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Sermons to the Natural Man by William G.T. Shedd

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of his creatures,--let us so conceive of the Judge of all the earth, and
every one must present himself as a criminal before Him, and voluntarily
prostrate and humble himself in deep solicitude concerning; his
absolution." CALVIN: Institutes, iii. 12.]


ROMANS i. 24.--"When they knew God, they glorified him not as God."

The idea of God is the most important and comprehensive of all the ideas
of which the human mind is possessed. It is the foundation of religion;
of all right doctrine, and all right conduct. A correct intuition of it
leads to correct religious theories and practice; while any erroneous or
defective view of the Supreme Being will pervade the whole province of
religion, and exert a most pernicious influence upon the entire character
and conduct of men.

In proof of this, we have only to turn to the opening chapters of St.
Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Here we find a profound and accurate
account of the process by which human nature becomes corrupt, and runs
its downward career of unbelief, vice, and sensuality. The apostle traces
back the horrible depravity of the heathen world, which he depicts with a
pen as sharp as that of Juvenal, but with none of Juvenal's bitterness
and vitriolic sarcasm, to a distorted and false conception of the being
and attributes of God. He does not, for an instant, concede that this
distorted and false conception is founded in the original structure and
constitution of the human soul, and that this moral ignorance is
necessary and inevitable. This mutilated idea of the Supreme Being was
not inlaid in the rational creature on the morning of creation, when God
said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." On the
contrary, the apostle affirms that the Creator originally gave all
mankind, in the moral constitution of a rational soul and in the works of
creation and providence, the media to a correct idea of Himself, and
asserts, by implication, that if they had always employed these media
they would have always possessed this idea. "The wrath of God," he says,
"is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of
men who hold the truth in unrighteousness; _because_ that which may be
known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto them. _For_
the invisible things of him, even his eternal power and Godhead, are
clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the
things that are made, so that they are without excuse; _because_ that
when they _knew_ God, they glorified him not as God" (Rom. i. 18-21).
From this, it appears that the mind of man has not kept what was
committed to its charge. It has not employed the moral instrumentalities,
nor elicited the moral ideas, with which it has been furnished. And,
notice that the apostle does not confine this statement to those who live
within the pale of Revelation. His description is unlimited and
universal. The affirmation of the text, that "when man knew God he
glorified him not as God," applies to the Gentile as well as to the Jew.
Nay, the primary reference of these statements was to the pagan world. It
was respecting the millions of idolaters in cultivated Greece and Rome,
and the millions of idolaters in barbarous India and China,--it was
respecting the whole world lying in wickedness, that St. Paul remarked:
"The invisible things of God, even his eternal power and Godhead, are
clearly seen from the creation of the world down to the present moment,
being understood by the things that are made; _so that they are without

When Napoleon was returning from his campaign in Egypt and Syria, he was
seated one night upon the deck of the vessel, under the open canopy of
the heavens, surrounded by his captains and generals. The conversation
had taken a skeptical direction, and most of the party had combated the
doctrine of the Divine existence. Napoleon had sat silent and musing,
apparently taking no interest in the discussion, when suddenly raising
his hand, and pointing at the crystalline firmament crowded with its
mildly shining planets and its keen glittering stars, he broke out, in
those startling tones that so often electrified a million of men:
"Gentlemen, who made all that?" The eternal power and Godhead of the
Creator are impressed by the things that are made, and these words of
Napoleon to his atheistic captains silenced them. And the same impression
is made the world over. Go to-day into the heart of Africa, or into the
centre of New Holland; select the most imbruted pagan that can be found;
take him out under a clear star-lit heaven and ask him who made all that,
and the idea of a Superior Being,--superior to all his fetishes and
idols,--possessing eternal power and supremacy ([Greek: theotaes])
immediately emerges in his consciousness. The instant the missionary
takes this lustful idolater away from the circle of his idols, and brings
him face to face with the heavens and the earth, as Napoleon brought his
captains, the constitutional idea dawns again, and the pagan trembles
before the unseen Power.[1]

But it will be objected that it is a very dim, and inadequate idea of the
Deity that thus rises in the pagan's mind, and that therefore the
apostle's affirmation that he is "without excuse" for being an idolater
and a sensualist requires some qualification. This imbruted creature,
says the objector, does not possess the metaphysical conception of God as
a Spirit, and of all his various attributes and qualities, like the
dweller in Christendom. How then can he be brought in guilty before the
same eternal bar, and be condemned to the same eternal punishment, with
the nominal Christian? The answer is plain, and decisive, and derivable
out of the apostle's own statements. In order to establish the guiltiness
of a rational creature before the bar of justice, it is not necessary to
show that he has lived in the seventh heavens, and under a blaze of moral
intelligence like that of the archangel Gabriel. It is only necessary to
show that he has enjoyed _some_ degree of moral light, and that he _has
not lived up to it_. Any creature who knows more than he practises is a
guilty creature. If the light in the pagan's intellect concerning God and
the moral law, small though it be, is yet actually in advance of the
inclination and affections of his heart and the actions of his life, he
deserves to be punished, like any and every other creature, under the
Divine government, of whom the same thing is true. Grades of knowledge
vary indefinitely. No two men upon the planet, no two men in Christendom,
possess precisely the same degree of moral intelligence. There are men
walking the streets of this city to-day, under the full light of the
Christian revelation, whose notions respecting God and law are
exceedingly dim and inadequate; and there are others whose views are
clear and correct in a high degree. But there is not a person in this
city, young or old, rich or poor, ignorant or cultivated, in the purlieus
of vice or the saloons of wealth, whose knowledge of God is not in
advance of his own character and conduct. Every man, whatever be the
grade of his intelligence, knows more than he puts in practice. Ask the
young thief, in the subterranean haunts of vice and crime, if he does not
know that it is wicked to steal, and if he renders an honest answer, it
is in the affirmative. Ask the most besotted soul, immersed and
petrified in sensuality, if his course of life upon earth has been in
accordance with his own knowledge and conviction of what is right, and
required by his Maker, and he will answer No, if he answers truly. The
grade of knowledge in the Christian land is almost infinitely various;
but in every instance the amount of knowledge is greater than the amount
of virtue. Whether he knows little or much, the man knows more than he
performs; and _therefore_ his mouth must be stopped in the judgment, and
he must plead guilty before God. He will not be condemned for not
possessing that ethereal vision of God possessed by the seraphim; but he
will be condemned because his perception of the holiness and the holy
requirements of God was sufficient, at any moment, to rebuke his
disregard of them; because when he knew God in some degree, he glorified
him not as God up to that degree.

And this principle will be applied to the pagan world. It is so applied
by the apostle Paul. He himself concedes that the Gentile has not enjoyed
all the advantages of the Jew, and argues that the ungodly Jew will be
visited with a more severe punishment than the ungodly Gentile. But he
expressly affirms that the pagan is _under law_, and _knows_ that he is;
that he shows the work of the law that is written on the heart, in the
operations of an accusing and condemning conscience. But the knowledge of
law involves the knowledge of _God_ in an equal degree. Who can feel
himself amenable to a moral law, without at the same time thinking of its
Author? The law and the Lawgiver are inseparable. The one is the mirror
and index of the other. If the eye opens dimly upon the commandment, it
opens dimly upon the Sovereign; if it perceives eternal right and law
with clear and celestial vision, it then looks directly into the face of
God. Law and God are correlative to each other; and just so far,
consequently, as the heathen understands the law that is written on the
heart does he apprehend the Being who sitteth upon the circle of the
heavens, and who impinges Himself upon the consciousness of men. This
being so, it is plain that we can confront the ungodly pagan with the
same statements with which we confront the ungodly nominal Christian. We
can tell him with positiveness, wherever we find him, be it upon the
burning sands of Africa or in the frozen home of the Esquimaux, that he
knows more than he puts in practice. We will concede to him that the
quantum of his moral knowledge is very stinted and meagre; but in the
same breath we will remind him that small as it is, he has not lived up
to it; that he too has "come short"; that he too, knowing God in the
dimmest, faintest degree, has yet not glorified him as God in the
slightest, faintest manner. The Bible sends the ungodly and licentious
pagan to hell, upon the same principle that it sends the ungodly and
licentious nominal Christian. It is the principle enunciated by our Lord
Christ, the judge of quick and dead, when he says, "He who knew his
master's will [clearly], and did it not, shall be beaten with many
stripes; and he who knew not his master's will [clearly, but knew it
dimly,] and did it not, shall be beaten with few stripes." It is the
just principle enunciated by St. Paul, that "as many as have sinned
without [written] law shall also _perish_ without [written] law."[2] And
this is right and righteous; and let all the universe say, Amen.

The doctrine taught in the text, that no human creature, in any country
or grade of civilization, has ever glorified God to the extent of his
knowledge of God, is very fertile in solemn and startling inferences, to
some of which we now invite attention.

1. In the first place, it follows from this affirmation of the apostle
Paul, that _the entire heathen world is in a state of condemnation and
perdition_. He himself draws this inference, in saying that in the
judgment "_every_ mouth must be stopped, and the _whole_ world become
guilty before God."

