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The native Depravity of Mankind appears, ir that there has
been so little good effect of so manifold and great means used to promote Virtue in the World.
THE evidence of the native corruption of mankind, appears much more glaring, when it is considered that the world has been so generally, so constantly, and so exceedingly corrupt, notwithstanding the various, great and continual means, that have been used to restrain men from sin, and promote virtue and true religion among them. .
Dr. Taylor supposes all that sorrow and death, which came on mankind, in consequence of Adam's sin, was brought on them by God, in great favor to them; as a benevolent Father, exercising an wholesome discipline towards his children, to restrain them from sin, by increasing the vanity of all earthly things, to abate their force to tempt and delude ; to induce them to be moderate in gratifying the appetites of the body ; to mortify pride and ambition ; and that men might always have before their eyes a striking demonstration, that sin is infinitely hateful to God, by a sight of that, than which nothing is more proper to give them the utmost abhorrence of iniquity, and to fix in their minds a sense of the dreadful consequences of sin, &c. &c. And in general, that they do not come as punishments, but purely as means to keep men from vice, and to make them better. If it be so, surely they are great means indeed. Here is a mighty alteration : Mankind, once so easy and happy, hicalthful, vigorous and beautiful, rich in all the pleasant and abondant blessings of Paradise, now turned out, desiitute, reak, and decaying, into a wide, barren world, yielding briars and thorns, instead of the delightful growth and sweet fruit of the garden of Eden, to wear out life in sorrow and toil, on the ground cursed for his sake ; and at last, either through long languishment and lingering decay, or severe pain and acute disease, to expire and turn to putrefaction and dust. If these are only used as medicines, to prevent and to cure the diseases of the mind, they are sharp medicines indeed, especially death ; which, to use Hezekiah's representation, is, as it were, breaking all his bones : And one would think, should be very effectual, if the subject had no depravity, no evil and contrary bias, to resist and hinder a proper effect ; especially in the old world, when the thing which was the first occasion of this terrible alteration, this severity of means, was fresh in memory, Adam continuing alive near two thirds of the time that passed before the flood ; so that a very great part of those that were alive till the flood, might have opportunity of seeing and conversing with him, and hearing from his mouth, not only an account of his fall, and the introduction of the awful consequences of it, but also of his first finding himself in existence in the new created world, and of the creation of Eve, and the things which passed between him and his Creator in Paradise.
But what was the success of these great means, to restrain men from sin, and to induce them to virtue? Did they prove sufficient ? Instead of this, the world soon grew exceeding corrupt, till it came to that, to use our author's own words, that mankind were universally debauched into lust, sensuality, rapine, and injustice.
Then God used further means : He sent Noah, a preacher of righteousness, to warn the world of the universal destruction which would come upon them by a flood of waters, if they went on in sin. Which warning he delivered with these circumstances, tending to strike their minds, and command their attention ; that he immediately went about building that vast structure of the ark, in which he must employ a great number of hands, and probably spent all he had in the world, to save himself and his family. And under these uncommon means God waited upon them one hundred and twenty years; but all to no effect. The whole world, for ought appears, continued obstinate, and absolutely incorrigible ; so that nothing remained to be done with them, but utterly to destroy the inhabitants of the earth, and to begin a new world from that single family who had distinguished themselves by their virtue, that from them might be propagated a new and purer race. Accordingly this was done ; and the inhabitants of this new world, of Noah's posterity, had these new and extraordinary means to restrain sin, and excite to virtue, in addition to the toil, sorrow, and common mortality, which the world had been subjected to before, in consequence of Adam's sin, viz. that God had newly testified his dreadful displeasure for sin, in destroying the many millions of mankind, all at one blow, old and young, men, women and children, without pity on any for all the dismal shrieks and cries which the world was filled with ; when they themselves, the remaining family, were so wonderfully distinguished by God's preserving goodness, that they might be a holy seed, being delivered from the corrupting examples of the old world, and being all the offspring of a living parent, whose pious instructions and counsels they had, to enforce these things upon them, to prevent sin, and engage them to their duty. And these inhabitants of the new earth, must for a long time, have before their eyes many evident, and as it were, fresh and striking effects and signs of that universal destruction, to be a continual, affecting admonition to them. And besides all this, God now shortened the life of man, to about one half of what it used to be. The shortening man's life, Dr. Taylor says, page 68,“ was, that the wild range of ambition and lust might be brought into narrower bounds, and have less opportunity of doing mischief ; and that death, being still nearer to our view, might be a more powerful motive to regard less the things of a transitory world, and to attend more to the rules of truth and wisdom.”
