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ROMANS viii. 7. --"The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
THE law, spoken of here, is the moral law; or that law, which requires men to love God with all their heart, and their neighbour as themselves. The facts affirmed by the Apostle are, that the carnal mind is enmity against God, and for that reason, is not subject to the law of God; that is, it does not obey the law of God, neither of course, can it obey this law, while it continues to be enmity against God. The apostle does not affirm, that a sinner cannot love God, but that a carnal mind cannot love God; for, to affirm that a carnal mind can love God, is the same as to affirm that enmity itself, can be love. In speaking from these words, I design 1st, to show,
What is not meant by the carnal mind. And,
2d. What the carnal mind, as used in the text, does mean.
3dly. That all men, who have not been born by the Spirit of God, have a carnal mind. And,
4thly. That this carnal mind is enmity against God.
1. I am to show what is not meant by the carnal mind, as used in the text. It is not meant, that any part of the substance of the soul or body, is enmity against God.
2. It is not meant, that there is any thing in the constitution, or substance of body or mind, that is opposed to God. The mind is not saturated, or soaked with enmity.
3. Nor is it meant, that the mind or body is so constructed, that, from the constitution of our nature, we are opposed to God.
4. It is not meant, that there are appetites or propensities that are constitutional, which are enmity against God.
5. Nor is it meant, that all unconverted men, feel sensible emotions of enmity, or hatred to God. Enmity may exist in the mind, either as a volition, or an emotion. When existing in the form of a volition, it is a settled aversion to his character and government, of such a nature, that while it may have an abiding influence over our conduct, it may not have a felt existence in the mind.
When existing in the form of an emotion, it then constitutes what we call feeling; and its existence is a matter of consciousness. I said that enmity may exist in the form of a volition, or a settled aversion to God, and have an abiding influence over our conduct, leading us to treat God as an enemy, without rising into the form of an emotion, that may be sensibly felt, and be the object of consciousness. Emotions exist in the mind, only when those objects are before it, that are calculated to produce them; and a principle reason why sinners do not more frequently exercise such emotions of hatred to God, as to be sensible of their enmity against him, is, that they seldom think of God. God is not in all their thoughts. And when they do think of him, they do not think justly, or think of him as he really is; they deceive themselves with vain imaginations, and hide from their own view his real character; and thus cover up their enmity.
II. I am to show what is meant by the carnal mind, as used in the text. The proper translation of this text is, the minding of the flesh is enmity against God. It is a voluntary state of mind. It is that state of supreme selfishness, in which all men are, previous to their conversion to God.
It is a state of mind; in which, probably, they are not born, but into which they appear to fall, very early after their birth. The gratification of their appetites, is made by them, the supreme object of desire and pursuit, and becomes the law of their lives; or that law in their members, that wars against the law of their minds, of which the apostle speaks.
They conform their lives, and all their actions to this rule of action, which they have established for themselves, which is nothing more nor less, than voluntary selfishness; or a controlling and abiding preference of self-gratification, above the commandments, authority, and glory of God.
It should be well understood, and always remembered, that the carnal mind, as used by the apostle, is not the mind itself but is a voluntary action of the mind. In other words, it is not any part of the mind, or body, but a choice or preference of the mind. It is, a minding of the flesh. It is, preferring self-gratification, before obedience to God.
The constitutional appetites, both of body and mind, are in themselves innocent; but, making their gratification the supreme object of pursuit, is enmity against God. It is the direct opposite of the character and the requirements of God. God requires us to subordinate all our appetites, of body and mind, to his glory, and to aim supremely at honouring and glorifying him. To love him with all our hearts, to bring all our powers of body and mind, under obedience to the law of love: and whatever we do, whether we eat or drink, we should do all to the glory of God. Now the carnal mind, or the minding of the flesh, is the direct opposite of this. It is pursuing as a supreme end, that which is the direct opposite of the requirements, and character of God. It is a choice, a preference, an abiding temper, or disposition of the mind; which consists in a determination to gratify self, and to make this, the high and supreme object of pursuit.
III. I am to show, that, previous to conversion, all men are in this state of enmity against God. The Bible speaks of men, as possessing by nature, one common heart or disposition. This text does not say, that the carnal minds of some men, are enmity against God; but that the carnal mind is enmity against God. In another place, God says, "every imagination of the thoughts of their heart, (not hearts) is only evil continually." Another passage says, "the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live." Indeed, unconverted men, throughout the Bible, are spoken of as having a common heart; and what the Bible asserts, is seen to be a matter of fact. Go throughout all the ranks of the human family from the sensitive female, that faints at the sight of blood, to the horrid pirate, whose eyes flash fire, and whose lips burn with blasphemy; and present to them, all, the claims of God, and the Gospel of his Son, require them to repent, and give their hearts to God; and with one consent, they will plead their inability. Go to the refined, and unrefined; the learned and unlearned; the high and low; rich and poor; old and young; male and female; bond and free, of every country and of every clime; and not one of them can be persuaded to embrace the Gospel, without the interposition of the Holy Ghost. Now, how is it possible, to account for this notorious fact, but upon the principle, that however the external deportment of different individuals, may be modified by circumstances, however much the natural temper may be made to differ, as respects men, by education, by animal temperament, by the state of the nervous system, and a variety of other considerations; still as it respects God, they possess the same disposition, and will, all, with one consent, begin to make excuses for not loving and obeying him.
IV. I am to show, that this carnal mind, or minding of the flesh, is enmity against God.
In my former discourse, on the subject of depravity, I endeavoured to demonstrate, by an appeal to facts, that unconverted men do not love God.