The present and future condition of the heathen world is a subject that
has always enlisted the interest of two very different classes of men.
The Church of God has pondered, and labored, and prayed over this
subject, and will continue to do so until the millennium. And the
disbeliever in Revelation has also turned his mind to the consideration
of this black mass of ignorance and misery, which welters upon the globe
like a chaotic ocean; these teeming millions of barbarians and savages
who render the aspect of the world so sad and so dark. The Church, we
need not say, have accepted the Biblical theory, and have traced the lost
condition of the pagan world, as the apostle Paul does, to their sin and
transgression. They have held that every pagan is a rational being, and
by virtue of this fact has known something of the moral law; and that to
the extent of the knowledge he has had, he is as guilty for the
transgression of law, and as really under its condemnation, as the
dweller under the light of revelation and civilization. They have
maintained that every human creature has enjoyed sufficient light, in the
workings of natural reason and conscience, and in the impressions that
are made by the glory and the terror of the natural world above and
around him, to render him guilty before the Everlasting Judge. For this
reason, the Church has denied that the pagan is an innocent creature, or
that he can stand in the judgment before the Searcher of hearts. For this
reason, the Church has believed the declaration of the apostle John, that
"the _whole_ world lieth in wickedness" (1 John v. 19), and has
endeavored to obey the command of Him who came to redeem pagans as much
as nominal Christians, to go and preach the gospel to _every_ creature,
because every creature is a lost creature.

But the disbeliever in Revelation adopts the theory of human innocency,
and looks upon all the wretchedness and ignorance of paganism, as he
looks upon suffering, decay, and death, in the vegetable and animal
worlds. Temporary evil is the necessary condition, he asserts, of all
finite existence; and as decay and death in the vegetable and animal
worlds only result in a more luxuriant vegetation, and an increased
multiplication of living creatures, so the evil and woe of the hundreds
of generations, and the millions of individuals, during the sixty
centuries that have elapsed since the origin of man, will all of it
minister to the ultimate and everlasting weal of the entire race. There
is no need therefore, he affirms, of endeavoring to save such feeble and
ignorant beings from judicial condemnation and eternal penalty. Such
finiteness and helplessness cannot be put into relations to such an awful
attribute as the eternal nemesis of God. Can it be,--he asks,--that the
millions upon millions that have been born, lived their brief hour,
enjoyed their little joys and suffered their sharp sorrows, and then
dropped into "the dark backward and abysm of time," have really been
_guilty_ creatures, and have gone down to an endless hell?

But what does all this reasoning and querying imply? Will the objector
really take the position and stand to it, that the pagan man is not a
rational and responsible creature? that he does not possess sufficient
knowledge of moral truth, to justify his being brought to the bar of
judgment? Will he say that the population that knew enough to build the
pyramids did not know enough to break the law of God? Will he affirm that
the civilization of Babylon and Nineveh, of Greece and Rome, did not
contain within it enough of moral intelligence to constitute a foundation
for rewards and punishments? Will he tell us that the people of Sodom and
Gomorrah stood upon the same plane with the brutes that perish, and the
trees of the field that rot and die, having no idea of God, knowing
nothing of the distinction between right and wrong, and never feeling the
pains of an accusing conscience? Will he maintain that the populations
of India, in the midst of whom one of the most subtile and ingenious
systems of pantheism has sprung up with the luxuriance and involutions of
one of their own jungles, and has enervated the whole religious sentiment
of the Hindoo race as opium has enervated their physical frame,--will he
maintain that such an untiring and persistent mental activity as this is
incapable of apprehending the first principles of ethics and natural
religion, which, in comparison with the complicated and obscure
ratiocinations of Boodhism, are clear as water, and lucid as atmospheric
air? In other connections, this theorist does not speak in this style. In
other connections, and for the purpose of exaggerating natural religion
and disparaging revealed, he enlarges upon the dignity of man, of every
man, and eulogizes the power of reason which so exalts him in the scale
of being. With Hamlet, he dilates in proud and swelling phrase: "What a
piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in
form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of
animals!" It is from that very class of theorizers who deny that the
heathen are in danger of eternal perdition, and who represent the whole
missionary enterprise as a work of supererogation, that we receive the
most extravagant accounts of the natural powers and gifts of man. Now if
these powers and gifts do belong to human nature by its constitution,
they certainly lay a foundation for responsibility; and all such
theorists must either be able to show that the pagan man has made a
right use of them, and has walked according to this large amount of truth
and reason with which, according to their own statement, he is endowed,
or else they consign him, as St. Paul does, to "the wrath of God which is
revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of _men
who hold the truth in unrighteousness_." If you assert that the pagan man
has had no talents at all committed to him, and can prove your assertion,
and will stand by it, you are consistent in denying that he can be
summoned to the bar of God, and be tried for eternal life or death. But
if you concede that he has had one talent, or two talents, committed to
his charge; and still more, if you exaggerate his gifts and endow him
with five or ten talents, then it is impossible for you to save him from
the judgment to come, except you can prove a _perfect_ administration and
use of the trust.[3]

2. In the second place, it follows from the doctrine of the text, that
_the degraded and brutalized population of large cities is in a state of
condemnation and perdition_.

There are heathen near our own doors whose religious condition is as sad,
and hopeless, as that of the heathen of Patagonia or New Zealand. The
vice and crime that nestles and riots in the large cities of Christendom
has become a common theme, and has lost much of its interest for the
worldly mind by losing its novelty. The manners and way of life of the
outcast population of London and Paris have been depicted by the
novelist, and wakened a momentary emotion in the readers of fiction. But
the reality is stern and dreadful, beyond imagination or conception.
There is in the cess-pools of the great capitals of Christendom a mass of
human creatures who are born, who live, and who die, in moral
putrefaction. Their existence is a continued career of sin and woe. Body
and soul, mind and heart, are given up to earth, to sense, to corruption.
They emerge for a brief season into the light of day, run their swift and
fiery career of sin, and then disappear. Dante, in that wonderful Vision
which embodies so much of true ethics and theology, represents the
wrathful and gloomy class as sinking down under the miry waters and
continuing to breathe in a convulsive, suffocating manner, sending up
bubbles to the surface, that mark the place where they are drawing out
their lingering existence.[4] Something like this, is the wretched life
of a vicious population. As we look in upon the fermenting mass, the only
signs of life that meet our view indicate that the life is feverish,
spasmodic, and suffocating. The bubbles rising to the dark and turbid
surface reveal that it is a life in death.

But this, too, is the result of sin. Take the atoms one by one that
constitute this mass of pollution and misery, and you will find that each
one of them is a self-moving and an unforced will. Not one of these
millions of individuals has been necessitated by Almighty God, or by any
of God's arrangements, to do wrong. Each one of them is a moral agent,
equally with you and me. Each one of them is _self_-willed and
_self_-determined in sin. He does not _like_ to retain religious truth in
his mind, or to obey it in his heart. Go into the lowest haunt of vice and
select out the most imbruted person there; bring to his remembrance that
class of truths with which he is already acquainted by virtue of his
rational nature, and add to them that other class of truths taught in
Revelation, and you will find that he is predetermined against them. He
takes sides, with all the depth and intensity of his being, with that
sinfulness which is common to man, and which it is the aim of both ethics
and the gospel to remove. This vicious and imbruted man _loves_ the sin
which is forbidden, more than he loves the holiness that is commanded. He
_inclines_ to the sin which so easily besets him, precisely as you and I
incline to the bosom-sin which so easily besets us. We grant that the
temptations that assail him are very powerful; but are not some of the
temptations that beset you and me very powerful? We grant that this
wretched slave of vice and pollution cannot break off his sins by
righteousness, without the renewing and assisting grace of God; but
neither can you or I. It is the action of _his own_ will that has made
him a slave. He loves his chains and his bondage, even as you and I
naturally love ours; and this proves that his moral corruption, though
assuming an outwardly more repulsive form than ours, is yet the same
thing in principle. It is the rooted aversion of the human heart, the
utter disinclination of the human will, towards the purity and holiness
of God; it is "the carnal mind which is enmity against God; for it is not
subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. viii. 7).

But there is no more convincing proof of the position, that the degraded
creature of whom we are speaking is a self-deciding and unforced sinner,
than the fact that he _resists_ efforts to reclaim him. Ask these
faithful and benevolent missionaries who go down into these dens of vice
and pollution, to pour more light into the mind, and to induce these
outcasts to leave their drunkenness and their debauchery,--ask them if
they find that human nature is any different there from what it is
elsewhere, so far as _yielding_ to the claims of God and law is
concerned. Do they tell you that they are uniformly successful in
inducing these sinners to leave their sins? that they never find any
self-will, any determined opposition to the holy law of purity, any
preference of a life of licence with its woes here upon earth and
hereafter in hell, to a life of self-denial with its joys eternal? On the
contrary, they testify that the old maxim upon which so many millions of
the human family have acted: "Enjoy the present and jump the life to
come," is the rule for this mass of population, of whom so very few can
be persuaded to leave their cups and their orgies. Like the people of
Israel, when expostulated with by the prophet Jeremiah for their idolatry
and pollution, the majority of the degraded population of whom we are
speaking, when endeavors have been made to reclaim them, have said to the
philanthropist and the missionary: "There is no hope: no; for I have
loved strangers, and after them I will go" (Jer. ii. 25). There is not a
single individual of them all who does not love the sin that is
destroying him, more than he loves the holiness that would save him.
Notwithstanding all the horrible accompaniments of sin--the filth, the
disease, the poverty, the sickness, the pain of both body and mind,--the
wretched creature prefers to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season,
rather than come out and separate himself from the unclean thing, and
begin that holy warfare and obedience to which his God and his Saviour
invite him. This, we repeat, proves that the sin is not forced upon this
creature. For if he hated his sin, nay if he felt weary and heavy laden
in the least degree because of it, he might leave it. There is a free
grace, and a proffered assistance of the Holy Ghost, of which he might
avail himself at any moment. Had he the feeling of the weary and penitent
prodigal, the same father's house is ever open for his return; and the
same father seeing him on his return, though still a great way off, would
run and fall upon his neck and kiss him. But the heart is hard, and the
spirit is utterly _selfish_, and the will is perverse and determined, and
therefore the natural knowledge of God and his law which this sinner
possesses by his very constitution, and the added knowledge which his
birth in a Christian land and the efforts of benevolent Christians have
imparted to him, are not strong enough to overcome his inclination, and
his preference, and induce him to break off his sins by righteousness.
To him, also, as well as to every sin-loving man, these solemn words will
be spoken in the day of final adjudication: "The wrath of God is revealed
from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness, of men who hold
down ([Greek: katechein]) the truth in unrighteousness; because that
which may be known of God is manifest _within_ them; for God hath shewed
it unto them. For the invisible things of him, even his eternal power and
Godhead, are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being
understood by the things that are made; so that they are without excuse,
because that when they knew God. they glorified him not as God."

