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versely, and draw the most absurd conclusion; such, as if they were indifferent, they would see to be most unreasonable. The devil finds easy work to deceive them a thousand ways; an argument of the great weakness and blindness of our minds. As a little child, weak in understanding, is very easily deceived.
4. The woful blindness that possesses the hearts of men naturally, appears in their being all totally ignorant of that in God, which they had most need to know: viz. the glory and excellency of his nature. Though our faculties, which we have above the beast, were chiefly given us, that we might know this; and though without this knowledge all other will signify nothing to us; and our faculties are as capable of it, as of any other knowledge whatsoever and which is as plainly and abundantly manifested as any thing whatsoever, innumerable ways, both in the word and works of God-yet all men naturally are totally ignorant of this; as ignorant as one born blind is of colours. Natural men of the greatest abilities and learning, are as ignorant of it, as the weakest and the most unlearned; yea, as ignorant as the very stocks and stones; for they see, and can see nothing at all of it.
5. It appears, in that they are so blind in those same things in religious matters, which they are sufficiently sensible of in other matters. In temporal things they are very sensible that it is a point of prudence to improve the first opportunity in things of great importance. But in matters of religion, which are of infinitely the greatest importance, they have not this discernment. In temporal matters they are sensible that it is a great folly long to delay and put off, when life is in danger, and all depends upon it. But in the concerns of their souls, they are insensible of this truth. So in the concerns of this world, they are sensible it is prudence to improve times of special advantage, and to embrace a good offer when made them. They are sensible that things of long continuance are of greater importance, than those of short duration; yet in religious concerns, none of these things are sensibly discerned. In temporal things they are sufficiently sensible, that it is a point of prudence to lay up for hereafter, in summer to lay up for winter, and to lay up for their families, after they are dead; but men do not generally discern the prudence of making a proper provision for a future state. In matters of importance in this world, they are sensible of the wisdom of taking thorough care to be on sure grounds; but in their soul's concerns, they see nothing of this. Our Saviour observed this to be the case with the Jews when he was upon earth. "Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, and of the earth: but how is it that ye do not discern this time ?""*
6. The desperate blindness that naturally possesses the hearts
Luke, xii. 56.
of men under the gospel, appears in their remaining so stupidly insensible and deceived, under so great means of instruction and conviction. If they were brought up under heathenish darkness it would not be so full a demonstration of it: but thus they remain, though under the clearest light, under the glorious light of the gospel, where they enjoy God's own instructions in his word, in a great fulness and plainness, and have the evidence and truth of things set before them from time to time in the plainest manner. They have the arguments of God's being and perfection; and of another world. They are told how eternal things are of greater importance than temporal; and of what importance it is to escape eternal misery. How much it is worth while to take pains for heavenly glory; and how vain their own righteousness is but yet to what little purpose?
And they have not only great means of instruction in God's word, but also in providence. They have the evidence of the shortness and uncertainty of life. "He seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others." Yet "their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations: they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man being in honour, abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish. This their way is their folly yet their posterity approve their sayings." They find the world is vain and unsatisfactory; they find the great instability andtreachery of their own hearts; and how their own good intentions and resolutions are not to be depended on. They often find by experience, that their attempts to make them better, fail; but alas! with what small effect.
Such abundant evidence is there, both in what appears in the open profession of men ; and also by what is found in their inward experience, and is evident in their practice, of the extreme and brutish ignorance and blindness, which naturally possess their hearts.
Practical Inferences and Application of the Subject.
Having shown how the truth of the doctrine is evident, both by what appears in men's open profession, and by those things which are found by inward experience, and are manifest by what is visible in men's practice; I proceed to improve the subject. I. By this we may see how manifest are the ruins of the fall of man. It is observable in all the kinds of God's creatures that we behold, that they have those properties and qualities, which are every way proportioned to their end; so that they need no more, they stand in need of no greater degree of perfection, in order well to answer the special use for which they seem to be
designed. The brute creatures, birds, beasts, fishes, and insects, though there be innumerable kinds of them, yet all seem to have such a degree of perception and perfection given them, as best suits their place in the creation, their manner of living, and the ends for which they were made. There is no defect visible in them; they are perfect in their kind; there seems to be nothing wanting, in order to their filling up their allotted place in the world. And there can be no reasonable doubt but that it was so at first with mankind. It is not reasonable to suppose, that God would make many thousands of kinds of creatures in this lower world, and one kind the highest of them all, to be the head of the rest; and that all the rest should be complete in their kinds, every way endowed with such qualifications as are proportioned to their use and end: and only this most noble creature of all, left exceeding imperfect, notoriously destitute of what he principally stands in need of to answer the end of his being. The principal faculty by which God has distinguished this noble creature from the rest, is his understanding; but would God so distinguish man in his creation from other creatures, and then seal up that understanding with such an extreme blindness, as to render it useless, as to the principal ends of it; and wholly to disenable him from answering the ends of an intelligent creature, and to make his understanding rather a misery than a blessing to him; and rendering him much more mischievous than useful? Therefore, if the scripture had not told us so, yet we might safely conclude, that mankind are not now, as they were made at first; but that they are in a fallen state and condition.