The first point to be established, under the fourth head of this discourse, is, that impenitent sinners hate God.
I shall pursue the same method, appeal to the same sources for proof, and go into the same field and gather facts, to establish the truth of this position, that I did in proof of the position that men do not love God. My appeal is to the well known laws of mind, as they are seen to develop themselves in the transactions of every day. And,
1st. We are naturally pleased with those things that are displeasing to our enemies. Hatred is ill will. Therefore, whatever displeases or disobliges our enemy, gratifies our ill will. It is a contradiction to say, that we hate an individual with a malevolent hatred, and yet have no satisfaction in what displeases him. It is the same as to say, that the gratification of our desires is not pleasing to us. We witness the developments of this law of mind, not only in our own case, but in the manifested feelings of those around us. See that man, if something has happened, greatly to disoblige his enemy, he cannot conceal the pleasure he takes in this event. If the same event has in some measure injured himself, and he is in some degree partaker in the common calamity, yet, if it has much more deeply injured, or completely ruined, his bitter enemy, he feels upon the whole, gratified with the event, and considers the ruin of his enemy, as more than a compensation for his own loss, and does not mind bearing the portion that has fallen to him, inasmuch as it has overwhelmed the man that he so deeply hates. Now, whatever he may say, under whatever hypocritical pretence he may conceal the satisfaction that he feels in this event; yet it remains certain, that his hatred is gratified, that he really at heart, takes pleasure in an event which has gratified his malignant opposition to his enemy.
We see this same law of mind, developing itself towards God. Sinners manifest the greatest pleasure in sin. It is the element in which they live and move. They roll it as a sweet morsel under their tongue. They drink in iniquity like water. They even weary themselves to commit iniquity. They not only do these things themselves, but have pleasure in them that do them. The very things that are the most displeasing to God, are most pleasing to them. And the things that are the most pleasing to God, are most displeasing to them. They love what God hates, and hate what God loves. This demonstrates that they are in a state of mind which is the direct opposite, of the character and will of God. The whole bent, and current, and inclination of their minds are the direct opposite of God's requirements; and are enmity against him. This is matter of fact.
Again. We are naturally gratified, to see the friends of our enemy forsake and dishonour him. If a man hate another, and the children, or friend of this enemy of his, do any thing to grieve, or dishonour, or injure him in any way, he may speak of it, as if he regretted it; but if he pretends to regret it, he is a hypocrite. It is just as certain, that upon the whole, he rejoices in it, as it is that he hates him. He rejoices in it, because it gratifies his hatred. You see this law of mind, manifesting itself with equal uniformity and strength towards the blessed God. When the professed friends of God forsake his cause, and do any thing to dishonour him, you may perceive that impenitent sinners are gratified. They will speak of it with exultation; and while Christians converse about it with sorrow, weep over it, and betake themselves to prayer that God will wipe away the reproach, it will become the song of the drunkard, and the wicked in bar-rooms and in the corners of the streets, will laugh at it, and rejoice over it.
Again. We are apt to see and magnify the faults of the friends of our enemies. With what scrutiny, will politicians search after the faults of the friends and supporters of an opposing candidate. How eagle-eyed is that man in searching out all the failings of those that favour his enemy. How politicians, and others, will not only see their real faults, but will greatly magnify them, and dwell upon them, until they fill their whole field of vision. They give their attention so exclusively to their faults, as to forget that they have any virtues. So enormous do their faults appear, that where they have the appearance of virtue, it is ascribed to duplicity and hypocrisy.
Now, you see this same spirit, often manifesting itself towards God. With what a searching and malignant gaze, are the eyes of unconverted men, fastened upon the professed friends of God. How eagerly they note their faults. How enormously they magnify them, and how apt are they to ascribe every appearance of virtue in them, to bigotry and hypocrisy.
Again. We are apt to misinterpret the motives, and put the worst construction upon the conduct of the enemies of our friends. If they are favouring the interests, and endeavouring to promote the happiness of one whom we greatly hate, we behold all their conduct through a jaundiced eye. The best things in them, are often ascribed by us, to the worst of motives; and those things in them, which deserve the most praise, are often, by us the most severely reprobated. Your acquaintance with your own hearts, and with the developments of the human character around you, will instantly supply abundant proofs of this remark. This feature of the human character, often, most odiously develops itself towards God. How frequently do we hear impenitent sinners, ascribing the most praiseworthy deeds of God's professed friends, to the most unworthy motives. How often are their acts of greatest self-denial, those things in which they most humbly serve, and most nearly resemble God, misrepresented, ascribed to the basest of motives, and made the very reasons, upon which they ground their pertinacious opposition to them. It is impossible to account for this upon any other principle than that of their enmity against God; for the persons against whom this enmity is vented, are often entire strangers to them; individuals against whom they can have no personal hostility. It is manifestly not enmity to them, any further than they resemble God, that calls forth these expressions of hatred, but to the cause in which they are engaged, to the master whom they serve.
Again. We naturally shun the friends of our enemies. We naturally avoid the society of one, who we know to be particularly friendly to our enemy; his company and conversation is irksome to us. We see this same spirit manifested by impenitent sinners toward the friends of God. They avoid them,--feel uneasy in their company. Their presence seems to impose restraints upon sinners, and they cannot abuse God with quite as much freedom when Christians are present. They are therefore glad to dispense with their company. How often do you observe impenitent sinners, in making up a party for a stage-coach, or rail-road car, so arrange matters as to exclude a minister, or any engaged Christian from their company. They feel uneasy at his presence, and manifest the same temper that we should witness, if some distinguished friend of their greatest enemy were present with them. How can this be accounted for, on any other principle, than that of enmity against God. With these ministers, or professors of religion, they have, perhaps, very little personal acquaintance; have never had any misunderstanding with them, nor has any personal controversy existed between them. It must be on account of the cause in which they are engaged, and the master whom they serve, they wish to avoid them.