3. In the third and last place, it follows from this doctrine of the
apostle Paul, as thus unfolded, that _that portion of the enlightened and
cultivated population of Christian lands who have not believed on the
Lord Jesus Christ, and repented of sin, are in the deepest state of
condemnation and perdition._

"Behold thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy
boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are
more excellent, being instructed out of the law, and art confident that
thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in
darkness: an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes: which hast
the form of knowledge, and of the truth, in the law: thou therefore that
teachest another teachest thou not thyself? thou that makest thy boast of
the law, through breaking the law dishonored thou God?"

If it be true that the pagan knows more of God and the moral law than he
has ever put in practice; if it be true that the imbruted child of vice
and pollution knows more of God and the moral law than he has ever put in
practice; how much more fearfully true is it that the dweller in a
Christian home, the visitant of the house of God, the possessor of the
written Word, the listener to prayer and oftentimes the subject of it,
possesses an amount of knowledge respecting his origin, his duty, and
his destiny, that infinitely outruns his character and his conduct. If
eternal punishment will come down upon those classes of mankind who know
but comparatively little, because they have been unfaithful in that which
is least, surely eternal punishment will come down upon that more favored
class who know comparatively much, because they have been unfaithful in
that which is much. "If these things are done in the green tree, what
shall be done in the dry?"

The great charge that will rest against the creature when he stands
before the final bar will be, that "when he knew God, he _glorified_ Him
not as God." And this will rest heaviest against those whose knowledge
was the clearest. It is a great prerogative to be able to know the
infinite and glorious Creator; but it brings with it a most solemn
responsibility. That blessed Being, of right, challenges the homage and
obedience of His creature. What he asks of the angel, that he asks of
man; that he should glorify God in his body and spirit which are His, and
should thereby enjoy God forever and forever. This is the condemnation,
under which man, and especially enlightened and cultivated man, rests,
that while he knows God he neither glorifies Him nor enjoys Him. Our
Redeemer saw this with all the clearness of the Divine Mind; and to
deliver the creature from the dreadful guilt, of his self-idolatry, of
his disposition to worship and love the creature more than the Creator,
He became incarnate, suffered and died. It cannot be a small crime, that
necessitated, such an apparatus of atonement and Divine influences as
that of Christ and His redemption. Estimate the guilt of coming short of
the glory of God, which is the same as the guilt of idolatry and
creature-worship, by the nature of the provision that has been made
to cancel it. If you do not actually feel that this crime is great, then
argue yourself towards a juster view, by the consideration that it cost
the blood of Christ to expiate it. If you do not actually feel that the
guilt is great, then argue yourself towards a juster view, by the
reflection that you have known God to be supremely great, supremely good,
and supremely excellent, and yet you have never, in a single feeling of
your heart, or a single thought of your mind, or a single purpose of your
will, _honored_ Him. It is honor, reverence, worship, and love that
He requires. These you have never rendered; and there is an infinity of
guilt in the fact. That guilt will be forgiven for Christ's sake, if you
ask for forgiveness. But if you do not ask, then it will stand recorded
against you for eternal ages: "When he, a rational and immortal creature,
knew God, he glorified Him not as God."

[Footnote 1: The early Fathers, in their defence of the Christian
doctrine of one God, against the objections of the pagan advocate of the
popular mythologies, contend that the better pagan writers themselves
agree with the new religion, in teaching that there is one Supreme Being.
LACTANTIUS (Institutiones i. 5), after quoting the Orphic poets, Hesiod,
Virgil, and Ovid, in proof that the heathen poets taught the unity of
the Supreme Deity, proceeds to show that the better pagan philosophers,
also, agree with them in this. "Aristotle," he says, "although he
disagrees with himself, and says many things that are self-contradictory,
yet testifies that one Supreme Mind rules over the world. Plato, who is
regarded as the wisest philosopher of them all, plainly and openly
defends the doctrine of a divine monarchy, and denominates the Supreme
Being; not ether, nor reason, nor nature, but, as he is, _God_; and
asserts that by him this perfect and admirable world was made. And Cicero
follows Plato, frequently confessing the Deity, and calls him the Supreme
Being, in his treatise on the Laws." TERTULLIAN (De Test. An. c. 1; Adv.
Marc. i. 10; Ad. Scap. c. 2; Apol. c. 17), than whom no one of the
Christian Fathers was more vehemently opposed to the philosophizing of
the schools, earnestly contends that the doctrine of the unity of God is
constitutional to the human mind. "God," he says, "proves himself to be
God, and the one only God, by the very fact that He is known to _all_
nations; for the existence of any other deity than He would first have to
be demonstrated. The God of the Jews is the one whom the _souls_ of men
call their God. We worship one God, the one whom ye all naturally know,
at whose lightnings and thunders ye tremble, at whose benefits ye
rejoice. Will ye that we prove the Divine existence by the witness of the
soul itself, which, although confined by the prison of the body, although
circumscribed by bad training, although enervated by lusts and passions,
although made the servant of false gods, yet when it recovers itself as
from a surfeit, as from a slumber, as from some infirmity, and is in its
proper condition of soundness, calls God by _this_ name only, because it
is the proper name of the true God. 'Great God,' 'good God,' and 'God
grant' [deus, not dii], are words in every mouth. The soul also witnesses
that He is its judge, when it says, 'God sees,' 'I commend to God,' 'God
shall recompense me.' O testimony of a soul naturally Christian [i.e.,
monotheistic]! Finally, in pronouncing these words, it looks not to the
Roman capitol, but to heaven; for it knows the dwelling-place of the true
God: from Him and from thence it descended." CALVIN (Inst. i. 10) seems
to have had these statements in his eye, in the following remarks: "In
almost all ages, religion has been generally corrupted. It is true,
indeed, that the name of one Supreme God has been universally known and
celebrated. For those who used to worship a multitude of deities,
whenever they spake according to the genuine sense of nature, used simply
the name of God in the _singular_ number, as though they were contented
with one God. And this was wisely remarked by Justin Martyr, who for this
purpose wrote a book 'On the Monarchy of God,' in which he demonstrates,
from numerous testimonies, that the unity of God is a principle
universally impressed on the hearts of men. Tertullian (De Idololatria)
also proves the same point, from the common phraseology. But since all
men, without exception, have become vain in their understandings, all
their natural perception of the Divine Unity has only served to render
them inexcusable." In consonance with these views, the Presbyterian
CONFESSION OF FAITH (ch. i.) affirms that "the light of nature, and the
works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness,
wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable."]

[Footnote 2: The word [Greek: apolountai], in Rom. ii. 12, is opposed to
the [Greek: sotaeria] spoken of in Rom. i. 16, and therefore signifies
_eternal_ perdition, as that signifies _eternal_ salvation.-Those
theorists who reject revealed religion, and remand man back to the first
principles of ethics and morality as the only religion that he needs,
send him to a tribunal that damns him. "Tell me," says St. Paul, "ye
that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? The law is not
of faith, but the man that _doeth_ them shall live by them. Circumcision
verily profiteth if thou _keep_ the law; but if thou be a breaker of the
law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision." If man had been true to
all the principles and precepts of natural religion, it would indeed be
religion enough for him. But he has not been thus true. The entire list
of vices and sins recited by St. Paul, in the first chapter of Romans, is
as contrary to natural religion, as it is to revealed. And it is
precisely because the pagan world has not obeyed the principles of
natural religion, and is under a curse and a bondage therefor, that it is
in perishing need of the truths of revealed religion. Little do those
know what they are saying, when they propose to find a salvation for the
pagan in the mere light of natural reason and conscience. What pagan has
ever realized the truths of natural conscience, in his inward character
and his outward life? What pagan is there in all the generations that
will not be found guilty before the bar of natural religion? What heathen
will not need an atonement, for his failure to live up even to the light
of nature? Nay, what is the entire sacrificial cultus of heathenism, but
a confession that the whole heathen world finds and feels itself to be
guilty at the bar of natural reason and conscience? The accusing voice
within them wakes their forebodings and fearful looking-for of Divine
judgment, and they endeavor to propitiate the offended Power by their
offerings and sacrifices.]

[Footnote 3: Infidelity is constantly changing its ground. In the 18th
century, the skeptic very generally took the position of Lord Herbert
of Cherbury, and maintained that the light of reason is very clear, and
is adequate to all the religious needs of the soul. In the 19th century,
he is now passing to the other extreme, and contending that man is
kindred to the ape, and within the sphere of paganism does not possess
sufficient moral intelligence to constitute him responsible. Like
Luther's drunken beggar on horseback, the opponent of Revelation sways
from the position that man is a god, to the position that he is a

[Footnote 4: DANTE: Inferno, vii. 100-130.]


ROMANS i. 28.--"As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,
God gave them over to a reprobate mind."

