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"hindrance; one that putteth not his money "out to usury, (seeketh not extravagant or un"just gain,) nor taketh reward against the innocent." These are the kind of sights we ought to see, if all were right with us: what is it that we do see?
Again I only ask for your assent, and for your serious reflection, so far as what may be affirmed is warranted by sound experience; but is it not the fact, that, in regard to holiness, we are compelled to hear the holy name of GOD continually profaned; to see his ordinances put aside on every vain pretence, and from time to time forsaken; to witness that good day of sacred rest which he, at any rate, once "cleansed, made common" for all manner of unholy purposes? There is no need to multiply particulars; these few alone, if they be real, would be sufficient to make good the proof, that holiness is not now natural to man, considered generally.
Nor is the general case materially altered for the better, in respect of righteousness. It is not to be said that there is no honesty, no fair and upright dealing in the world. God be praised! there is a great deal. Yet when we come to sift the character of man, without respect of persons, truth must oblige us to acknowledge,
that his tendencies-his dispositions-incline more frequently the other way. Else, wherefore is it that we see so many who ought to live as brethren, making prey and gain one of another? backbiting, revengeful, proud, unjust, oppressive-taking all advantage of a neighbour's openness, simplicity, or honesty-swearing to their neighbour and disappointing him, without the slightest scruple-doing almost every thing, in short, which they would not have others do to them ?
And these are but a few specimens, from out of the huge heap of men's misdoings:-suppose we were to swell the dismal catalogue by mention of all grosser crimes? of murders, and adulteries, and practices scarce falling short, at times, of the apostle's fearful picture of the Gentiles, "working all uncleanness with greediness." But there is no need for still nothing but the same question would come round, to form the point of wonder and enquiry; "How happens all this evil?" whence does it all come, and what does it prove?
But yet again-before we come to the great answer-notice well, that these which we are speaking of are no occasional or partial evils, * Ephes. iv. 19.
confined to any times or places, in particular. We do not look to persons, or to places, when we describe such things as these. Few things are less like truth than narrow and particular descriptions, or over-drawn and highly-coloured statements. We look only to man's general nature. And if the truth of either this or any other like statement shall find its way into the conscience, it will not be because it is true here, or true there; but because, in a greater or a less degree, it is true every where. Look to the writings of all Christian teachers, of all lands and ages; we find them all proclaiming and reproving these same sins. Look to the facts and records of the Bible, before Christ came on earth to pay the penalty of sin; and these with almost one consent will testify the same, from the sad sentence registered in the sixth chapter of the book of Genesis, which tells us, that "God saw "that the wickedness of man was great in the "earth, and that every imagination of the
thoughts of his heart was only evil continually "," down to the frightful summing up of the third chapter of St. Paul's last letter to Timothy, which he concludes with the distressing declaration, that "evil men and seducers shall
y Gen. vi. 5.
wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being "deceived "."
But read the whole description for yourselves, and then repeat the question-" Why or how "could so much evil come?" and still more, why should it be looked for, even in the Gospel times ?
The answer-and the only answer large enough to comprehend the whole matter of the questionis; because, though God made man upright, a fatal breach hath taken place between them since; and man having become, by nature, a rebel to his Maker, hath "found out many in
ventions," under cover of which to deceive his own heart, and make corruption strong. This is the secret. Man is now born in the likeness of his first father who sinned. And therefore he listens to the calls of evil, and to the inventions of his own heart; trusting in one vain security or other, until he practically loses sight and thought of God's word, as his abiding, real rule of life; and then too frequently he grows desperate, and resolute to go on in the blind ways which he himself has chosen. The darkness of ignorance soon closes round a mind in this state; and
z 2 Tim. iii. 13.
then unholiness and unrighteousness follow of
Yet, Christian brethren, shelter ourselves as we will-invent excuses as we will for sin-shut our eyes as obstinately as we please-to God's word we must come at last. The word which Christ hath spoken shall not pass away; and the same shall be our rule of judgment in the last day. O that we would but suffer it to judge us now, while life is in the prospect! that we would allow it to convince us all of sin, that we may learn and feel our need of a Redeemer, in the first place; and in the next, the power afforded us of being renewed after his likeness, so that even in the time of this mortal life we may attain to better things and to another nature than that evil one with which we are born.
For (that we now may see the use which certainly should not be made of this too clear doctrine of man's natural corruption) let it be understood, that such recovery is not beyond the reach of those who wish for it, and seek it rightly. Alienated as we are from God by nature, in our lost estate, yet are we not shut out from hope of restoration. While we are busy with inventions to destroy ourselves, the Almighty hath prepared