Again. We naturally admire--magnify the virtues--and overlook the vices, of the enemies of those we hate. How enthusiastic are politicians in their admiration of the talents, and wisdom, and virtues of those who take sides with them, and are opposed to the election of their political enemy. If any man has an enemy, he regards it as an evidence of wisdom, in any one else, to be opposed to the same man. He is inclined greatly to overrate the number, and the talents, and the influence of those who are opposed to his enemy. If he hears of a few that are opposed to him, and among them any men of more than ordinary talents, he is apt to imagine that almost every body is opposed to him, and especially all the talented and virtuous part of the community, and to think that nobody favours him but the weak, the servile, and the interested.
It is just so on the subject of religion. How often do you hear impenitent sinners boasting of the talents, and the numbers, and the virtues of infidels, and of those that make no pretension to religion. Boasting of the excellent characters, high standing, and great influence of the leaders among the irreligious: while, at the same time, they depreciate both the numbers and the talents, of those that are the friends of God. They often consider them as a sickly, a bigotted, and a priest-ridden people: and this too, without any definite knowledge of their numbers, their characters, or their influence. What is this, but the outbreakings of enmity against God, and the cause which they love?
Again. We naturally hate to think of our enemies. The human mind is so constituted, that malevolent emotions distress it, and are the source of misery. Whenever our thoughts are intensely occupied in thinking of an individual whom we hate, those malevolent emotions will naturally arise, which are condemned by the conscience, and which of themselves constitute misery. For this reason, unless it be for the purpose of studying revenge, or in some way to gratify our hatred, we naturally turn our thoughts away from an object which we hate. And while, as I have shown in a former discourse, we naturally dwell upon a beloved object, we just as naturally abstract our thoughts from a hated one. Behold the developments of this law of mind in its action toward God. Sinners banish God from their thoughts. They are "unwilling to retain God in their knowledge;" and if at any time the thought of God is intruded upon them, they manifest uneasiness, and immediately divert their attention. If they are really convinced that they are sinners, and are in danger of his wrath, their selfish regard to their own happiness may lead them to reflection, and induce them to think of God, for the purpose of devising some means of escaping his just indignation.
Again. We dislike to converse about those that we hate; and unless it be for the purpose of calumniating them, and pouring forth our malignant hostility against them, we choose to remain silent and say nothing about them. You often hear a man say of his enemy, I desire not to talk about him. As I have shown, in the former discourse, we love to converse about our friends, because such conversation at once enkindles and expresses our love for them. Such conversation gratifies us. But we hate to converse about our enemies. For although there is a kind of gratification in giving vent to our enmity, it is at the same time the source and the essence of pain. Who has not witnessed the manifestations of this law of mind on the subject of religion? Who does not know that sinners are averse to talking about God? That they converse about him seldom, reservedly, and in a manner that shows they have no pleasure in it; but, on the contrary, that such conversation gives them pain?
Again. We are naturally pained to hear our enemy praised. Here is a party of ladies and gentlemen assembled, and all of them but one, are particularly friendly to a distinguished and absent individual. This one is his bitter enemy. His enmity, however, is unknown to the company, and they, of course, bring up their favourite as the subject of their conversation. They indulge themselves in enthusiastic commendations of their absent friend, and are delighted with the common bond of sympathy that exists among them upon this subject. But mark the embarrassment and distress of this enemy. While they, without heeding his agony, indulge themselves in the most lavish pouring forth of applause, this enemy is filled with the most irrepressible distress and indignation. He looks at his watch; takes out his snuff-box; walks to the window; tries to read a newspaper; turns up and down the room: tries to divert the attention of the company, and introduce some other topic of conversation. Now, suppose that one of the ladies turns to him and demands his opinion, remarking, that he seems to be absent-minded, and does not enjoy the conversation. If he is a gentleman, he may wish to be very civil to the lady, and endeavour to waive an answer to her question. But suppose she presses him, and wonders at his hesitancy, until his conduct attracts the attention of the other members of the party, when they all, with one consent, coincide with the lady, and insist upon an expression of his opinion. Now, an hundred to one, if, in spite of his good breeding, he does not manifest the enmity of his heart, and clearly exhibit to the company the deep malignity of his feelings.
Under similar circumstances, you may often witness the out-breakings of enmity against God. Let a company of Christians, in a steam-boat, or stage-coach, engage in conversation upon their favourite topic. Let them converse of Jesus Christ; and after a warm conversation, let them appeal to impenitent sinners in the midst of them, for an expression of their opinion. Or if, when in a proper place, they propose to conclude the interview with prayer, how often are they offended. Go and visit a family, some of whose members are Christians, and others not; sit down and converse warmly with the pious wife on the subject of religion, in the presence of her husband and unconverted family: what looks you will instantly perceive about the house. Perhaps one will go out at this door, and another at that, and if any of the impenitent remain, turn and direct your conversation to one of them; if it be the husband, perhaps he will almost forget that he is a gentleman, and abuse you to your face. Perhaps he will say, his religion is a matter between him and God. That he does not thank you for your impertinence. That it is none of your business, and that he does not thank you for coming there, to disturb him and his family upon the subject of religion. Now, why does he consider this a disturbance? Why does he look upon it as an impertinence? Why is he so displeased? Certainly he has no reason to fear that you will injure him or his family. If he loved the subject, and loved God, is it not certain that he would thank you for your visit, and be pleased with the interview? And is it not proof to demonstration, that he hates God and religion, when he considers the kind introduction of the subject, as an intrusion and a vexation.