In the opening of the most logical and systematic treatise in the New
Testament, the Epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul enters upon a line
of argument to demonstrate the ill-desert of every human creature without
exception. In order to this, he shows that no excuse can be urged upon
the ground of moral ignorance. He explicitly teaches that the pagan knows
that there is one Supreme God (Rom. i. 20); that He is a spirit (Rom. i.
23); that He is holy and sin-hating (Rom. i. 18); that He is worthy to be
worshipped (Rom. i. 21, 25); and that men ought to be thankful for His
benefits (Rom. i. 21). He affirms that the heathen knows that an idol is
a lie (Rom. i. 25); that licentiousness is a sin (Rom. i. 26, 32); that
envy, malice, and deceit are wicked (Rom. i. 29, 32); and that those who
practise such sins deserve eternal punishment (Rom. i. 32).

In these teachings and assertions, the apostle has attributed no small
amount and degree of moral knowledge to man as _man_,--to man outside of
Revelation, as well as under its shining light. The question very
naturally arises: How comes it to pass that this knowledge which Divine
inspiration postulates, and affirms to be innate and constitutional to
the human mind, should become so vitiated? The majority of mankind are
idolaters and polytheists, and have been for thousands of years. Can
it be that the truth that there is only one God is native to the human
spirit, and that the pagan "_knows_" this God? The majority of men are
earthly and sensual, and have been for thousands of years. Can it be that
there is a moral law written upon their hearts forbidding such carnality,
and enjoining purity and holiness?

Some theorizers argue that because the pagan man has not obeyed the law,
therefore he does not know the law; and that because he has not revered
and worshipped the one Supreme Deity, therefore he does not possess the
idea of any such Being. They look out upon the heathen populations and
see them bowing down to stocks and stones, and witness their immersion in
the abominations of heathenism, and conclude that these millions of human
beings really know no better, and that therefore it is unjust to hold
them responsible for their polytheism and their moral corruption. But why
do they confine this species of reasoning to the pagan world? Why do they
not bring it into nominal Christendom, and apply it there? Why does not
this theorist go into the midst of European civilization, into the heart
of London or Paris, and gauge the moral knowledge of the sensualist by
the moral character of the sensualist? Why does he not tell us that
because this civilized man acts no better, therefore he knows no better?
Why does he not maintain that because this voluptuary breaks all the
commandments in the decalogue, therefore he must be ignorant of all the
commandments in the decalogue? that because he neither fears nor loves
the one only God, therefore he does not know that there is any such

It will never do to estimate man's moral knowledge by man's moral
character. He knows more than he practises. And there is not so much
difference in this particular between some men in nominal Christendom,
and some men in Heathendom, as is sometimes imagined. The moral knowledge
of those who lie in the lower strata of Christian civilization, and those
who lie in the higher strata of Paganism, is probably not so very far
apart. Place the imbruted outcasts of our metropolitan population beside
the Indian hunter, with his belief in the Great Spirit, and his worship
without images or pictorial representations;[1] beside the stalwart
Mandingo of the high table-lands of Central Africa, with his active and
enterprising spirit, carrying on manufactures and trade with all the
keenness of any civilized worldling; beside the native merchants and
lawyers of Calcutta, who still cling to their ancestral Boodhism, or else
substitute French infidelity in its place; place the lowest of the
highest beside the highest of the lowest, and tell us if the difference
is so very marked. Sin, like holiness, is a mighty leveler. The "dislike
to retain God" in the consciousness, the aversion of the heart towards
the purity of the moral law, vitiates the native perceptions alike in
Christendom and Paganism.

The theory that the pagan is possessed of such an amount and degree of
moral knowledge as has been specified has awakened some apprehension in
the minds of some Christian theologians, and has led them,
unintentionally to foster the opposite theory, which, if strictly
adhered, to, would lift off all responsibility from the pagan world,
would bring them in innocent at the bar of God, and would render the
whole enterprise of Christian missions a superfluity and an absurdity.
Their motive has been good. They have feared to attribute any degree
of accurate knowledge of God and the moral law, to the pagan world, lest
they should thereby conflict with the doctrine of total depravity. They
have mistakenly supposed, that if they should concede to every man, by
virtue of his moral constitution, some correct apprehensions of ethics
and natural religion, it would follow that there is some native goodness
in him. But light in the intellect is very different from life in the
heart. It is one thing to know the law of God, and quite another thing to
be conformed to it. Even if we should concede to the degraded pagan, or
the degraded dweller in the haunts of vice in Christian lands, all the
intellectual knowledge of God and the moral law that is possessed by the
ruined archangel himself, we should not be adding a particle to his moral
character or his moral excellence. There is nothing of a holy quality in
the mere intellectual perception that there is one Supreme Deity, and
that He has issued a pure and holy law for the guidance of all rational
beings. The mere doctrine of the Divine Unity will save no man. "Thou
believest," says St. James, "that there is one God; thou doest well, the
devils also believe and tremble." Satan himself is a monotheist, and
knows very clearly all the commandments of God; but his heart and will
are in demoniacal antagonism with them. And so it is, only in a lower
degree, in the instance of the pagan, and of the natural man, in every
age, and in every clime. He knows more than he practises. This
intellectual perception therefore, this inborn constitutional
apprehension, instead of lifting up man into a higher and more favorable
position before the eternal bar, casts him down to perdition. If he knew
nothing at all of his Maker and his duty, he could not be held
responsible, and could, not be summoned to judgment. As St. Paul affirms:
"Where there is no law there is no transgression." But if, when he knew
God in some degree, he glorified him not as God to that degree; and if,
when the moral law was written upon the heart he went counter to its
requirements, and heard the accusing voice of his own conscience; then
his mouth must be stopped, and he must become guilty before his Judge,
like any and every other disobedient creature.

It is this serious and damning fact in the history of man upon the globe,
that St. Paul brings to view, in the passage which we have selected as
the foundation of this discourse. He accounts for all the idolatry and
sensuality, all the darkness and vain imaginations of paganism, by
referring to _the aversion of the natural heart_ towards the one only
holy God. "Men," he says,--these pagan men--"did not _like to retain_ God
in their knowledge." The primary difficulty was in their affections, and
not in their understandings. They knew too much for their own comfort in
sin. The contrast between the Divine purity that was mirrored in their
conscience, and the sinfulness that was wrought into their heart and
will, rendered this inborn constitutional idea of God a very painful one.
It was a fire in the bones. If the Psalmist, a renewed man, yet not
entirely free from human corruption, could say: "I thought of God and was
troubled," much more must the totally depraved man of paganism be filled
with terror when, in the thoughts of his heart, in the hour when the
accusing conscience was at work, he brought to mind the one great God of
gods whom he did not glorify, and whom he had offended. It was no wonder,
therefore, that he did not like to retain the idea of such a Being in his
consciousness, and that he adopted all possible expedients to get rid of
it. The apostle informs us that the pagan actually called in his
imagination to his aid, in order to extirpate, if possible, all his
native and rational ideas and convictions upon religious subjects. He
became vain in his imaginations, and his foolish heart as a consequence
was darkened, and he changed the glory of the incorruptible God, the
spiritual unity of the Deity, into an image made like to corruptible man,
and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things (Rom. i. 21-23).
He invented idolatry, and all those "gay religions full of pomp and
gold," in order to blunt the edge of that sharp spiritual conception of
God which was continually cutting and lacerating his wicked and sensual
heart. Hiding himself amidst the columns of his idolatrous temples, and
under the smoke of his idolatrous incense, he thought like Adam to escape
from the view and inspection of that Infinite One who, from the creation
of the world downward, makes known to all men his eternal power and
godhead; who, as St. Paul taught the philosophers of Athens, is not far
from anyone of his rational creatures (Acts xvii. 27); and who, as the
same apostle taught the pagan Lycaonians, though in times past he
suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, yet left not himself
without witness, in that he did good, and gave them rain from heaven,
and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. (Acts
xiv. 16, 17).

The first step in the process of mutilating the original idea of God, as
a unity and an unseen Spirit, is seen in those pantheistic religions
which lie behind all the mythologies of the ancient world, like a
nebulous vapor out of which the more distinct idols and images of
paganism are struggling. Here the notion of the Divine unity is still
preserved; but the Divine personality and holiness are lost. God becomes
a vague impersonal Power, with no moral qualities, and no religious
attributes; and it is difficult to say which is worst in its moral
influence, this pantheism which while retaining the doctrine of the
Divine unity yet denudes the Deity of all that renders him an object of
either love or reverence, or the grosser idolatries that succeeded it.
For man cannot love, with all his mind and heart and soul and strength, a
vast impersonal force working blindly through infinite space and
everlasting time.

And the second and last stage in this process of vitiating the true idea
of God appears in that polytheism in the midst of which St. Paul lived,
and labored, and preached, and died; in that seductive and beautiful
paganism, that classical idolatry, which still addresses the human taste
in such a fascinating manner, in the Venus de Medici, and the Apollo
Belvidere. The idea of the unity of God is now mangled and cut up into
the "gods many" and the "lords many," into the thirty thousand divinities
of the pagan pantheon. This completes the process. God now gives his
guilty creature over to these vain imaginations of naturalism,
materialism, and idolatry, and to an increasingly darkening mind, until
in the lowest forms of heathenism he so distorts and suppresses the
concreated idea of the Deity that some speculatists assert that it does
not belong to his constitution, and that his Maker never endowed him with
it. How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed!

