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7. The extreme blindness of man's heart, in matters of religion, appears by men falling into gross delusions, or continuing in them, at the same time that they have been under great means of instruction from God. We have many instances of this; as Rachel in Jacob's family, and the Israelites in the wilderness, &c. These last bad great means of instruction ; yet they set up the golden calf, &c. And after Joshua's time they persisted in their delusions and folly, from time to time, even under the reproofs of the prophets; and even in such horrid delusions, so contrary to natural affection, as offering their children in sacrifice to Moloch, burning them alive, in a most cruel manner.
In the time of Christ and the apostles, the Jews had great means of instruction, and most of the nations of the world were put under great advantages to come to the knowledge of the truth ; yet what was the effect? It would be easier to pursue these remarks respecting the Papists in the time of the reformation, and since the Arians and Deists in our day, &c.but what has been said may be quite sufficient, if the reader will but indulge reflection.
8. The exceedingly great blindness of men, in things of religion, appears in the endless disputes and controversies, that there have been, and are, among men, about those things which concern religion.—Of old, the wise men and philosophers among the heathen, were, so to speak, infinitely divided among themselves. VARRO, who was one of them, reckons up several hundred opinions about that one point, Wherein man's happiness consistcd? And they were continually in disputes one with another. But the effect of their disputes was not any greater union, or any better agreement in their opinions. They were as much divided after they had disputed many ages, as they were at first; yea much more.
So there have long been disputes in the Christian world about opinions and principles in religion. There is a vast variety of sects and opinions; and disputes have been carried on, age after age, with great warmth, aud thousands of volumes have been written one against another. And all these disputes bave not terminated the differences, but they still subsist as much as ever; yea, they increase and multiply more and more. Instead of ending controversies by disputing, one dispute only lays a foundation for another. And ihus the world goes on jangling and contending, daily writing and printing ; being as it were deluged with controversial books; and all to no purpose.
The increase of human learning does not bring these controversies to an issue, but does really increase, and multiply them. There probably never was a time in our nation wherein there was such a vast variety of opinions in matters of religion, as at this day. Every now and then a new scheme of things is broaclirod, and various and contrary opinions are mixed and jumbled,
divided and subdivided ; and every new writer is willing to have the credit of some new notion.
And after this manner does this miserable world go on in endless confusion : like a great multitude of fool-hardy persons, who go on in the dark, stumbling and justling one against another, without perceiving any remedy for their own, or affording any for their neighbours' calamity.—Thus I have shown how the extreme blindness that possesses the hearts of men is manifest in what appears in their profession.
Men's extreme Blindness manifested by inward Experience, and
especially in their Practices under the Gospel. I come now to show, how this is manifest in those things that are found by inward experience, and are visible in men's practices under the light of the gospel.
1. This appears in their being so prone to be deceived so many ways, or being liable to such a multiplicity of deceits. There are thousands of delusions in things which concern the affairs of religion, that inen commonly are led away with, who yet live under the light of the gospel.—They are many ways deceived about God. They think him to be an exceeding diverse kind of being from what he is; altogether such an one as themselves. * They are deceived about his holiness, they do not realize it, that he is such a holy being as he indeed is, or that he hates sin with such a hatred as he declares he does. They are not convinced of his truth, or that he certainly will full his threatenings or his promises. They are not convinced of his justice in punishing sin, as he does. They have very wrong notions of Christ. They are not convinced of his ability to save them, or of the sufficiency of his sacritice and righteousness; nor of his willing ness to receive them.
Men are commonly subject to a great many errors about their duty. They are ready to bring their principles to agree with their practices, instead of bringing their practices to their principles, as they ought to do. They will put innumerable false
. glosses on the rules of God's word, to bend them to a compliance with their lusts ; and so they " put darkness for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
They are subject to deceits and delusions about the things of this world. They imagine that there is happiness and satisfaction to be found in the profits, pleasures, and honours, which are to be had here. They believe all the deluding flatteries and promises of a vain world. And they will hold that deceit and grand delusion, that these things are the highest good: and
will act accordingly; will choose these things for their portion. And they will hold and practise upon that error, that these things are of long continuance, and are to be depended upon.
They are greatly deceived about the things of another world. They undervalue that heavenly glory, which is promised to the saints; and are not much terrified with what they hear of the damnation of hell; they cannot realize it, that its torments are so dreadful as they hear; and are very ready to imagine that they are not eternal, but will sometime or other have an end.
They are deceived about the state of good men. They think they are not happy, but live a melancholy life. And they are deceived about the wicked. They envy the state of many of them, as accounting them well off. They call the proud happy,* and bless the covetous whom God abhors.t" "And they strive a great deal more after such enjoyments as these have, than after such as are the portion of the godly.