Again. We are naturally pained and incredulous on hearing of the prosperity of our enemy. If we hear that our enemy is gaining friends, or popularity, or property, or influence, it distresses us. We are inclined to disbelieve it. And, if there be any room for doubt, we are sure to hang a doubt on every point that admits debate. See that man, with his hypocritical face; he has heard of the prosperity of his enemy, and professes to rejoice in it. But if he believes it, he only mentions it on occasions where he cannot avoid it; and then, the spirit and manner of his conversation, if he pretend to rejoice in it, will, to a discerning mind, develop the deep hypocrisy of his heart. But if there be a possibility of calling the truth of it in question, you will find that he disbelieves it altogether. You will find him dwelling upon, and greatly magnifying any little circumstance that will render it improbable; while he depreciates, and casts into the shade, the weighty considerations that demonstrate its truth. Who has not witnessed the exhibitions of this principle on the subject of religion? Let a report of the prosperity of religion, and of great revivals, be circulated through the community, and see how Universalists, and other impenitent sinners, will manifest uneasiness, and try to disprove it all; will question the evidence, and try to pour contempt upon the report, and upon those that believe it. They do not believe that so many have been converted; you will see, say they, that the professed converts will all go back again, and be worse than ever. The reports, say they, are greatly exaggerated, and if there are any Christians in these revivals, there are probably ten hypocrites to one Christian. Such facts as these speak for themselves. They manifest a state of mind that cannot be mistaken. It is the boiling over of enmity against God.
Again. We naturally hate efforts to promote the interests of our enemies. We are very apt to cavil at the measures which they use; call their motives in question; and find a great deal of fault with the spirit and manner of their efforts; when we are opposed to the end which they have in view. If it be to promote the interests of our enemy, we are naturally watching for objections, and are captious and ill-natured in regard to their movements. We are apt to ridicule and oppose such efforts; and any thing like zeal, in such a case, is looked upon by us as enthusiasm and madness. Witness the conduct of impenitent sinners, on the subject of religion. If any efforts are made to promote the interests of the kingdom of God, to honour and glorify him, they are offended. They get up an opposition. They not unfrequently ridicule their meetings; speak evil of those that are engaged in them; denounce their zeal as enthusiasm and madness, and something for which they deserve the execration of all their neighbours. People may get together and dance all night, and impenitent sinners do not think it objectionable. The theatre may be opened, every night, at great expense, and the actors and multitudes of others, may be engaged all day in preparing for the entertainment of the evening; and thus the devil may get up a protracted meeting, and continue it for years, and they see no harm in it: no enthusiasm in all this. Ladies may go, and stay till midnight, every evening. Poor people may go, and spend their time and money, and waste their health and lives, and ruin their souls; and there is no harm in all this. But let Christians do any thing like this, and exercise one tenth part of this zeal in promoting the honour of God, and the salvation of souls; why, it would be talked of from Dan to Beersheba. Sinners may go to a ball, or party, and stay nearly all night; but excessively indecorous it is for ladies to go out to evening meetings. For Christians to have protracted meetings, and to pray till 10 o'clock at night. Abominable! Why, such things are spoken against in the newspapers. They are the subjects of remark and reprobation, in steamboats, and stage-coaches, and bar-rooms, and wherever impenitent sinners are assembled. Politicians may manifest the greatest zeal on the subject of politics; may hold their caucuses, post up their hand-bills; blaze away in the public journals; appoint their ward-committees; ransack every nook and corner; parade through the streets with their music; fire their guns; show their flags; transport their frigates through the streets on wheels: send their coaches up and down the streets, with hand-bills posted on their sides, to bring men to the polls; hundreds of thousands of dollars may be expended to carry an election; and all this is well enough. But, O, let Christians but begin to serve God with such zeal, and make such efforts to build up his kingdom, and save the souls of men; and ten to one, if the wicked did not absolutely mob them, and cry out that such efforts would ruin the nation. They would brand such proceedings as the most arrant enthusiasm, and downright madness. But is it because politics are of so much more importance than the salvation of souls? Is it because no effort is necessary to arouse a slumbering world, and bring sinners to act, and think, and feel as they ought on the subject of salvation? No, there is reason enough for the highest possible degree of Christian effort, and sinners know it very well; but their enmity against God is so great, that such efforts cannot be made without arousing all the hell there is within them.
Again. We easily believe an ill report, of one whom we hate. If a man hears any evil of an enemy, he believes it, on the slightest testimony. He does not care to inquire whether the report may be relied upon, but he eagerly listens to every breath of slander, yields the most unqualified credence, to almost any and every falsehood, that serves to blacken the reputation of his enemy. The reason of this is, his ill-will is gratified with such reports, he hopes that they are true, and therefore easily believes them. How frequently do we see this feature of the human heart developing itself on the subject of religion. With what eagerness do sinners listen to every false and slanderous report, that may be circulated about the friends of God. It is surprising to see, what absurd and ridiculous things they will believe. They manifest the most unequivocal desire to believe evil of those who profess friendship to God. It is amazing, to see the enmity of their hearts manifesting itself to such a degree, that often, there is nothing too absurd, ridiculous, and contradictory for them to believe, if it only has a tendency to cast contempt and ridicule upon the cause of God.