But it will be objected that all this lies in the past. This is the
account of a process that has required centuries, yea millenniums, to
bring about. A hundred generations have been engaged in transmuting
the monotheism with which the human race started, into the pantheism and
polytheism in which the great majority of it is now involved. How do
you establish the guilt of those at the end of the line? How can you
charge upon the present generation of pagans the same culpability that
Paul imputed to their ancestors eighteen centuries ago, and that Noah the
preacher of righteousness denounced, upon the antediluvian pagan? As the
deteriorating process advances, does not the guilt diminish? and now, in
these ends of the ages, and in these dark habitations of cruelty, has not
the culpability run down to a minimum, which God in the day of judgment
will "wink at?"

We answer No: Because the structure of the human mind is precisely the
same that it was when the Sodomites held down the truth in
unrighteousness, and the Roman populace turned up their thumbs that they
might see the last drops of blood ebb slowly from the red gash in the
dying gladiator's side. Man, in his deepest degradation, in his most
hardened depravity, is still a rational intelligence; and though he
should continue to sin on indefinitely, through cycles of time as long as
those of geology, he cannot unmake himself; he cannot unmould his
immortal essence, and absolutely eradicate all his moral ideas. Paganism
itself has its fluctuations of moral knowledge. The early Roman, in the
days of Numa, was highly ethical in his views of the Deity, and his
conceptions of moral law. Varro informs us that for a period of one
hundred and seventy years the Romans worshipped their gods without any
images;[2] and Sallust denominates these pristine Romans "religiosissimi
mortales." And how often does the missionary discover a tribe or a race,
whose moral intelligence is higher than that of the average of paganism.
Nay, the same race, or tribe, passes from one phase of polytheism to
another; in one instance exhibiting many of the elements and truths of
natural religion, and in another almost entirely suppressing them. These
facts prove that the pagan man is under supervision; that he is under the
righteous despotism of moral ideas and convictions; that God is not far
from him; that he lives and moves and has his being in his Maker; and
that God does not leave himself without witness in his constitutional
structure. Therefore it is, that this sea of rational intelligence thus
surges and sways in the masses of paganism; sometimes dashing the
creature up the heights, and sometimes sending him down into the depths.

But while this subject has this general application to mankind outside of
Revelation; while it throws so much light upon the question of the
heathens' responsibility and guilt; while it tends to deepen our interest
in the work of Christian missions, and to stimulate us to obey our
Redeemer's command to go and preach the gospel to them, in order to
save them from the wrath of God which abideth upon them as it does upon
ourselves; while this subject has these profound and far-reaching
applications, it also presses with sharpness and energy upon the case,
and the position, of millions of men in Christendom. And to this more
particular aspect of the theme, we ask attention for a moment.

This same process of corruption, and vitiation of a correct knowledge of
God, which we have seen to go on upon a large scale in the instance of
the heathen world, also often goes on in the instance of a single
individual under the light of Revelation itself. Have you never known a
person to have been well educated in childhood and youth respecting the
character and government of God, and yet in middle life and old age to
have altered and corrupted all his early and accurate apprehensions, by
the gradual adoption of contrary views and sentiments? In his childhood,
and youth, he believed that God distinguishes between the righteous and
the wicked, that he rewards the one and punishes the other, and hence he
cherished a salutary fear of his Maker that agreed well with the dictates
of his unsophisticated reason, and the teachings of nature and
revelation. But when, he became a man, he put away these childish things,
in a far different sense from that of the Apostle. As the years rolled,
along, he succeeded, by a career of worldliness and of sensuality, in
expelling this stock of religious knowledge, this right way of conceiving
of God, from his mind, and now at the close of life and upon the very
brink of eternity and of doom, this very same person is as unbelieving
respecting the moral attributes of Jehovah, and as unfearing with regard
to them, as if the entire experience and creed of his childhood and youth
were a delusion and a lie. This rational and immortal creature in the
morning of his existence looked up into the clear sky with reverence,
being impressed by the eternal power and godhead that are there, and when
he had committed a sin he felt remorseful and guilty; but the very same
person now sins recklessly and with flinty hardness of heart, casts
sullen or scowling glances upward, and says: "There is no God." Compare
the Edward Gibbon whose childhood expanded under the teachings of a
beloved Christian matron trained in the school of the devout William Law,
and whose youth exhibited unwonted religions sensibility,--compare this
Edward Gibbon with the Edward Gibbon whose manhood was saturated with
utter unbelief, and whose departure into the dread hereafter was, in his
own phrase, "a leap in the dark." Compare the Aaron Burr whose blood was
deduced from one of the most saintly lineages in the history of the
American church, and all of whose early life was embosomed in ancestral
piety,--compare this Aaron Burr with the Aaron Burr whose middle life and
prolonged old age was unimpressible as marble to all religious ideas and
influences. In both of these instances, it was the aversion of the heart
that for a season (not for _eternity_, be it remembered) quenched out the
light in the head. These men, like the pagan of whom St. Paul speaks, did
not like to retain a holy God in their knowledge, and He gave them over
to a reprobate mind.

These fluctuations and changes in doctrinal belief, both in the general
and the individual mind, furnish materials for deep reflection by both
the philosopher and the Christian; and such an one will often be led to
notice the exact parallel and similarity there is between religious
deterioration in races, and religious deterioration in individuals. The
_dislike to retain_ a knowledge already furnished, because it is painful,
because it rebukes worldliness and sin, is that which ruins both mankind
in general, and the man in particular. Were the heart only conformed to
the truth, the truth never would be corrupted, never would be even
temporarily darkened in the human soul. Should the pagan, himself,
actually obey the dictates of his own reason and conscience, he would
find the light that was in him growing still clearer and brighter. God
himself, the author of his rational mind, and the Light that lighteth
every man that cometh into the world, would reward him for his obedience
by granting him yet more knowledge. We cannot say in what particular
mode the Divine providence would bring it about, but it is as certain as
that God lives, that if the pagan world should act up to the degree of
light which they enjoy, they would be conducted ultimately to the truth
as it is in Jesus, and would be saved by the Redeemer of the world. The
instance of the Roman centurion Cornelius is a case in point. This was a
thoughtful and serious pagan. It is indeed very probable that his
military residence in Palestine had cleared up, to some degree, his
natural intuitions of moral truth; but we know that he was ignorant of
the way of salvation through Christ, from the fact that the apostle Peter
was instructed in a vision to go and preach it unto him. The sincere
endeavor of this Gentile, this then pagan in reference to Christianity,
to improve the little knowledge which he had, met with the Divine
approbation, and was crowned with a saving acquaintance with the
redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Peter himself testified to this,
when, after hearing from the lips of Cornelius the account of his
previous life, and of the way in which God had led him, "he opened his
mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of
persons: but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh
righteousness is accepted with him" (Acts x. 34, 35).[3]

But such instances as this of Cornelius are not one in millions upon
millions. The light shines in the darkness that comprehends it not.
Almost without an exception, so far as the human eye can see, the
unevangelized world holds the truth in unrighteousness, and does not like
to retain the idea of a holy God, and a holy law, in its knowledge.
Therefore the knowledge continually diminishes; the light of natural
reason and conscience grows dimmer and dimmer; and the soul sinks down in
the mire of sin and sensuality, apparently devoid of all the higher ideas
of God, and law, and immortal life.

We have thus considered the truth which St. Paul teaches in the text,
that the ultimate source of all human error is in the character of the
human heart. Mankind do not _like to retain_ God in their knowledge, and
therefore they come to possess a reprobate mind. The origin of idolatry,
and of infidelity, is not in the original constitution with which the
Creator endowed the creature, but in that evil heart of unbelief by which
he departed from the living God. Sinful man shapes his creed in
accordance with his wishes, and not in accordance with the unbiased
decisions of his reason and conscience. He does not _like_ to think of a
holy God, and therefore he denies that God is holy. He does not _like_ to
think of the eternal punishment of sin, and therefore he denies that
punishment is eternal. He does not _like_ to be pardoned through the
substituted sufferings of the Son of God, and therefore he denies the
doctrine of atonement. He does not _like_ the truth that man is so
totally alienated from God that he needs to be renewed in the spirit of
his mind by the Holy Ghost, and therefore he denies the doctrines of
depravity and regeneration. Run through the creed which the Church has
lived by and died by, and you will discover that the only obstacle to its
reception is the aversion of the human heart. It is a rational creed in
all its parts and combinations. It has outlived the collisions and
conflicts of a hundred schools of infidelity that have had their brief
day, and died with their devotees. A hundred systems of philosophy
falsely so called have come and gone, but the one old religion of the
patriarchs, and the prophets, and the apostles, holds on its way through
the centuries, conquering and to conquer. Can it be that sheer imposture
and error have such a tenacious vitality as this? If reason is upon the
side of infidelity, why does not infidelity remain one and the same
unchanging thing, like Christianity, from age to age, and subdue all men
unto it? If Christianity is a delusion and a lie, why does it not die
out, and disappear? The difficulty is not upon the side of the human
reason, but of the human heart. Skeptical men do not _like_ the religion
of the New Testament, these doctrines of sin and grace, and therefore
they shape their creed by their sympathies and antipathies; by what they
wish to have true; by their heart rather than by their head. As the
Founder of Christianity said to the Jews, so he says to every man who
rejects His doctrine of grace and redemption: "Ye _will_ not come unto me
that ye might have life." It is an inclination of the will, and not a
conviction of the reason, that prevents the reception of the Christian

Among the many reflections that are suggested by this subject and its
discussion, our limits permit only the following:

