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SO FAR AS IT CONCERNS THE
PROGRESS, DECLENSIONS, AND REVIVALS
EVANGELICAL DOCTRINE AND PRACTICE
A BRIEF ACCOUNT
SPIRIT AND METHODS BY WHICH VITAL AND EXPERIMENTAL RELIGION HAVE BEEN OPPOSED,
IN ALL AGES OF THE CHURCH.
Aliusque et Idem
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
GAL. iv. 29.
THOUGH the actions of mankind appear greatly diversi fied from the influence of particular circumstances, human nature has been always the same. The history of all ages and countries uniformly confirms the Scriptural doctrine, that man is a depraved and fallen creature, and that some selfish temper, ambition, avarice, pride, revenge, and the like, are, in effect, the main springs and motives of his conduct, unless so far, and in such instances, as they are corrected and subdued by Divine Grace.
Therefore, when St. Paul speaks of the most dreadful degree of impiety that can be imagined, enmity against God, he does not consider it as the fault of the particular time in which he lived, or impute it singly either to the idolatrous Heathens or the obstinate Jews, but he affirms universally, that the carnal mind (ro pornua Tys capass) the wisdom, the most spiritual and discerning faculty of man, is enmity against God. Men differ considerably in capacity, rank, education and attainments; they jar in sentiments and interests; they mutually revile, hate, and destroy one another; but in this point they all agree. Whether Greeks or Barbarians, wise or ignorant, bond or free, the bent and disposition of their minds, while unrenewed by grace, is black and implacable enmity against the blessed God.
To those who acknowledge the authority of Scripture, St. Paul's express assertion should be sufficient proof of this
point, if we could produce no other; but, besides the many other passages in the book of God to the same effect, it may be demonstrated by the most obvious proofs, experience, and matter of fact. The history of the Old Testament from the death of Abel, the nature and grounds of the opposition which Jesus and his apostles met with, and the treatment of the most exemplary Christians that have lived in succeeding ages, are indisputable evidences of this offensive truth; for what can be stronger marks of enmity against God, than to despise his word, to scorn his favour, to oppose his will, to caress his enemies, and to insult and abuse his servants for no other offence than their attachment to his service?
But when, from these premises, the apostle infers," So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God," though the consequence is evident, it may seem at first view unnecessary; for can it be supposed that the carnal mind, which breathes a spirit of defiance and enmity against God, will have any desire or thought of pleasing him?. Yet thus it is.-The carnal mind is not only desperately wicked, but deeply deceitful; it deceives others, and often it deceives itself. As the magicians of Egypt, though enemies to Moses, attempted to counterfeit his miracles, and as Balaam could say, The Lord my God! though he was wickedly engaged against the Lord's people; so it has been usual with many who have hated and denied the power of godliness, to value themselves highly upon the form of it; and, while they are alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, they affect to be thought his best servants, and make the most confident claims to his favour.
The pure religion of Jesus cannot but be despised and rejected by the carnal mind: "the natural man receiveth not "the things of God," they are beyond his sphere, he does
not apprehend them, and therefore cannot approve them; nay, he is averse and unwilling to meddle with them, and therefore it is impossible he should understand them. But the fiercest opposition arises from the complication of presumption and hypocrisy we have spoken of; when men destitute of the Spirit of God, from a vain conceit of their own wisdom and goodness, arrogate to themselves an authoritative decision in religious concerns, and would reduce the judgement and practice of others to their own corrupt standard.
Such was eminently the character of the Scribes and Pharisees, who, with unwearied malice, persecuted our Lord to the death of the cross; and he forewarned his disciples to expect the like treatment; he sent them forth as lambs in the midst of wolves, and assured them that their attachment to him would draw on them the hatred of mankind, so far as even to deprive them of the rights of civil society, and the pleasures of relative life: "A man's foes shall be "those of his own household ;" his parents shall forget their affection, his children their duty, his servants their reverence, even the wife of his bosom shall despise him, when he boldly professes the Gospel; nay, the most amiable qualities, joined to the most endearing connexions, are not sufficient wholly to suppress the enmity which fills the hearts of the unregenerate, against those in whom they discern the image of Christ: and that this enmity would sometimes assume a religious form, and under that appearance, proceed to the greatest extremities, he informed them in another place, The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth God service.
If a faith and practice agreeable to the New Testament were not always attended with a measure of this opposition, we should want one considerable evidence that the Gospel