19. ON INADEQUATE VIEWS
OF HUMAN NATURE
The world is full of mourning, lamentation, and woe. We see many dancing
along in thoughtless gaiety, and sporting on the brink of perdition. But
this lightness of spirit is transient; sorrow soon darkens the glare of
human happiness, and leaves the soul in sad dejection and despair. This
picture may be gloomy, yet it is true. Sin has defaced the moral excellence
of man; yes, more, has converted him into whatever is base, polluted, and
depraved. All his faculties and powers are now employed as weapons against
his Maker; and the very plan of mercy, whereby alone he can be restored to
holiness, happiness, and heaven, is opposed, neglected, or despised.
And yet we talk of moral excellence in a fallen creature; of goodness in a
heart which is desperately wicked; of righteousness in a condemned criminal;
of amiable qualities in a mind at enmity against God; of strength in a
helpless worm; of wisdom in a soul beclouded in all its powers.
Strange inconsistency! "What communion has light with darkness?" The word of
God condemns such a motley character, and pronounces a woe on that which the
world so much admires.
It is no uncommon thing to hear people talk about their good hearts and good
intentions; when love to God, and a desire to please him, are utter
strangers to their soul.
These self-admiring people consider as libelous every attempt to tear away
the mask, and to expose the native vileness of the inner man. Thus, pride,
vanity, self-love, and unbelief, the deadly roots from where all sin
springs, conspire to keep us in a state of bondage, and enveloped in the
mist of error.
It is quite compatible with the vanity of our fallen nature, to extol, as
the highest excellence, those benevolent and patriotic feelings which often
exist in a heart totally alienated from God. The Bible acknowledges no real
excellence, but what arises from the regenerating work of grace upon the
soul. An attentive reader of that Holy Book must be struck with the faithful
delineations which it gives of the human heart. Man is there represented as
he appears in the sight of God, when divested of all his meretricious
What we call virtues, will be found, when analyzed, to be mere selfish
principles; and human approbation to be the secret spring of many a splendid
action. This disclosure is revolting to our pride. But proud man must be
humbled. The Scripture has concluded all under sin. In this state, grace at
first finds the sinner. There is naturally no movement of the soul towards
God; no affection for him; no trust in him; no obedience to him.
The first inclination of the heart to God is the sole operation of God's own
secret power, by such instruments or means as he, in his wisdom and
sovereignty, is pleased to employ. The work, once begun, gradually, and
sometimes, indeed, rapidly increases. The blade, the ear, and the full corn
in the ear, are of a longer or shorter period in their growth, as the
principle is weaker or stronger; for there are mysteries in grace, as well
as in nature.
But in both kingdoms, the work is of God. He begins, carries on, and
completes the vast design. All originates in his will, and all shall
terminate in his glory. His language is, "I am God, and besides me there is
no Savior." "In the Lord, all the seed of Israel shall be justified, and
Yet man is a responsible creature, a moral agent. In this work of grace, God
does not force, but inclines the heart to seek him. He does not compel the
sinner, with reluctant steps, to enter in at the strait gate; but, by
enlightening his mind, and touching his heart, he sweetly constrains him to
enter in, that he may be saved.
His refusing to submit to the yoke of Jesus, and to accept of mercy on
Gospel terms, is altogether the fruit and effect of his own depraved heart,
and will justly be punished, if persisted in, with everlasting destruction.
Thus, all the praise of our salvation is due to God alone; while all the
guilt and final misery, flowing from our transgressions, are chargeable
solely upon ourselves.
Men may now argue, and dispute, and cavil, about the truths of revelation;
but a day is fast approaching, when "every mouth that is now opened against
him, God will condemn." In that tremendous day of just judgment, the guilty
conscience will speak in loudest thunder to the self-convicted soul; while
notes of praise will forever ascend from hearts renewed by sovereign grace,
to the fountain of eternal love.
We sin, and forget the sin. But God remembers all our wickedness. Awful,
dreadful thought! Every impure imagination, every unhallowed affection,
every sinful purpose, though unripened into action, every secret and unknown
iniquity, is remembered by that omniscient God, who will judge the secrets
of men's hearts by Jesus Christ, and strictly render to every man according
to his works. Oh what a day will that be, which plucks away the mask of
hypocrisy from the face of sin! which rolls away the whitened stone from off
the loathsome sepulcher; which discloses the impure chambers of imagery, and
discovers all the hidden evils of a heart once admired, but now abhorred by
an assembled world of saints and angels!
In that day, the wicked will bewail, in bitter reproaches, their
forgetfulness of God, and their love of sin; but this bitterness of soul,
being utterly destitute of every gracious feeling, will only increase the
sharpness of their torment, and give additional strength to the sting of
that worm which never dies! Thus, their self-reproaches, and hatred of God,
will be commensurate with eternity. Hating God—hating themselves—and hating
the dreadful fiends who torment them, they will be wretched, beyond all
conception, forever and ever!
Happy are they who receive the truth as little children. Lord, give me right
views of the truth, as it is in Jesus; and right feelings and affections
towards you, who are the God of my life and of my salvation. Put your fear
into my heart, that I may not depart from you. Fill me with a reverential
awe of your holy name. Let me never pry into the wisely-concealed purposes
of your grace, but ever remember, and practically regard, this important
declaration of Moses, "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but
those things which are revealed belong unto us and our children forever,
that we may do all the words of this law."
When I hear a sinner boasting
Of the goodness of his heart,
And how easy it is for mortals
With their dearest sins to part;
Then, methinks, this man's a stranger
To the work of grace and faith
All he speaks betrays his blindness,
All is darkness that he says.
Did he once, but feel the workings
Of the Spirit's mighty power,
He would feel the flesh rebelling,
From that highly favored hour.
Satan would not let him conquer,
Without many battles fought;
This the Lord permits, that sinners
Their own vileness may be taught.
It is the traitor lodged within us
Seeks to admit the foe without;
When, by grace divinely potent,
Satan has been once cast out.
Inbred evils, dread corruptions,
Natives of the human heart,
League with Satan 'against the Savior,
And determine not to part.