1. It betokens deep wickedness, in any man, to change the truth of God
into a lie,--_to substitute a false theory in religion for the true one_.
"Woe unto them," says the prophet, "that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for
sweet, and sweet for bitter." There is no form of moral evil that is more
hateful in the sight of Infinite Truth, than that intellectual depravity
which does not like to retain a holy God in its knowledge, and therefore
mutilates the very idea of the Deity, and attempts to make him other than
he is. There is no sinner that will be visited with a heavier vengeance
than that cool and calculating man, who, because he dislikes the
unyielding purity of the moral law, and the awful sanctions by which it
is accompanied, deliberately alters it to suit his wishes and his
self-indulgence. If a person is tempted and falls into sin, and yet does
not change his religious creed in order to escape the reproaches of
conscience and the fear of retribution, there is hope that the orthodoxy
of his head may result, by God's blessing upon his own truth, in sorrow
for the sin and a forsaking thereof. A man, for instance, who amidst all
his temptations and transgressions still retains the truth taught him
from the Scriptures, at his mother's knees, that a finally impenitent
sinner will go down to eternal torment, feels a powerful check upon his
passions, and is often kept from outward and actual transgressions by his
creed. But if he deliberately, and by an act of will, says in his heart:
"There is no hell;" if he substitutes for the theory that renders the
commission of sin dangerous and fearful, a theory that relieves it from
all danger and all fear, there is no hope that he will ever cease from
sinning. On the contrary, having brought his head into harmony with his
heart; having adjusted his theory to his practice; having shaped his
creed by his passions; having changed the truth of God into a lie; he
then plunges into sin with an abandonment and a momentum that is awful.
In the phrase of the prophet, he "draws iniquity with cords of vanity,
and sin as it were with a cart-rope."

It is here that we see the deep guilt of those, who, by false theories of
God and man and law and penalty, tempt the young or the old to their
eternal destruction. It is sad and fearful, when the weak physical nature
is plied with all the enticements of earth and sense; but it is yet
sadder and more fearful, when the intellectual nature is sought to be
perverted and ensnared by specious theories that annihilate the
distinction between virtue and vice, that take away all holy fear of God,
and reverence for His law, that represent the everlasting future either
as an everlasting elysium for all, or else as an eternal sleep. The
demoralization, in this instance, is central and radical. It is in the
brain, in the very understanding itself. If the foundations themselves of
morals and religion are destroyed, what can be done for the salvation of
the creature? A heavy woe is denounced against any and every one who
tempts a fellow-being. Temptation implies malice. It is Satanic. It
betokens a desire to ruin an immortal spirit. When therefore the siren
would allure a human creature from the path of virtue, the inspiration of
God utters a deep and bitter curse against her. But when the cold-blooded
Mephistopheles endeavors to sophisticate the reason, to debauch the
judgment, to sear the conscience; when the temptation is addressed to the
intellect, and the desire of the tempter is to overthrow the entire
religious creed of a human being,--perhaps a youth just entering upon
that hazardous enterprise of life in which he needs every jot and tittle
of eternal truth to guide and protect him,--when the enticement assumes
this purely mental form and aspect, it betokens the most malignant and
heaven-daring guilt in the tempter. And we may be certain that the
retribution that will be meted out to it, by Him who is true and The
Truth; who abhors all falsehood and all lies with an infinite intensity;
will be terrible beyond conception. "Woe unto you ye _blind guides_! Ye
serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of
hell! If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the
plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away
from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part
out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things
that are written in this book."

2. In the second place, we perceive, in the light of this subject, _the
great danger of not reducing religious truth to practice_. There are two
fatal hazards in not obeying the doctrines of the Bible while yet there
is an intellectual assent to them. The first is, that these doctrines
shall themselves become diluted and corrupted. So long as the
affectionate submission of the heart is not yielded to their authority;
so long as there is any dislike towards their holy claims; there is great
danger that, as in the instance of the pagan, they will not be retained
in the knowledge. The sinful man becomes weary of a form of doctrine that
continually rebukes him, and gradually changes it into one that is less
truthful and restraining. But a second and equally alarming danger is,
that the heart shall become accustomed to the truth, and grow hard and
indifferent towards it. There are a multitude of persons who hear the
word of God and never dream of disputing it, who yet, alas, never dream
of obeying it. To such the living truth of the gospel becomes a
petrifaction, and a savor of death unto death.

We urge you, therefore, ye who know the doctrines of the law and the
doctrines of the gospel, to give an affectionate and hearty assent to
them _both_. When the divine Word asserts that you are guilty, and that
you cannot stand in the judgment before God, make answer: "It is so, it
is so." Practically and deeply acknowledge the doctrine of human guilt
and corruption. Let it no longer be a theory in the head, but a humbling
salutary consciousness in the heart. And when the divine Word affirms
that God so loved the world that he gave his Only-Begotten Son to redeem
it, make a quick and joyful response: "It is so, it is so." Instead of
changing the truth of God into a lie, as the guilty world have been doing
for six thousand years, change it into a blessed consciousness of the
soul. Believe_ what you know; and then what you know will be the wisdom
of God to your salvation.

[Footnote 1: "There are no profane words in the (Iowa) Indian language:
no light or profane way of speaking of the 'Great Spirit.'"--FOREIGN
MISSIONARY: May, 1863, p. 337.]

[Footnote 2: PLUTARCH: Numa, 8; AUGUSTINE: De Civitate, iv. 31.]

[Footnote 3: It should be noticed that Cornelius was not prepared for
another life, by the moral virtue which he had practised before meeting
with Peter, but by his penitence for sin and faith in Jesus Christ, whom
Peter preached to him as the Saviour from sin (Acts x. 43). Good works
can no more prepare a pagan for eternity than they can a nominal
Christian. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius could no more be justified
by their personal character, than Saul of Tarsus could be. First, because
the virtue is imperfect, at the best: and, secondly, it does not begin at
the beginning of existence upon earth, and continue unintermittently to
the end of it. A sense of _sin_ is a far more hopeful indication, in the
instance of a heathen, than a sense of virtue. The utter absence of
humility and sorrow in the "Meditations" of the philosophic Emperor, and
the omnipresence in them of pride and self-satisfaction, place him out of
all relations to the Divine _mercy_. In trying to judge of the final
condition of a pagan outside of revelation, we must ask the question: Was
he penitent? rather than the question: Was he virtuous?]


LUKE xi. 13.--"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto
your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask him?"

The reality, and necessity, of the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the
human heart, is a doctrine very frequently taught in the Scriptures. Our
Lord, in the passage from which the text is taken, speaks of the third
Person in the Trinity in such a manner as to convey the impression that
His agency is as indispensable, in order to spiritual life, as food is in
order to physical; that sinful man as much needs the influences of the
Holy Ghost as he does his daily bread. "If a son shall ask bread of any
of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?" If this is not at all
supposable, in the case of an affectionate earthly parent, much less is
it supposable that God the heavenly Father will refuse renewing and
sanctifying influences to them that ask for them. By employing such a
significant comparison as this, our Lord implies that there is as
pressing need of the gift in the one instance as in the other. For,
he does not compare spiritual influences with the mere luxuries of
life,--with wealth, fame, or power,--but with the very staff of life
itself. He selects the very bread by which the human body lives, to
illustrate the helpless sinner's need of the Holy Ghost. When God, by
his prophet, would teach His people that he would at some future time
bestow a rich and remarkable blessing upon them, He says: "I will pour
out my Spirit upon all flesh." When our Saviour was about to leave his
disciples, and was sending them forth as the ministers of his religion,
he promised them a direct and supernatural agency that should "reprove
the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment."

And the history of Christianity evinces both the necessity and reality of
Divine influences. God the Spirit has actually been present by a special
and peculiar agency, in this sinful and hardened world, and hence the
heart of flesh and the spread of vital religion. God the Spirit has
actually been absent, so far as concerns his special and peculiar agency,
and hence the continuance of the heart of stone, and the decline, and
sometimes the extinction of vital religion. Where the Holy Spirit has
been, specially and peculiarly, there the true Church of Christ has been,
and where the Holy Spirit has not been, specially and peculiarly, there,
the Church of Christ has not been; however carefully, or imposingly, the
externals of a church organization may have been maintained.

But there is no stronger, or more effective proof of the need of the
presence and agency of the Holy Spirit, than that which is derived from
the _nature of the case_, as it appears in the individual. Just in
proportion as we come to know our own moral condition, and our own moral
necessities, shall we see and feel that the origin and growth of holiness
within our earthly and alienated souls, without the agency of God the
Holy Spirit, is an utter impossibility. Let us then look into the
argument from the nature of the case, and consider this doctrine of a
direct Divine operation, in its relations to ourselves personally. Why,
then, does every man need these influences of the Holy Spirit which are
so cordially offered in the text?

1. He needs them, in the first place, in order that _he may be convinced
of the reality of the eternal world._

There is such a world. It has as actual an existence as Europe or Asia.
Though not an object for any one of the five senses, the invisible world
is as substantial as the great globe itself, and will be standing when
the elements shall have been melted with fervent heat, and the heavens
are no more. This eternal world, furthermore, is not only real, but it is
filled with realities that are yet more solemn. God inhabits it. The
judgment-seat of Christ is set up in it. Heaven is in it. Hell is in it.
Myriads of myriads of holy and happy spirits are there. Myriads of sinful
and wretched spirits are there. Nay, this unseen world is the _only_ real
world, and the objects in it the _only_ real objects, if we remember that
only that which is immutable deserves the name of real. If we employ the
eternal as the measure of real being, then all that is outside of
eternity is unreal and a vanity. This material world acquires
impressiveness for man, by virtue of the objects that fill it. His farm
is in it, his houses are upon it, solid mountains rise up from it, great
rivers run through it, and the old rolling heavens are bent over it. But
what is the transient reality of these objects, these morning vapors,
compared with the everlasting reality of such beings as God and the soul,
of such facts as holiness and sin, of such states as heaven and hell?
Here, then, we have in the unseen and eternal world a most solemn and
real object of knowledge; but where, among mankind, is the solemn and
vivid knowledge itself? Knowledge is the union of a fact with a feeling.
There may be a stone in the street, but unless I smite it with my foot,
or smite it with my eye, I have no knowledge of the stone. So, too, there
is an invisible world, outstanding and awfully impressive; but unless I
feel its influences, and stand with awe beneath its shadows, it is as
though it were not. Here is an orb that has risen up into the horizon,
but all eyes are shut.