Again. We naturally love to give publicity to any evil report about our enemies. We desire to have others feel toward them, as we do. It gratifies our malignant feelings, to hear and to circulate those reports that are injurious to the enemy we hate. Hear that man. He meets with a neighbour, and says, have you heard such and such a report of such an individual? No, I have not. Ah, I supposed that you knew it, or I should have said nothing about it. Now hear him go into the whole subject, and relate, and aggravate every circumstance, of which he has heard, and comment upon them as he goes along; at length he closes, by saying I hope you will not mention this, but it is a matter of fact. And now he goes abroad, and falls in with another neighbour and relates the same to him, as a great secret; hopes he will say nothing about, but thinks the fact cannot be disputed.
Every where he goes, he takes this course; he hopes the thing will not get abroad, to the injury of the poor man. 'T is a mournful event. He is truly sorry, that any such thing has happened. In all this he is a hypocrite, and he knows it. He is glad the event has happened, and he delights to publish it. He seems to covet the exclusive privilege, of being the bearer of the first intelligence to every door. How often do we witness the developments of this principle against God. If something takes place, that is disgraceful among the professed friends of God, and injurious to the interests of religion, how ready sinners are to give it universal publicity.
They will talk about it. Publish it on all occasions; blaze it abroad in the public prints, and send it in every direction upon the wings of the wind. If any one becomes deranged, in connexion with a revival of religion, alas, what an ado is made about it. Thirty thousand citizens of the United States may be murdered every year by strong drink. The groceries may fill bedlam with maniacks[sic.]. Homicide, and suicide, and all manner of abominations may be the result of rum selling, and yet the indignation of sinners is not aroused. But if some nervous individual becomes deranged, in view of his abominable crimes against his Maker, in connexion with a revival or a protracted meeting; the press groans under the burden of the doleful complainings that are poured out upon the public ear.
But, Secondly. Under this 4th general division of the subject, I observe that impenitent sinners hate God with a MORTAL HATRED.
That is, were it in their power, they would destroy his very existence. Probably, very few sinners, are sensible that they have this degree of enmity, and may feel shocked at the assertion. Nevertheless, it is true. There are several reasons why they may never have known, that such was the state of their hearts. It is probable, that most of them, have never dared to indulge any such feelings. Another reason, why they never have desired to destroy God, is that they have never thought it possible to destroy him. There are many things which sinners have never designed or desired to do, because they have never thought it possible. Did either of you ever design to be a king[?] Did you ever entertain a thought of being a king? Have you ever felt any ambition to be a king? Probably you never did. And for the very reason, that you have never thought it possible. Suppose a throne, a crown, and a sceptre, were put within your reach; and the robe of royalty was tendered to your acceptance: do you not think that you have pride and ambition enough, under such circumstances, to desire to be a king. And suppose, when you had accepted the crown, and swayed the sceptre over one nation, you had the opportunity of extending your empire, and making your dominion universal, over all nations; do you not believe, that you would instantly desire to do it. And now, suppose that when all the governments of this world were subject to your sceptre; suppose an opportunity should offer for you to extend your dominion over the entire universe of worlds, and should you conceive it possible to subject God himself to your control; are you too good, under such circumstances, to aim at exercising dominion over all the universe and over God himself. Sinners, who would trust the best among you. You know not your hearts, if you suppose, that under such circumstances, there would be any limit to your ambition.
But again. Sinners do not realize the greatness of their enmity against God, because, as yet, God lets them go unpunished, and they do not believe, that he will send them to hell for their sins. If God will let them have their own way, as long as he does not interfere, to punish them for their sins, or disturb them in their courses of iniquity, their enmity remains comparatively at rest. But who among them would not rise up and murder him, were it in their power, if he should attempt to punish them for their sins.
No, they would sooner wish him in hell, than consent that he should deal with them in justice.
But again. It is evident, that the enmity of sinners against God is MORTAL, from the fact, that they are in rebellion against him, and in league with devils, to oppose his government, and undermine his throne. Sinners do not obey him. The whole weight of their influence and example is opposed to his government. They do every thing that the nature of the case admits to annihilate his authority, and destroy his government. Rebellion, is always aimed at the life of the sovereign, and it is impossible for sinners, to be more absolutely in rebellion against God, than they are.
But again. The question has been tried. God has once put himself as much in the power of men, as, in the nature of things, was possible. The second person in the Godhead, took to him human nature, and put his human nature within the power of men. And what was the result? They rested not, till they had murdered him. Do you say, that those were the Jews. That you are of a different spirit? This has always been the favourite plea of sinners.
The ancient Jews, persecuted and murdered the prophets. The Jews of Christ's day, professed to honour the prophets, built their sepulchres, and insisted that, if they had lived in the days of the prophets, they would not have persecuted them. But they persecuted and murdered Christ; and Christ himself informs them, that by persecuting him, they showed that they approved the deeds of their fathers. Now sinner, suppose you lived under a government that was a monarchy? Suppose your fathers had rebelled against the rightful king, and placed an usurper upon the throne; and that you, their children, although you did not participate in the original rebellion, yet now, you maintain the same ground which they took, support the usurper, and refuse obedience to your rightful sovereign? Now, is not this, in law and in equity, is it not to all intents and purposes, justifying the conduct of your fathers; becoming a partaker in their crimes, incurring the same guilt, and deserving the same condemnation? Suppose, you did not originally murder Christ? still, is it not a fact, that you now refuse to obey him, as your rightful sovereign, that you support the authority of Satan, who has usurped the government of this world by refusing to repent; by withholding your service, and your heart from Jesus Christ. Do you not, to all intents and purposes, become a partaker in the crime of those who murdered him? He claimed their obedience, and they arose and imbrued their hands in his blood. He claims your obedience, you utterly refuse it; and thus show, that you approve the deeds of the Jews. And that, were he in your power, sooner than submit to his authority, you would murder him again. This conduct makes you in the eye of common law, a partaker in their crime. In the eye of conscience, of reason, and of common sense; in the eye of God, and in the judgment of heaven, and earth and hell, you are guilty of the blood of Christ, and prove to a demonstration, that were it in your power, you would dethrone and murder the Almighty.