II. From what has been said, plainly appears the necessity of divine revelation. The deists deny the scripture to be the word of God, and hold that there is no revealed religion, that God has given mankind no other rule but his own reason; which is sufficient, without any word or revelation from heaven to give man a right understanding of divine things, and of his duty. But how is it proved in fact? How much trial has there been, whether man's reason, without a revelation, would be sufficient or not: the whole world, excepting one nation, had the trial till the coming of Christ. And was not this long enough for trial, whether man's reason alone was sufficient to instruct him? Those nations, who all that time lay in such gross darkness, and in such a deplorable helpless condition, had the same natural reason that the deists have. And during this time, there was not only one man, or a succession of single persons that had the trial, whether their own reason would be sufficient to lead them to the knowledge of the truth; but all nations, who all had the same human faculties that we have. If human reason is really sufficient, and there be no need of any thing else, why has it never proved so? Why has it never happened, that so much as one nation, or one city or town. or one assembly of men, have
been brought to tolerable notions of divine things, unless it be by the revelation contained in the scriptures? If it were only one nation that had remained in such darkness, the trial might not be thought so great; because one particular people might be under some disadvantages, which were peculiar. But thus it has been with all nations, except those which have been favoured with the scriptures, and in all ages. Where is any people who to this day have ever delivered themselves by their own reason, or have been delivered without light fetched from the scriptures, or by means of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
If human reason is sufficient without the scripture, is it not strange that, in these latter ages-since navigation has been so improved, and America and many other parts of the world have been discovered, which were before unknown-no one nation has any where been found already enlightened, and possessed of true notions about the Divine Being and his perfections, by virtue of that human reason they have been possessed of so many thousand years? The many poor, barbarous nations here, in America, had the faculty of reason to do what they pleased with, before the Europeans came hither, and brought over the light of the gospel. If human reason alone was sufficient, it is strange, that no one people were found, in any corner of the land, who were helped by it, in the chief concern of man.
There has been a great trial, as to what men's reason can do without divine help, in those endless disputes that have been maintained. If human reason alone could help mankind, it might be expected that these disputes would have helped them, and have put an end to men's darkness. The heathen philosophers had many hundreds of years to try their skill in this way: but all without effect. That divine revelation, which the church of God has been possessed of, has been in the world as a light shining in a dark place."* It is the only remedy which God has provided for the miserable, brutish blindness of mankind, a remedy without which this fallen world would have sunk down for ever in brutal barbarism without any remedy. It is the only means that the true God has made successful in his Providence, to give the nations of the world the knowledge of himself; and to bring them off from the worship of false gods.
If human reason be the only proper means, the means, that God has designed for enlightening mankind, is it not very strange, that it has not been sufficient, nor has answered this end in any one instance. All the right speculative knowledge of the true God, which the deists themselves have, has been derived from divine revelation. How vain is it to dispute against fact, and the experience of so many thousand years? And to pretend that human reason is sufficient without divine revelation, when
2 Peter i. 10
so many thousand years experience, among so many hundreds of nations, of different tempers, circumstances and interests, has proved the contrary? One would think all should acknowledge that so long a time is sufficient for a trial; especially considering the miseries that the poor nations of the world have been under all this while, for want of light: the innumerable temporal calamities and miseries-such as sacrificing children, and many other cruelties to others, and even to themselves-besides that eternal perdition, which we may reasonably suppose to be the consequence of such darkness.
III. This doctrine should make us sensible, how great a mercy it is to mankind, that God has sent his own SoN into the world, to be the light of the world.-The subject shows what great need we stand in of some teacher to be sent from God. And even some of the wiser men among the heathen saw the need of this. They saw that they disputed and jangled among themselves without coming to a satisfying discovery of the truth; and hence they saw, and spoke of the need there was of a teacher sent from heaven. And it is a wonderful instance of divine mercy that God has so beheld us in our low estate, as to provide such a glorious remedy. He has not merely sent some created angel to instruct us, but his own Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, and of the same nature and essence with him; and therefore infinitely better acquainted with him, and more sufficient to teach a blind world. He has sent him to be the light of the world, as he says of himself, "I am come a light into the world."* When he came, he brought glorious light. It was like the day-spring from on high, visiting a dark world, as Zacharias observes. After Christ came, then the glorious gospel began to spread abroad, delivering those "that had sitten in darkness, and in the region of the shadow of death."
What reason have we to rejoice, and praise God, that he has made such excellent provision for us; and has set so glorious a sun in our firmament, such a "Sun of righteousness," after we had extinguished the light which at first enlightened us; and had, as it were, brought the world into that state, in which it was when "without form, and void," and darkness was on the face of it -The glory of that light which God has sent into the world, is fully answerable to the grossness of that darkness which filled it. For Christ who came to enlighten us, is truth and light itself and the fountain of all light. "He is the light, and in him is no
darkness at all."S
IV. Hence we may learn, what must be the thing which will bring to pass those glorious days of light, which are spoken of in God's word. Though mankind be fallen into such darkness,and
John xii. 46.
† Luke i. 77, 78, 79.
See Jer. iv. 22, 23.