For, no thoughtful observer fails to perceive that an earthly, and
unspiritual mode of thought and feeling is the prevalent one among men.
No one who has ever endeavored to arrest the attention of a fellow-man,
and give his thoughts an upward tendency towards eternity, will say that
the effort is easily and generally successful. On the contrary, if an
ethereal and holy inhabitant of heaven were to go up and down our earth,
and witness man's immersion in sense and time, the earthliness of his
views and aims, his neglect of spiritual objects and interests, his
absorption in this existence, and his forgetfulness of the other, it
would be difficult to convince him that he was among beings made in the
image of God, and was mingling with a race having an immortal destination
beyond the grave.

In this first feature of the case, then, as we find it in ourselves, and
see it in all our fellow-men, we have the first evidence of the need of
_awakening_ influences from on high. Since man, naturally, is destitute
of a solemn sense of eternal things, it is plain that there can be no
moral change produced in him, unless he is first wakened from this
drowze. He cannot become the subject of that new birth without which he
cannot see the kingdom of God, unless his torpor respecting the Unseen is
removed. Entirely satisfied as he now is with this mode of existence, and
thinking little or nothing about another, the first necessity in his case
is a startle, and an alarm. Difficult as he now finds it to be, to bring
the invisible world before his mind in a way to affect his feelings, he
needs to have it loom upon his inward vision with such power and
impressiveness that he cannot take his eye off, if he would. Lethargic as
he now is, respecting his own immortality, it is impossible for him to
live and act with constant reference to it, unless he is wakened to its
significance. Is it not self-evident, that if the sinner's present
indifference towards the invisible world, and his failure to feel its
solemn reality, continues through life, he will certainly enter that
state of existence with his present character? Looking into the human
spirit, and seeing how dead it is towards God and the future, must we
not say, that if this deadness to eternity lasts until the death of the
body, it will certainly be the death of the soul?

But, in what way can man be made to realize that there is an eternal
world, to which he is rapidly tending, and realities there, with which,
by the very constitution of his spirit, he is forever and indissolubly
connected either for bliss or woe? How shall thoughtless and earthly man,
as he treads these streets, and transacts all this business, and enjoys
life, be made to feel with misgiving, foreboding, and alarm, that there
is an eternity, and that he must soon enter it, as other men do, either
as a heaven or a hell for his soul? The answer to this question, so often
asked in sadness and sorrow by the preacher of the word, drives us back
to the throne of God and to a mightier agency than that of man.

For one thing is certain, that this apathy and deadness will never of
itself generate sensibility and life. Satan never casts out Satan. If
this slumberer be left to himself, he is lost. Should any man be given
over to the natural inclination of his heart, he would never be awakened.
Should his earthly mind receive no check, and his corrupt heart take its
own way, he would never realize that there is another world than this,
until he entered it. For, the worldly mind and the corrupt heart busy
themselves solely and happily with this existence. They find pleasure in
the things of this life, and therefore never look beyond them. Worldly
men do not interfere with their own present actual enjoyment. Who of this
class voluntarily makes himself unhappy, by thinking of subjects that are
gloomy to his mind? What man of the world starts up from his sweet sleep
and his pleasant dreams, and of his own accord looks the stern realities
of death and the judgment in the eye? No natural man begins to wound
himself, that he may be healed. No earthly man begins to slay himself,
that he may be made alive. Even when the natural heart is roused and
wakened by some foreign agency; some startling providence of God or some
Divine operation in the conscience, how soon, if left to its own motion
and tendency, does it relapse into its old slumber and sleep. The needle
has received a shock, but after a slight trembling and vibration it soon
settles again upon its axis, ever and steady to the north. It is plain,
that the sinner's worldly mind and apathetic nature will never conduct
him to a proper sense of Divine things.

The awakening, then, of the human soul, to an effectual apprehension of
eternal realities, must take its first issue from some other Being than
the drowzy and slumbering creature himself. We are not speaking of a few
serious thoughts that now and then fleet across the human mind, like
meteors at midnight, and are seen no more. We are speaking of that
permanent, that everlasting dawning of eternity, with its terrors and its
splendors, upon the human soul, which allows it no more repose, until it
is prepared for eternity upon good grounds and foundations; and with
reference to such a profound consciousness of the future state as this,
we say with confidence, that the awakening must proceed from some Being
who is far more alive to the solemnity and significance of eternal
duration than earthly man is. Without impulses from on high, the sinner
never rouses up to attend to the subject of religion. He lives on
indifferent to his religious interests, until _God_, who is more merciful
to his deathless soul than he himself is, by His providence startles him,
or by His Spirit in his conscience alarms him. Never, until God
interferes to disturb his dreams, and break up his slumber, does he
profoundly and permanently feel that he was made for another world, and
is fast going into it. How often does God say to the careless man:
"Arise, O sleeper, and Christ shall give thee light;" and how often does
he disregard the warning voice! How often does God stimulate his
conscience, and flare light into his mind; and how often does he stifle
down these inward convictions, and suffer the light to shine in the
darkness that comprehends it not! These facts in the personal history of
every sin-loving man show, that the human soul does not of its own
isolated action wake up to the realities of eternity. They also show that
God is very merciful to the human soul, in positively and powerfully
interfering for its welfare; but that man, in infinite folly and
wickedness, loves the sleep, and inclines to remain in it.
The Holy Spirit strives, but the human spirit resists.

II. In the second place, man needs the influences of the Holy Spirit
_that he may be convinced of sin_.

Man universally is a sinner, and yet he needs in every single instance to
be made aware of it. "There is none good, no, not one;" and yet out of
the millions of the race how very few _feel_ this truth! Not only does
man sin, but he adds to his guilt by remaining ignorant of it. The
criminal in this instance also, as in our courts of law, feels and
confesses his crime no faster than it is proved to him. Through what
blindness of mind, and hardness of heart, and insensibility of
conscience, is the Holy Spirit obliged to force His way, before there is
a sincere acknowledgment of sin before God! The careful investigations,
the persevering questionings and cross-questionings, by which, before a
human tribunal, the wilful and unrepenting criminal is forced to see and
acknowledge his wickedness, are but faint emblems of that thorough work
that must be wrought by the Holy Ghost, before the human soul, at a
higher tribunal, forsaking its refuges of lies, and desisting from its
subterfuges and palliations, smites upon the breast, and cries, "God be
merciful to me a sinner!" Think how much of our sin has occurred in total
apathy, and indifference, and how unwilling we are to have any distinct
consciousness upon this subject. It is only now and then that we feel
ourselves to be sinners; but it is by no means only now and then that we
are sinners. We sin habitually; we are conscious of sin rarely. Our
affections and inclinations and motives are evil, and only evil,
continually; but our experimental _knowledge_ that they are so comes not
often into our mind, and what is worse stays not long, because we dislike

The conviction of sin, with what it includes and leads to, is of more
worth to man than all other convictions. Conviction of any sort,--a
living practical consciousness of any kind,--is of great value, because
it is only this species of knowledge that moves mankind. Convince a man,
that is, give him a consciousness, of the truth of a principle in
politics, in trade, or in religion, and you actuate him politically,
commercially, or religiously. Convince a criminal of his crime, that is,
endue him with a conscious feeling of his criminality, and you make him
burn with electric fire. A convicted man is a man thoroughly conscious;
and a thoroughly conscious man is a deeply moved one. And this is true,
with emphasis, of the conviction of sin. This consciousness produces a
deeper and more lasting effect than all others. Convince a community of
the justice or injustice of a certain class of political principles, and
you stir it very deeply, and broadly, as the history of all democracies
clearly shows; but let society be once convinced of sin before the holy
and righteous God, and deep calleth unto deep, all the waters are moved.
Never is a mass of human beings so centrally stirred, as when the Spirit
of God is poured out upon it, and from no movement in human society do
such lasting and blessed consequences flow, as from a genuine revival of

But here again, as in reference to the eternal state, there is no
realizing sense. Conviction of sin is not a characteristic of mankind at
large. Men generally will acknowledge in words that they are sinners, but
they wait for some far-distant day to come, when they shall be pricked in
the heart, and feel the truth of what they say. Men generally are not
conscious of the dreadful reality of sin, any more than they are of the
solemn reality of eternity. A deep insensibility, in this respect also,
precludes a practical knowledge of that guilt in the soul, which, if
unpardoned and unremoved, will just as surely ruin it as God lives and
the soul is immortal. Since, then, if man be left to his own inclination,
he never will be convinced of sin, it is plain that some Agent who has
the power must overcome his aversion to self-knowledge, and bring him to
consciousness upon this unwelcome subject. If any one of us, for the
remainder of our days, should be given over to that ordinary indifference
towards sin with which we walk these streets, and transact business, and
enjoy life; if God's truth should never again in this world stab the
conscience, and God's Spirit should never again make us anxious; is it
not infallibly certain that the future would be as the past, and that we
should go through this "accepted time and day of salvation" unconvicted
and therefore unconverted?