Again. Thirdly. Sinners hate God supremely. That is, they hate him more than they do any thing, and every thing; any body; and every body else in the universe. Do not startle at this, as if it were a rash and extravagant assertion. It is a sober, but an awful truth. Look at this. All other enmity can be overcome by kindness. The greatest enemy you have on earth, may subdue your enmity by kindness, and win you over to become his friend. But how is it, that all the kindness of God, infinitely greater kindness than any human being has had it in his power to show you, has not overcome your enmity, but you still remain in rebellion against him.
Again. A mere change of circumstances in any other case of enmity, will change the heart. Here are two political opponents, between whom an hereditary enmity exists. Their fathers were enemies. They have always been enemies. They have both believed and spoken all evil of each other. Now let a change of politics bring them both upon the same side of a political question, and they instantly become friends. Let them have an opportunity to play into each other's hands; let both their hearts be set upon the election of the same candidate, see how cordially they will co-operate. How warmly they will take each other by the hand. They will walk, and sit, and dine together; attend political meetings, defend each other's reputation, magnify each other's virtues, and throw the kind mantle of charity over each other's vices. And all this they will do heartily. Their real feelings towards each other are changed. Their hearts are really changed towards each other, and they can truly say, whereas we formerly hated, now we love each other. All this has been effected, merely by a change of circumstances, without any interference by the Holy Ghost. Let the President of the United States appoint his greatest political opponent to the first office in his gift, and he makes him his friend. Suppose the greatest anti-Jackson man in this city, who has said and done the most of any man in the United States, to prevent his election, should be reduced to poverty, and had no means of support, for himself and family. Now suppose, when the news of his extremity should reach the president, he should appoint him to a post of high honour and emolument, would not this change his heart? Would he complain that he could not become the president's friend, until the Holy Ghost had changed his heart? No. Such kindness would be like pouring coals of fire upon his head, would melt him down in an instant; would change the whole current of his soul. How then, does it happen, that all the offers of heaven, and all the threatenings of hell, that all the boundless love and compassion manifested in giving his only-begotten, and well-beloved Son to die for you; when mercy stoops from heaven with bleeding hands, and offers to save, and hell roars from beneath, and threatens to devour; when God approaches you with a world of moving, melting motives, gathered from earth, and heaven, and hell, and rolls their mountain-weight upon you; that these considerations will never change your heart, unless made effectual by the Holy Ghost?
Again. If men did not hate God supremely they would INSTANTLY REPENT.
Suppose that when you go home to-night, at the deep hour of midnight; when you are all asleep in an upper apartment of your house, you are awaked by the cry of fire; you look up and find your dwelling wrapt in flames around you. You leap from your bed and find the floor under your feet just ready to give way. The roof over your head is beginning to give way, and ready to fall in upon you with a crash. Your little ones awake, and are shrieking and clinging to your night-clothes. You see no way of escape. At this moment of unutterable anguish and despair, some one comes dashing through the flames with his hair and clothes on fire, seizes you in your distraction with one hand, and gathers his other long and strong arm around your little ones, and again rushes through the flames at the hazard of his life. You absolutely swoon with terror. In a few moments, you open your eyes in the street and find yourself supported in the arms of your deliverer. He is rubbing your temples with camphor, and fanning you, to restore your fainting life. You look up and behold in the scorched and smoky features of him who rescued you, the man whom you have supremely hated. He smiles in your face, and says fear not, your children are all alive; they are all standing around you. Now would you, could you look coldly at him, and say, O I wish I could repent, that I have hated you so much. I wish I could be sorry for my sin against you. Could you say this? No. You would instantly roll over upon your face, and wash his feet with your tears, and wipe them with the hairs of your head. This scene would change your heart in a moment, and ever after the name of that man would be music in your ears. If you heard him slandered, or saw him abused, it would enkindle your grief and indignation. And now, sinner, how is it, that you complain that you cannot repent of your sins against God? Behold his loving kindness, and his tender mercy. How can you look up? How can you refrain from repentance? How can you help being dissolved in broken-hearted penitence at his blessed feet? Behold his bleeding hands! See his wounded side! Hark! hear his deep death-groan, when he cries "it is finished," and gives up the ghost for your sins. Sinner, are you marble or adamant! Has your heart been case-hardened in the fires of hell, that you don't repent? Surely nothing but enmity deep as perdition, can be proof against the infinitely moving inducements to repentance.