And now let us observe the consequence. These new and extraordinary means, in addition to the former, were sa far from proving sufficient, that the new world degenerated, and became corrupt by such swift degrees, that, as Dr. Taylor observes, mankind in general were sunk into idolatry in about VOL. VI.
four hundred years after the flood, and so in about fifty years after Noah's death. They became so wicked and brutish, as to forsake the true God, and turn to the worship of inanimate creatures. ! When things were come to this dreadful pass, God was pleased, for a remedy, to introduce a new and wonderful dis. pensation ; separating a particular family and people from all the rest of the world, by a series of most astonishing miracles, done in the open view of the world, and fixing their dwelling, as it were in the midst of the earth, between Asia, Europe and Africa, and in the midst of those nations which were most considerable and famous for power, knowledge, and arts, that God might, in an extraordinary manner, dwell among that people, in visible tokens of his presence, manifesting himself there, and from thence to the world, by a course of great and miraculous operations and effects for many ages; that that people might be holy to God, and as a kingdom of priesti, and might stand as a city on an hill, to be a light to the world ; withal, gradually shortening man's life, till it was brought to be but about one twelfth part of what it used to be before the flood ; and so, according to Dr. Taylor, vastly cutting off and diminishing his temptations to sin, and increasing his excitements to holiness. And now let us consider what the success of these means was, both as to the Gentile world, and the nation of Israel.
Dr. Taylor justly observes, (Key, p. 24, 975) - The Jewish dispensation had respect to the nations of the world, to spread the knowledge and obedience of God in the earth ; and was established for the benefit of all mankind." But how unsuccessful were these means, and all other means used with the heathen nations, so long as this dispensation lasted ? Abraham was a person noted in all the principal nations that were then in the world; as in Egypt, and the eastern monarchies : God made his name famous, by his wonderful, distinguishing dispensations towards him, particularly by so miraculously subduing before him and his trained servants, those armies of the four eastern kings. This great work of the most high God, Possesser of heaven
and earth, was greatly taken notice of by Melchizedeck, and one would think, should have been sufficient to have awakened the attention and consideration of all the nations in that part of the world, and to have led them to the knowledge and worship of the only true God; especially if considered in conjunction with that miraculous and most terrible destruction of Sodom, and all the cities of the plain, for their wickedness, with Lot's miraculous deliverance, which doubtless were facts, that in their day were much famed abroad in the world. But there is not the least appearance, in any accounts we have, of any considerable good effect. On the contrary, those nations which were most in the way of observing and being affected with these things, even the nations of Canaan, grew worse and worse, till their iniquity came to the full, in Joshua's time. And the posterity of Lot, that saint so wonderfully distinguished, soon became some of the most gross idolaters; as they appear to have been in Moses' time. See Numb. xxy. Yea, and the far greater part even of Abraham's posterity, the children of Ishmael, Ziman, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah, and Esau, soon forgot the true God, and fell off to Heathenism.
Great things were done in the sight of the nations of the world, tending to awaken them, and lead them to the knowledge and obedience of the true God, in Jacob's and Joseph's time ; in that God did miraculously, by the hand of Joseph, preserve from perishing by famine, as it were the whole world, as appears by Gen. xli. 56, 57. Agreeably to which, the name that Pharaoh gave to Joseph, Zannath Pagneah, as is said, in the Egyptian language, signifies Saviour of the World. But there does not appear to have been any good abiding effect of this ; no, not so much as in the nation of the Egyptians, (which seems to have been the chief of all the heathen nations at that day) who had these great works of Jehovah in their most immediate view ; on the contrary, they grew worse and worse, and seem to be far more gross in their idolatries and ignorance of the true God, and every way more wicked, and ripe for ruin, when Moses was sent to Pharaoh, than they were in Joseph's time.