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The blindness that is in the heart of man, which is spoken of in the text and doctrine, is neither for want of faculties, nor opportunity to know, but from some positive cause. There is a principle in his heart, of such a blinding and besotting nature, that it hinders the exercises of his faculties about the things of religion exercises for which God has made him well capable, and for which he gives him abundant opportunity.
In order to make it appear, that such an extreme brutish blindness, with respect to the things of religion, does naturally possess the hearts of men, I shall show how this is manifest in those things that appear in men's open profession; and how it is manifest in those things that are found by inward experience, and are visible in men's practice.
Man's Natural Blindness in Religion, manifested by those Things which appear in Men's open Profession.
I would now show, how it is manifest that there is a sottish and brutish blindness in the hearts of men in the things of religion, by those things which appear in men's open profession.
1. It appears in the grossness of that ignorance and those delusions, which have appeared among mankind. Man has faculties given him whereby he is well capable of inferring the being of the Creator from the creatures. The invisible things of God are very plainly and clearly to be seen by the things that are made; and the perfections of the divine Being, his eternal power and Godhead, are very manifest in the works of his hands. And yet grossly absurd notions concerning the Godhead have prevailed in the world. Instead of acknowledging and worshiping the true God, they have fallen off to the worship of idols. Instead of acknowledging the one only true God, they have made a multitude of deities. Instead of worshipping a God, who is an almighty, infinite, all-wise and holy Spirit, they have worshipped the hosts of heaven, the sun, moon and stars; and the works of their own hands, images of gold and silver, brass and iron, wood and stone; gods that can neither hear nor see, nor walk, nor speak, nor do, nor know any thing. Some in the shape of men, others in the shape of oxen and calves; some in the shape of serpents, others of fishes, &c.
The sottishness of men in thus worshipping the lifeless images which they themselves have made, is elegantly and forcibly represented by the prophet Isaiah. "The smith with the tongs
*This is meant in a popular not a philosophical sense and is expressive of active, wilful perverseness, rather than the abstract nature of sin, or the obliquity of the natural act.-W.
both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms. Yea he is hungry, and his strength faileth; he drinketh no water, and is faint. The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line: he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest; he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn; for he will take thereof and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it: he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire with part thereof he eateth flesh: he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire. And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and pray eth unto it, and saith, deliver me, for thou are my god. They have not known, nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see, and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire, yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it, and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?"*
Many of the images which the heathen worshipped were made in the most monstrous and terrible shapes they could devise; and the more hideous and frightful they appeared, the better they supposed they would serve their turn for gods. Some of their images were made so as to be the most unclean representations; images of men openly exposing their nakedness. These unclean images, they judged, appeared in a god-like manner, and worthy to be worshipped. Many, instead of worshipping a holy and good God, and infinitely perfect Being, ascribed vices to many of the gods which they worshipped. One god they reckoned notorious for drunkenness; others notorious for uncleanness to others they ascribed lying and stealing; to others cruelty; and yet looked upon them worthy to be worshipped as gods! Many worshipped devils, who appeared to them, and whom they themselves. reckoned to be evil spirits; but yet built temples, and offered sacrifices to them, because they were afraid of them. Many worshipped beasts, and birds, and fishes; and the most hateful and loathsome animals were most worshipped; particularly, serpents were more commonly worshipped, than
Isai. xliv. 12-19.
any other beast. Many worshipped rivers, and trees, and mountains. They worshipped many diseases. There is scarcely any thing of which men have not made gods.
And so far has that principle of blindness prevailed, with respect to the things of religion, that it has in a great measure extinguished all light in the minds of many, even in matters of morality, and things that have but a distant relation to religion. So that many whole nations have professedly approved of many things directly contrary to the light of nature; and the most horrid vices and immoralities have been esteemed harmless, yea accounted virtues among them; such as revenge, cruelty and incest. Many nations have openly allowed the practice of sodomy. And with some it has been accounted commendable to marry their nearest relations. Many have even worshipped their gods in their temples with acts of drunkenness and whoredom, and the most abominable lewdness. And the more filthy they were in their uncleanness, they thought their gods the more pleased and delighted with it.
Many nations have been so under the influence of mental blindness, that they have been void of all civility, and have been reduced to a state very little above the beasts in their common customs, and ordinary way of living; and in a great many things far below the beasts: being, if I may so speak, much more beastly than the beasts themselves. Now this has not been, because these men, with whom this has been the case, have not had the same faculties that we have. That we are not as ignorant as they, is not because we have better natural understandings, or that our minds are by nature more clear, and our eyes more discerning; or that our hearts are not naturally so inclined to sottishness and delusion as theirs. only because God has not left us so much to ourselves, as he has them. He has given us more instruction to help us against our delusions. God has so ordered it in his providence, that we should have his good word to instruct us; and has caused that we should grow up from our infancy under christian instruction.