But perhaps you will say that you do not like to hear about hell and damnation, that you love mercy, and if ministers would present the love and mercy of God, and present God as a God of mercy, sinners would love him. But this is all a mistake. Sinners are as much opposed to the mercy of God, as they are to any of his attributes. This is matter of fact, and the experience of every day. Hark, what is that din and outcry? Whence are those cries of crucify him! crucify him! that load down the winds, and break upon our ears from the distance of more than 1800 years? Why God has revealed his mercy and all the world are in arms against it: Jesus Christ has come upon the kind errand of salvation, and the world is filled with uproar, to murder him. Mercy is the very attribute of God, against which mankind are arrayed. For thousands of years, the sword of vindictive justice has slept in its scabbard, and God has been unfolding and holding out the attribute of mercy. All the opposition in the world, to God, and to religion, is aimed particularly at his mercy. What is Christianity? What is the Bible? What are revivals of religion? What are all those things that have called forth so much of the opposition of earth and hell, but so many exhibitions of the mercy of the blessed God. When justice ascends the throne, the cavilling mouths of sinners will be stopped. Justice will soon hush the tumult, and loud opposition of sinners against their Maker. Then every mouth shall be stopped, and all the world shall be found guilty before God. But now is the dispensation of his mercy, and all earth is up in arms against it, and why are you such a hypocrite, as to pretend to love the mercy of God? If you love it, why do you not accept it? If you love a God of mercy, why have not all the moving manifestations of it, that have passed before you, melted you down and subdued your heart?, O sinner, sinner, speak no more proudly. Boast not yourself, that you love any attribute of God, for if, while you remain impenitent, you say you love him, you are a liar, and the truth is not in you.
I will conclude this discourse with several remarks.
1st. You see why it is that Universalists and other sinners, are so disturbed with revivals of religion. It is because God comes so manifestly forth in the exercise of his mercy. They cannot bear such an exhibition of God. It disturbs all the sediment and lurking enmity of their hearts. These professed friends of God and men, as soon as God displays himself, and men become the recipients of his mercy, are greatly offended by it.
2d. You see the importance of preaching clearly and frequently, the enmity of sinners['] hearts against God. There is, and has been for ages, in most instances, a striking defect in exhibiting this most important subject. Ministers seem to have been afraid to charge men with being the enemies of God. I never heard this doctrine declared in my life, in such a way that I understood it, previous to my own conversion. Many ministers seem to have regarded total depravity, as consisting in nothing more than the absence of love to God.
The church does not seem to have realized, or believed, that the carnal mind is absolutely enmity against God. Although there is no other truth, more abundantly taught in the word of God, or more unanswerably evident, from matter of fact; yet how few sinners have been made to see and believe it. I have, in hundreds of instances, conversed with persons who have sat under the preaching of the Gospel all their days, and who never had been made to see this fundamental truth of the Gospel.
It is a truth, upon which is founded, the necessity of the new birth; of the spirit's influences, and without understanding and believing it, how are we to expect the world to be converted to God.
Again, 3d. From this subject, it is manifest, that if sinners should take their oath, that they hate God, it would not make it at all more evident. If all the men in the universe should take their oath that the sun shines at noonday, it would not add a particle to the evidence that the sun shines, or render it any more certain, in itself, or evident to others. It is a simple matter of fact, of which we can have no higher testimony than our own senses. So it is matter of fact, that sinners are the enemies of God. They act it out, before all men. It is as evident, as that they have an existence, and how it ever came to be questioned, or ever forgotten, or overlooked, is, to me, most mysterious.
4th. As I remarked in the morning, there are many professors of religion, who could not make it more evident that they are the enemies of God, if they should take their oath of it. They speak against revivals, and those engaged in promoting them. They give publicity to the faults, real or supposed, of those who are the friends of God. Retail slander, and manifest their opposition to God, in so many ways, that their hypocrisy and enmity against God are perfectly manifest.
5th. Those persons, who have not known, by their own experience, that they have been enemies of God, have not been converted, nor so much as truly convicted. What have they repented of? Have they repented merely of their outward sins? This is impossible, unless they have understood, and condemned the fountain of iniquity, from which these abominations have proceeded. The head and front of their offending is, that they have been the enemies of God. Nay their minding of the flesh, has been of itself, enmity against God. And now, do they talk of having repented, when they have never so much as known that in which their chief guilt consists. Impossible!
6th. Those sinners that deny that they are the enemies of God, are never likely to be converted, until they confess their enmity. "He that covereth his sins, shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy." There are many persons, who will confess themselves sinners, but will deny that they are the enemies of God. Thus they cover up the great amount of their sins; acknowledge their outward acts of wickedness, but deny the enmity from which they flow. While they do this, God will never forgive them.
7th. These discourses exhibit a very different view of total depravity, from that which regards depravity, as physical, or constitutional, or as belonging to the substance of the body or mind. They exhibit all depravity as voluntary, as consisting in voluntary transgression. As the sinner's own act. Something of his own creation. That, over which, he has a perfect control, and for which he is entirely responsible. O, the darkness, and confusion, and utter nonsense, of that view of depravity, which exhibits it, as something, lying back, and the cause of all actual transgression. Something created in the sinner, and born with him. Some physical pollution, transmitted from Adam, through the agency of God or the devil, which is in itself sinful, and deserving the wrath of God, previous to the exercise of voluntary agency on the part of the sinner. This is absurd and impossible.
