the house of Judah, saying, hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding, which have eyes and see not, which have ears and hear not. Fear ye not me, saith the Lord ; will ye not tremble at my presence ?
3. Consider how much wilfulness there is in your ignorance. Sinners are ready wholly to excuse themselves in their blindness; whereas, as observed already, the blindness that naturally possesses the hearts of men, is not a merely negative thing; but they are blinded by the deceitfulness of sin. There is a perverseness in their blindness. There is not a mere absence of light, but a malignant opposition to the light; as God says, they know not, neither will they understand, they walk on in darkness.|| Christ observes, that every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light. And that this is their condemnation, that light is come into the world, yet men loved darkness rather than light. And I may appeal to your own consciences, whether you have not wilfully rejected the many instructions you bave had : and refused to kearken? Whether you have not neglected your bible? Whether you have not been a very negligent hearer of the word preached, and neglected other proper means of knowledge? Whether you have not neglected to cry to God for that wisdom which you need ? Yea, have you not resisted the means of knowledge? Have you not resisted and quenched the motions of the spirit, which at times you have had ? And taken a course to make yourself more and more stupid, by stifling the convictions of your own conscience, and doing contrary to the light thereof; whereby you have done those things that have tended to sear your conscience, and make yourself more and more senseless and sottish ?
4. Consider what is the course that God will take to teach those who will not be taught by the instructions of his word. He will teach them by briers and thorns, and by the flames of hell. Though natural men will remain to all eternity ignorant of the excellency and loveliness of God's nature, and so will have no spiritual knowledge ; yet God in another world will make them thoroughly to understand many things, which senseless unawakened sinners are sottishly ignorant of in this world. Their eyes in many respects shall be thoroughly opened in bell. Their judgments will be rectified. They shall be of the same judgment with the godly. They shall be convinced of the reality of those things which they would not be convinced of here; as
* lsai. xxvii, 10.
† Jer. iv. 22.
Jer, v. 20, 21, 22.
§ Heb. ii, 13.
the being of God; his power, boliness, and justice; that the scriptures are the word of God; that Christ is the Son of God; and that time is short and uncertain. They will be convinced of the vanity of the world ; of the blessed opportunity they had in the world; and how much it is men's wisdom to improve their time. We read of the rich man, who was so sottishly blind in this world, that in hell he lift up his eyes, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.** With many men, alas ! the first time they open their eyes is in hell.
God will make all men to know the truth of those great things which he speaks of in his word, one way or another; for he will vindicate his own truth. He has undertaken to convince all men. They who will not be convinced in this world by the gentle and gracious methods which God uses with them now, sball be convinced hereafter by severe means. If they will not be convinced for salvation they shall be convinced by damna. tion. God will make them know that he is the Lord. And he will make them know that he bears rule. Consume them in wrath, that they may not be ; and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob, unto the ends of the earth.t Let them be confounded and troubled for ever : yea, let them be put to shame and perish. That men may know that thou, whose name is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth. I
What great care we had need all have, that we be not deceived in matters of religion. If our hearts are all naturally possessed with such an extreme brutish ignorance and blindness in things of religion, and we are exceedingly prone to delusion: then surely great care ought to be taken to avoid it. For that we are naturally prone to delusion, shows our danger: but the greater our danger of any calamity is, the greater had our watchfulness need to be. Let us therefore be hence warned to take heed that we be not deceived about our duty; about our own hearts; about our ways; about our state ; and about our opportunities. Thousands are deceived in these things, and thousands perish by that means. Multitudes fall on our right hand and on our left, and are ruined eternally by their delusion in these things.
How foolish a thing it is for men to lean to their own understanding, and trust their own hearts. If we are so blind, then our own wisdom is not to be depended on; and that advice of the wise man is most reasonable; trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. And he that trustelh in his own heart, is a fool.–They therefore are fools, who trust to their own wisdom, and will question the mysterious doctrines of religion ; because they cannot see through them, and will not trust to the infinite wisdom of God.
Luke xvi. 23. Psalm lix. 13. Psalm lxxxiii. 17, 18. $ Prov. iii. 5.
|| Prov. xxviii. 26.
Let us therefore become fools : be sensible of our own natural blindness and folly. There is a treasure of wisdom contained in that one sentence; If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.* Seeing our own ignorance and blindness, is the first step towards having true knowledge. If any man think that he knoweth any thing. he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.t
Let us ask wisdom of God. If we are so blind in ourselves, then knowledge is not to be sought for out of our own stock, but must be sought from some other source. Apd we have no where else to go for it, but to the fountain of light and wisdom True wisdom is a precious jewel; and none of our fellow crea. tures can give it us, nor can we buy it with any price we have to give. It is the sovereign gift of God. The way to obtain it, is to go to him, sensible of our weakness and blindness, and misery on that account. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God. I
• 1 Cor. iii. 18.
+ 1 Cor. viii. 2.
Jas, i. 5.