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stone of stumbling or other: All of them are running themselves upon the sword-point of justice, while they eagerly follow whithertheir unmortified passionsand affections lead them; and while some are lying alone in the way, others are coming up, and falling headlong over them.
And, therefore, “Wo unto the (blind) world, because of offences," Math. xviii. 7. Errors in judgment swarm in the world; because it is “ night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.” All the unregenerate are utterly mistaken in the point of true happiness; for though Christianity hath fixed that matter in point of principle, yet nothing less than overcoming grace can fix it in the practical judgment. All men agree in the desire to be happy; but amongst unrenewed men, touching the way to happiness, there are almost as many opinions as there are men; they being “ turned every one to his own way," Isa. liii. 6. They are like the blind Sodomites about Lot's house, all were seeking to find the door, some grope one part of the wall for it, some another; but none of them could certainly say, he had found it; and so the natural man may stumble on any good but the chief good. Look into thine own unregenerate heart, and there thou wilt see all turned up-side down; heaven lying under, and earth a-top: Look into thy life; there thou mayest see how thou art playing the madman, snatching at shadows, and neglecting the substance, eagerly flying after that which is not, and slighting that which is, and will be for ever.
Evid. 3. The natural man is always as a workman left without light; either trifling or doing mischief. Try to catch thy heart at any time thou wilt, and thou shalt find it either weaving the spider's web, or hatching cockatriceegg8, (Isa. lix. 5.) roving through the world, or digging into the pit; filed with vanity, or else with vileness, busy doing nothing, or what is worse than nothing. A sad sign of a dark mind.
Evid. 4. The natural man is void of the saving knowledge of spiritual things. He knows not what a God he has to deal with ; he is unacquainted with Christ; and knows not what sin is. The greatest graceless wits are blind as moles in these things. Āy, but some such can speak of them to good purpose; and so might these Israelites of the temptations, signs, and miracles, their eyes had seeng. (Deut. xxix. 3.) to whom nevertheless the Lord had not a given an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto that day,” ver. 4. Many a man that bears the name of a Christian may make Pharaoh's confession of faith, Exod. v. 2. “I know not the Lord,” neither will they let go when he commands them to part with. God is with them as a prince in disguise among his subjects, who meets with no better treatment from them, than if they were his fellows, Psal. 1. 21. Do they know Christ, or see his glory, and any beauty in him, for which he is to be desired? If they did, they would not slight him as they do; a view of his glory would so dazzle all created excellency, that they would take him for, and instead of all, and gladly close with him, as he offereth himself in the gospel, John iv. 10. Psal. ix. 10. Matth. xiii. 44, 45, 50. Do they know what sin is, who hug the serpent in their bosom, hold fast deceit, and refuse to let it go ? I own, indeed, they may have a natural knowledge of those things,ʻas the unbelieving Jews had of Christ, whom they saw and conversed with ; but there was spiritual glory in him, perceived by believers only, John i. 14. and in respect of that glory, the unbelieving world knew him not, ver. 10. But the spiritual knowledge of him they cannot have ; it is above the reach of the carnal mind, i Cor. ii. 14. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.” He may indeed discourse of them ; but no other way than one can talk of honey or vinegar, who never tasted the sweetness of the one, nor the sourness of the other. He has some notions of spiritual truths, but sees not the things themselves, that are wrapt up in the words of truth, 1 Tim. i. 7. “ Understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” In a word, natural men fear, seek, confess they know not what. Thus may you see man's understanding naturally is overwhelmed with gross darkness in spiritual things.
Thirdly, There is in the mind of a man a natural bias to evil, whereby it comes to pass, that whatever difficulties it finds, while occupied about things truly good, it acts with a great deal of ease in evil ; as being, in that case, in its own element, Jer. iy. 22. The carnal mind drives heavily in the thoughts of good ; but furiously in the thoughts of evil. While holiness is before it, fetters are upon it ; but when it has got over the hedge, it is as the bird got out of the cage, and becomes a free-thinker indeed. Let us reflect a little on the apprehension and imagination of the carnal mind; and we shall find incontestible evidence of this woful bias to evil.