2. The extreme blindness and sottishness in things of religion, which is naturally in the hearts of men, appears not only in embracing and professing those errors that are very great, but also those that are so unnatural. They have not only embraced errors which are very contrary to truth, but very contrary to humanity; not only against the light of nature, but against the more innocent inclinations of nature. Such has been, and still is, the blindness of many nations in the world, that they embrace those errors which do not only exclude all true virtue, all holy dispositions; but those that have swallowed up the more harmless inclinations of human
Thus they have embraced many gross delusions, that are as contrary as possible to natural affection. Such as offering up their own children in sacrifice to their idol; which has been a common thing in the heathen world. And the parents have not only offered them up to death, but they have brought them, and offered them up to the most cruel and tormenting deaths as, to be burnt alive, to be broiled to death in burning brass; which was the way of offering up children to Moloch. The image of the idol being made of brass, in a horrid shape, was heated red hot; and the poor child was laid naked in this burning brass, and so burnt to death. And the parents themselves brought the child to this offering, however sweet and pleasant a child it might be. And thus the innocent child was tormented till it died, without any regard to its piteous cries. And it has been the manner of some nations, to offer in sacrifice the fairest and best beloved child that they had. And thus many thousands of poor babes have been offered up. So strong has been the tendency of the hearts of men to delusion, that it has thus overcome those strong natural affections which men have to the fruit of their own bodies.
And many of these delusions have been against men's natural love of their own ease, and aversion to pain. Many have worshipped their idols, and do so to this day, with such rites as are most painful and tormenting; cutting, gashing, and mangling their own flesh. Thus they sottishly worshipped Baal of old. "And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them."* And it is still the custom in some nations grievously to torment themselves: to kindle a fire to scorch their own bodies in a most miserable manner; and to put themselves to various and long-continued torments to please their idols. And it is the manner in some countries for persons, on certain occasions, to kill themselves; yea, to put themselves to cruel deaths; to cast themselves into great fires, and there burn themselves to death. How powerful must be the delusions of the human mind, and how strong the tendency of the heart to carry them such a length, and so to overcome the tenderest feelings of human nature!
3. The extreme blindness of the mind of man will appear further, if we consider how general gross ignorance and delusion has been. It has for the most part prevailed through the greater part of the world. For most of the time from Noah's flood to the coming of Christ, all nations, except the children of Israel, were overspread with gross heathenish darkness; being given up to the most vain and ridiculous notions, and all manner of superstitious, barbarous, absurd, and unnatural
* Kings xviii. 28.
MAN'S NATURAL BLINDNESS IN RELIGION.
practices. And, for the greater part of the time since, most nations of the world have been covered with gross darkness.
So it is at this day. Many nations are under popish darkness, and are in such gross delusions that they worship the Virgin Mary, and a great multitude of dead men, whom their church has canonized for saints; some real saints, and others abominably wicked men. So they worship the bread in the sacrament, and account it not only the real body of Christ, but real Christ in body and soul, and divinity. They carry a wafer, a small piece of bread, in procession, fall down before it, adore it, and account it Christ himself, both in his divine and human nature; and yet believe that the body of Christ is in heaven, and in ten thousand different places on earth at the same time. They think they can do works of supererogation; that is, more good works than they are obliged to do, whereby they bring God into debt to them. They whip themselves, and put themselves to other ridiculous penances and sufferings, whereby they think they appease the anger of God for their sins. And they pay money to the priests, to buy the pardon of their sins; yea, they buy indulgencies for future crimes, or pardon for sins before they commit them. They think they defend themselves from evil spirits, by sprinkling holy water. They pay money to buy the souls of their departed friends out of purgatory; they worship the relics of dead saints; such as pieces of their bones, their teeth, their hair, pieces of their garments, and the like. And innumerable other such foolish delusions are they under.
A great part of the nations of the world are Mahometans; many of the articles of whose belief are too childish and ridiculous to be publicly mentioned in a solemn assembly.But the greater part of the inhabitants of the world are to this day, gross, barbarous heathens, who have not the knowledge of the true God, but worship idols and devils, with all manner of absurd and foolish rites and ceremonies; and are destitute of even common civility: multitudes of nations being like beasts in human shape.-Now this barbarous ignorance and gross delusion being of such great extent and continuance, shows that the cause is general, and that the defect is in the corrupted nature of mankind; man's natural blindness and proneness of his heart to delusion.
4. The sottish blindness and folly of the heart of men appears in their being so prone to fall into such gross delusions, soon after they have been favoured with clear light. Were not the minds of men exceeding dark, they never would entertain such absurd notions at all; for they are as contrary as possible to reason: much less would they fall into them, after they had once been instructed in the truth. For, were it not very strange and great sottishness indeed, they would--when VOL. VIII.