They are subject to a thousand deceits and delusions about themselves. They think themselves wise, when they are fools. They are deceived about their own hearts; they think them much better than they really are. They think they see many good things in themselves, when indeed there is nothing good there. They appear lovely in their own eyes, when their
hearts are like the inside of a grave, full of dead men's bones and rotten flesh, crawling worms, and all uncleanness. Or rather the inward vault of hell, that is an habitation of devils and every foul spirit. Those things in their hearts are highly esteemed by them, which are an abomination in the sight of God. Men are very prone to be deceived about their own state; to
i think themselves something when they are nothing; and to sup: pose themselves “ rich and increased in goods, and to have need of nothing ; when they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked." They are greatly deceived about the
' principles they act from. They think they are sincere in that in which there is no sincerity ; and that they do those things from love to God, which they do only from love to themselves. They call mere speculative or natural knowledge, spiritual knowledge ; and put conscience for grace; a servile, for a child-like fear; and common affections, that are only from natural principles, and have no abiding effect, for high discoveries, and eminent actings of grace. Yea, it is common with men to call their vicious dispositions by the name of some virtue. They call their anger and malice, zeal for a righteous cause, or zeal for the public good; and their covetousness, frugality.
They are vastly deceived about their own righteousness. They think their affections and performances lovely to God, which indeed are hateful to him. They think their tears, reformations * Mal, iii. 15.
* Psal. x. 3. Vol. VIII.
and prayers, sufficient to make atonement for their sins; when indeed if all the angels in heaven should offer themselves in sacrifice to God, it would not be sufficient to atone for one of their sins. They think their prayers and works, and religious doings, a sufficient price to purchase God's favour and eternal glory; when, as they perform them, they do nothing but merit hell.
They are greatly deceived about their strength. They think they are able to mend their own hearts, and work some good principles in themselves ; when they can do no more towards it then a dead corpse does towards raising itself to life. They vainly flatter themselves, they are able to come to Christ, when they are not. They are greatly deceived about the stability of their own hearts. They foolishly think their own intentions and resolutions of what good they will do hereafter, to be depended on; when indeed there is no dependence at all to be had on them. They are greatly deceived about their opportunities. They think that the long continuance of their opportunity is to be depended on, and that to-morrow is to be boasted of; when indeed there is the utmost uncertainty of it. They flatter themselves that they shall have a better opportunity to seek salvation hereafter, than they have now; when there is no probability of it, but a very great improbability.
They are greatly deceived about their own actions and pracfices. Their own faults are strangely hid from their eyes. They live in ways that are very unbecoming Christians, but yet seem not to be at all sensible of it. Those evil ways of theirs, which are very plain to others, are hid from them. Yea, those
, very things, which they themselves account great faults in others, they will justify themselves in. Those things for which they will be very angry with others, they at the same time do themselves, and oftentimes in a much higher degree, and never once think of it. While they are zealous to pull the mote out of their brother's eye, they know not that a beam is in their own eye.
Those sins that they commit, which they are sensible are sins they are wofully deceived about. They call great sins, little ones; and in their own imaginations, find out many excuses, which make the guilt very small; while the many heinous ag, gravations are hid from their eyes. They are greatly deceived about themselves, when they compare themselves with others. They esteem themselves better than their neighbours, who are indeed much better than themselves. They are greatly deceived about themselves, when they compare themselves with God. They are very insensible of the difference there is between God and them, and act in many things as if they thought themselves his equals ; yea, as if they thought themselves above him. Thus manifold are the deceits and delnsions that man fall intr.
2. The desperate blindness that is natural to men, appears in their being so ignorant and blind in things that are so clear and plain. Thus if we consider how great God is, and how dreadful sin against him must be, and how much sin we are guilty of, and of what importance it is that his infinite Majesty should be indicated; how plain is it, that man's righteousness is insufficient ! And yet how greatly will men confide in it! how will they ascribe more to it, than can be ascribed to the righteousness of the sinless and glorious angels of heaven! What can be more plain in itself, than that eternal things are of infinitely greater importance than temporal things ? And yet how hard is it thoroughly to convince men of it! How plain is it, that eternal misery in hell is infinitely to be dreaded ? And yet bow few appear to be thoroughly convinced of this! How plain is it, that life is uncertain ? and yet how much otherwise do most men think! How plain is it, that it is the highest prudence in matters of infinite concern to improve the first opportunity, without trusting to another? but yet how few are convinced of this? How reasonable is it, considering that God is a wise and just Being, to suppose that there shall be a future state of rewards and punishments, wherein every man shall receive according to his works? And yet, how does this seem like a dream to most men.
What can be in itself more plain and manifest, and easily to be known by us, if it were not for a strange blindness, than we are to ourselves, who are always with, never absent from ourselves; always in our own view, before our own eyes? Who have opportunity to look into our own hearts, and see all that passes there. And yet what is there that men are more ignorant of, than they are of themselves ? There are many vicious practices, the unlawfulness of which is very plain; the sins are gross, and contrary not only to the word of God, but to the light of nature: and yet men will often plead, there is no harm in such sine; such as, many acts of gross uncleanness; and many acts of fraud, injustice and deceitfulness; and many others that might be
There is no one thing whatsoever more plain and manifest, and more demonstrable, than the being of a God. It is manifest in ourselves, in our own bodies and souls, and in every thing about us wherever we turn our eye, whether to heaven, or to the earth, the air or the seas. And yet how prone is the heart of man to call this into question ? So inclined is the beart of man to blindness and delusion, that it is prone to even atheism itself.
3. The great blindness of the heart of man appears, in that so little a thing will deceive him, and confound his judgment. A little self-interest, or only the bait of some short gratification of a sensual appetite, or a little stirring of passion will blind men's eyes and make them argue and judge most strangely and per