Evidence l. As when a man, by a violent stroke on the head, loseth his sight, there ariseth to him a kind of false light, whereby he perceiveth a thousand airy nothings; so man being struck blind to all that is truly good, and for his eternal interest, has a light of another sort brought into his mind; his eyes are opened, knowing evil, and so are the words of the tempter verified, Gen. iii. 5. The words of the Prophet are plain, “ They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge," Jer. iv. 22. The mind of man has a natural dexterity to devise mischief; none are so simple as to want skill to contrive ways to gratify their lusts, and ruin their souls; though the
power every one's hand cannot reach to put their devices in execution. None needs to be taught this black art; but as weeds grow up, of their own accord, in the neglected ground, so doth this wisdom, (which is earthly, sensual, devilish, James iii. 15.) grow up in the minds of men, by virtue of the corruption of their nature: Why should we be surprised with the product of currupt wits; their cunning devices to affront heaven, to oppose and run down truth and holiness, and to gratify their own and other mens lusts? They row with the stream, no wonder they make great progress ; their stock is within them, and increaseth by using of it; and the works of darkness are contrived with greater advantage, that the mind is wholly destitute of spiritual light, which, if it were in them, in any measure, would so far mar the work, 1 John iii. 9. “ Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin ;” he does it not as by art, for “ his seed remaineth in him.” But, on the other hand, “ it is a sport for a fool to do mischief; but a man of understanding hath wisdom," Prov. x. 23. “ To do witty wickedness nicely," as the word imports, is as a sport, or a play to a fool; it comes off with him easily; and why, but because he is a fool, and bath not wisdom; which would mar the con
trivances of darkness? The more natural a thing is, it is done the more easily.
Evid. 2. Let the corrupt mind have but the advantage of onc's being employed in, or present at some piece of service to God; that so the device, if not in itself sinful, yet may become sinful, by its unseasonableness : It shall quickly fall on some device or expedient, by its starting aside ; which deliberation, in season, could not produce. Thus Saul, who wist not what to do, before the priest began to consult God, is quickly determined when once the priest's hand was in ; his own heart then gave him an answer, and would not allow him to wait an answer from the Lord, 1 Sam. xiv. 18, 19. Such a devilish dexterity, hath the carnal mind, in devising what may most effectu. ally divert men from their duty to God.
Evid. 3. Doth not the carnal mind naturally strive to grasp spiritual things in imagination; as if the soul were quite immersed in flesh and blood, and would turn every thing into its own shape ? Let men who are used to the forming of the most abstracted notion, look into their own souls, and they shall find this bias in their minds; whereof the idolatry, which did of old, and still doth, so much prevail in the world, is an incontestible evidence. For it plainly discovers, that men naturally would have a visible deity, and see what they worship; and, therefore, they “ changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image,” &c. Rom. i. 23. The reformation of these nations (blessed be the Lord for it) hath banished idolatry and images too, out of our churches; but heart-reformation only can break down mental idolatry, and banish the more subtile and refined image-worship, and representation of the deity, out of the minds of men. The world, in the time of its darkness, was never more prone to the former, than the unsanctified mind is to the latter. And hence are horrible, monstrous, and mishapen thoughts of God, Christ, the glory above, and all spiritual things.
Evid. 4. What a difficult task is it to detain the carnal mind before the Lord! How averse is it to the entertaining of good thoughts, and dwelling in the meditation of spiritual things? If one be driven, at any time, to think of the great concerns of his soul, it is no harder work to hold in an unruly hungry beasty than to hedge in the carnal mind, that it get not away to the vanities of the world again. When God is speaking to men by his word, or they are speaking to him in prayer, doth not the mind often leave them before the Lord, like so many idols that have eyes, but seé not, and ears, but hear not? The carcase is laid down before God, but the world gets away the heart; though the eyes be closed, the man sees a thousand vanities; The mind, in the mean time, is like a bird got loose out of the cage, skipping from bush to bush ; so that, in effect, the man never comes to himself, till he be gone from the presence of the Lord. Say not, it is impossible to get the mind fixed. It is hard, indeed, but not impossible. Grace from the Lord can do it, Psal. cviii. 1. Agreeable objections will do it. A pleasant speculation will arrest the minds of the inquisitive : The worldly man's mind is in little hazard of wandering, when he is contriving of business, casting up his accounts, or telling his money: If he answer you not at first, he tells you, he did not hear you, he was busy ; his mind was fixed. Were we admitted into the presence of a king to petition for our lives, we would be in no hazard of gazing through the chamber of presence : But here lies the case, the carnal mind, employed about any spiritual good, is out of its element, and therefore cannot fix.
Evid. 5. But however hard it is to keep the mind on good thoughts, it sticks as glue to what is evil and corrupt like itself, 2 Pet. ii. 14. (Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin.” Their eyes cannot cease from sin, (so the words are constructed, that is, their hearts and minds venting by the eyes, what is within, are like a furious beast, which cannot be held in, when once it has got out its head. Let the corrupt imagination once be let loose on its proper object, it will be found hard work to call it back again, though both reason and will be for its retreat. For then it is in its own element; and to draw it it off from its impurities, is as the drawing of a fish out of the water, or the renting of a limb from a man. It runs like fire set to a train of powder, that resteth not till it can get no further.
Evid. 6. Consider how the carnal imagination supplies the want of real objects to the corrupt heart; that it may make sinners happy, at least, in the imaginary enjoyment