It is not only absurd and impossible, but is virtually charging all the sin in the world upon God, and if it is firmly believed, renders repentance in every such case a natural impossibility. While the sinner supposes himself to be condemned, not only for his conduct, but for his nature; and while he believes that his conduct is the natural and necessary result of a depraved constitution; and that his nature must be changed, before he can obey his Maker, it is manifestly impossible for him, to blame himself for his sins. He must cease not only to be a reasonable being, but to have common sense, before he can justify God, and condemn himself, upon these principles. No wonder that men who maintain such a view of depravity as this, should also maintain that sinners are unable to repent. It is true, that upon these principles of depravity, and with these views, sinners cannot repent of themselves, nor can God make them repent. The only way in which God can bring a sinner to repentance, is, by correcting his views: by showing him what sin is; and causing him to see, that it is for his conduct, and not for his nature, that he is to repent; and that his conduct and not his nature needs to be changed. To teach physical, or constitutional depravity, is not only to teach heresy and nonsense; but it leads the sinner inevitably to justify himself and condemn God; and renders repentance, while the sinner believes it, impossible.
8th. You see why sinners find it so hard to be religious. The total difficulty, consists in their unwillingness to yield up their selfishness.
9th. It cannot be pretended, with any show of reason, that these discourses amount to any denial of moral depravity. I have purposely denied physical depravity; but certainly these discourses maintain moral depravity; that for which the sinner is to blame, that of which he must repent, in all its length and breadth. It would seem, that in the estimation of some, a denial that the nature is in itself depraved, is a virtual denial of all depravity. In other words, they seem to think it a virtual denial of the guilty source of all actual transgression. I have endeavoured to show, that the cause of outbreaking sin, is not to be found in a sinful constitution, or nature; but in a wrong original choice; in which the sinner prefers self-gratification to the will of his Maker; and which choice, has become the settled preference of his soul; and constitutes the deep fountain from which flow the putrid waters of spiritual and eternal death. I am unable to see by what figure of speech, that is called moral depravity, which either consists in a depraved constitution, or is the natural result of it. Why should it be called moral depravity? Certainly it can have no such relation to moral law, as to deserve punishment. It is indeed marvellous, that in the 19th century, it should be thought heresy, to call sin a transgression of the law, and insist that it must be the act of a voluntary agent. Has it come to this, that those who virtually deny all moral depravity, and virtually charge all the sins of the world upon God; are gravely to complain of heresy in those who maintain moral depravity in all its length and breadth, but who deny physical or constitutional depravity? What next? If it be heresy to say that sin is a transgression of the law, certainly the apostle was not orthodox.
10th. From this subject it is plain, either, that sinners must be annihilated, or converted, or forever lost. With a mind that is enmity against God, it is impossible that they should be happy. Infidels have no cause to sneer at the doctrine of the new birth. If there were no Bible in the world, the doctrine of total depravity, as exhibited in these discourses, would be abundantly manifest, as a matter of fact. And it cannot be denied, that except men pass through just that change of mind, which is in the Bible, called the new birth, or a change of heart, they must, self-evidently, be annihilated, or damned to all eternity.
11th. Sinners are not almost Christians. We sometimes hear persons say, of such an impenitent sinner, that he is almost a Christian. The truth is, the most moral impenitent sinner in the world is much nearer a devil than a Christian. Look at that sensitive young lady. Is she an impenitent sinner; then she only needs to die, to be as very a devil as there is in hell. Any slight occurrence, that should destroy her life, would make her a devil. Nay, she needs no positive influence to be exerted upon her, to make a fiend of her; only remove all restraints, and the very enmity of hell boils over in her heart at once. Let God take from under her his supporting hand. Let him cease, but for a moment, to fan her heaving lungs, and she would open her eyes in eternity, and if she dared, would curse him to his face.
12th. How impossible it would be for sinners to enjoy heaven, if permitted to go there in their present state of mind. Only break down the body; let the mind burst forth into the presence of God; let it look abroad, and behold his glories, and see holiness to the Lord inscribed on every thing around them; let them listen to the song of praise; let them perch upon the loftiest battlement of heaven; let them hear the song of holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, and so great would be their enmity, if unconverted, that, if permitted, they would dive into the darkest cavern of hell, to escape from the presence of the infinitely holy Lord God.
13th. While sinners remain in impenitence, they yield to God no sort of obedience, any more than the devil does. Their carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. In this state of mind, until the supreme preference of their mind is changed, until they have given up minding the flesh, and obey God, it is in vain to talk of obedience. The first act of obedience that you ever will or can perform, is to cease minding the flesh, and give your heart to God.
14th. You see the wickedness and folly of those parents who think their unconverted children friendly to religion. You cannot teach them a greater heresy than that they are friendly to religion, or to God. I have often heard professing parents say, that their children were not enemies to religion. No wonder that such children were not converted, under such teaching as this. It is just the doctrine that the devil desires you to teach them. You only give your children the impression that they are friendly to religion already, and they will never know why they need a new heart. While in this state of mind, and labouring under this delusion, they cannot so much as be convicted, much less converted.
15th. You see from this subject, the folly and the falsehood of saying, of an impenitent sinner, he is a good-hearted man; when the fact is, that his heart is enmity against God.
Lastly. You see how necessary it is that there should be a hell. What shall be done with these enemies of God, if they die in their sins. Heaven is no place for you. It would doubtless be worse to you than hell, if you were allowed to go there. A hell is deserved by sinners, and is evidently needed for those who die in enmity against God. And now, sinner, you see your state, you must be convinced of the truth of what I have said. Rembember[sic.] that your enmity is voluntary. It is of your own creation; that which you have long cherished and exercised. Will you give it up? What has God done, that you should continue to hate him? What is there in sin, that you should prefer it to God? Why, O why will you indulge, for a moment longer, this spirit of horrible rebellion and enmity against the blessed God? Go but a little further; cleave to your enmity but a little longer; and the knell of eternal death shall toll over your damned soul, and all the corners of despair will echo with your groans.