But besides this destitution of the experimental sense of sin, another
ground of the need of Divine agency is found in the _blindness_ of the
natural mind. Man's vision of spiritual things, even when they are set
before his eyes, is dim and inadequate. The Christian ministry is greatly
hindered, because it cannot illuminate the human understanding, and
impart the power of a keen spiritual insight. It is compelled to present
the objects of sight, but it cannot give the eye to see them. Vision
depends altogether upon the condition of the organ. The eye sees only
what it brings the means of seeing. The scaled eye of a worldling, or a
debauchee, or a self-righteous man, cannot see that sin of the heart,
that "spiritual wickedness," at which men like Paul and Isaiah stood
aghast. These were men whose character compared with that of the
worldling was saintly; men whose shoes' latchets the worldling is not
worthy to stoop down and unloose. And yet they saw a depravity within
their own hearts which he does not see in his; a depravity which he
cannot see, and which he steadily denies to exist, until he is
enlightened by the Holy Ghost.

But the preacher has no power to impart this clear spiritual discernment.
He cannot arm the eye of the natural man with that magnifying and
microscopic power, by which hatred shall be seen to be murder, and lust,
adultery, and the least swelling of pride, the sin of Lucifer. He is
compelled, by the testimony of the Bible, of the wise and the holy of all
time, and of his own consciousness, to tell every unregenerate man that
he is no better than his race; that he certainly is no better than the
Christian Church which continually confesses and mourns over indwelling
sin. The faithful preacher of the word is obliged to insist that there is
no radical difference among men, and that the depravity of the man of
irreproachable morals but unrenewed heart is as total as was that of the
great preacher to the Gentiles,--a man of perfectly irreproachable
morals, but who confessed that he was the chief of sinners, and feared
lest he should be a cast-away. But the preacher of this unwelcome message
has no power to open the blind eye. He cannot endow the self-ignorant and
incredulous man before him, with that consciousness of the "plague of the
heart" which says "yea" to the most vivid description of human
sinfulness, and "amen" to God's heaviest malediction upon it. The
preacher's position would be far easier, if there might be a transfer of
experience; if some of that bitter painful sense of sin with which the
struggling Christian is burdened might flow over into the easy, unvexed,
and thoughtless souls of the men of this world. Would that the
consciousness upon this subject of sin, of a Paul or a Luther, might
deluge that large multitude of men who doubt or deny the doctrine of
human depravity. The materials for that consciousness, the items that go
to make up that experience, exist as really and as plentifully in your
moral state and character, as they do in that of the mourning and
self-reproaching Christian who sits by your side,--your devout father, your
saintly mother, or sister,--whom you know, and who you know is a better
being than you are. Why should they be weary and heavy-laden with a sense
of their unworthiness before God, and you go through life indifferent and
light-hearted? Are they deluded in respect to the doctrine of human
depravity, and are you in the right? Think you that the deathbed and the
day of judgment will prove this to be the fact? No! if you shall ever
know anything of the Christian struggle with innate corruption; if you
shall ever, in the expressive phrase of Scripture, have your senses
exercised as in a gymnasium [1] to discern good and evil, and see
yourself with self-abhorrence; your views will harmonize most profoundly
and exactly with theirs. And, furthermore, you will not in the process
create any _new_ sinfulness. You will merely see the _existing_ depravity
of the human heart. You will simply see what _is_,--is now, in your
heart, and in all human hearts, and has been from the beginning.

But all this is the work of a more powerful and spiritual agency than
that of man. The truth may be exhibited with perfect transparency and
plainness, the hearer himself may do his utmost to have it penetrate and
tell; and yet, there be no vivid and vital consciousness of sin. How
often does the serious and alarmed man say to us: "I know it, but I do
not _feel_ it." How long and wearily, sometimes, does the anxious man
struggle after an inward sense of these spiritual things, without
success, until he learns that an inward sense, an experimental
consciousness, respecting religious truth, is as purely a gift and
product of God the Spirit as the breath of life in his nostrils.
Considering, then, the natural apathy of man respecting the sin that is
in his own heart, and the exceeding blindness of his mental vision, even
when his attention has been directed to it, is it not perfectly plain
that there must be the exertion of a Divine agency, in order that he may
pass through even the first and lowest stages of the religious

In view of the subject, as thus far unfolded, we remark:

1. First, that it is the duty of every one, _to take the facts in respect
to man's character as he finds them_. Nothing is gained, in any province
of human thought or action, by disputing actual verities. They are
stubborn things, and will not yield to the wishes and prejudices of the
natural heart. This is especially true in regard to the facts in man's
moral and religious condition. The testimony of Revelation is explicit,
that "the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the
law of God, neither indeed can be;" and also, that "the natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit, neither can he know them, because
they are spiritually discerned." According to this Biblical statement,
there is corruption and blindness together. The human heart is at once
sinful, and ignorant that it is so. It is, therefore, the very worst form
of evil; a fatal disease unknown to the patient, and accompanied with the
belief that there is perfect health; sin and guilt without any just and
proper sense of it. This is the testimony, and the assertion, of that
Being who needs not that any should testify to Him of man, for he knows
what is in man. And this is the testimony, also, of every mind that has
attained a profound self-knowledge. For it is indisputable, that in
proportion as a man is introspective, and accustoms himself to the
scrutiny of his motives and feelings, he discovers that "the whole head
is sick, and the whole heart is faint."

It is, therefore, the duty and wisdom of every one to set to his seal
that God is true,--to have this as his motto. Though, as yet, he is
destitute of a clear conviction of sin, and a godly sorrow for it, still
he should _presume_ the fact of human depravity. Good men in every age
have found it to be a fact, and the infallible Word of God declares that
it is a fact. What, then, is gained, by proposing another than the
Biblical theory of human nature? Is the evil removed by denying its
existence? Will the mere calling men good at heart, and by nature, make
them such?

"Who can hold a fire in his hand,
By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?
Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite,
By bare imagination of a feast?
Or wallow naked in December snow,
By thinking on fantastic summer heat?"[2]

2. In the second place, we remark that it is the duty of every one, _not
to be discouraged by these facts and truths relative to the moral
condition of man._ For, one fact conducts to the next one. One truth
prepares for a second. If it is a solemn and sad fact that men are
sinners, and blind and dead in their trespasses and sin, it is also a
cheering fact that the Holy Spirit can enlighten the darkest
understanding, and enliven the most torpid and indifferent soul; and it
is a still further, and most encouraging truth and fact, that the Holy
Spirit is given to those who ask for it, with more readiness than a
father gives bread to his hungry child. Here, then, we have the fact of
sin, and of blindness and apathy in sin; the fact of a mighty power in
God to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; and the
blessed fact that this power is accessible to prayer. Let us put these
three facts together, all of them, and act accordingly. Then we shall be
taught by the Spirit, and shall come to a salutary consciousness of sin;
and then shall be verified in our own experience the words of God: "I
dwell in the high and holy place, and with him also that is of a contrite
and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the
heart of the contrite ones."

[Footnote 1: [Greek: Ta aisthaeria gegurasmena.] Heb. v. 14.]

[Footnote 2: SHAKSPEARE: Richard II. Act i. Sc. 3.]


Luke xi. 13.--"If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto
your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask him."

In expounding the doctrine of these words, in the preceding discourse,
the argument for the necessity of Divine influences had reference to the
more general aspects of man's character and condition. We were concerned
with the origin of seriousness in view of a future life, and the
production of a sense of moral corruption and unfitness to enter
eternity. We have now to consider the work of the Spirit, in its
relations, first, to that more distinct sense of sin which is denominated
the consciousness of _guilt_, and secondly, to that saving act of
_faith_ by which the atonement of Christ is appropriated by the soul.

I. Sin is not man's misfortune, but his fault; and any view that falls
short of this fact is radically defective. Sin not only brings a
corruption and bondage, but also a condemnation and penalty, upon the
self-will that originates it. Sin not only renders man unfit for rewards,
font also deserving of punishment. As one who has disobeyed law of his
own determination, he is liable not merely to the negative loss of
blessings, but also to the positive infliction of retribution. It is not
enough that a transgressor be merely let alone; he must be taken in hand
and punished. He is not simply a diseased man; he is a criminal. His sin,
therefore, requires not a removal merely, but also an _expiation_.

This relation and reference of transgression to law and justice is a
fundamental one; and yet it is very liable to be overlooked, or at least
to be inadequately apprehended. The sense of _ill-desert_ is too apt to
be confused and shallow, in the human soul. Man is comparatively ready to
acknowledge the misery of sin, while he is slow to confess the guilt of
it. When the word of God asserts he is poor, and blind, and wretched, he
is comparatively forward to assent; but when, in addition, it asserts
that he deserves to be punished everlastingly, he reluctates. Mankind are
willing to acknowledge their wretchedness, and be pitied; but they are
not willing to acknowledge their guiltiness, and stand condemned before

And yet, guilt is the very essence of sin. Extinguish the criminality,
and you extinguish the inmost core and heart of moral evil. We may have
felt that sin is bondage, that it is inward dissension and disharmony,
that it takes away the true dignity of our nature, but if we have not
also felt that it is _iniquity_ and merits penalty, we have not become
conscious of its most essential quality. It is not enough that we come
before God, saying: "I am wretched in my soul; I am weary of my bondage;
I long for deliverance." We must also say, as we look up into that holy
Eye: "I am guilty; O my God I deserve thy judgments." In brief, the human
mind must recognize all the Divine attributes. The entire Divine
character, in both its justice and its love, must rise full-orbed before
the soul, when thus seeking salvation. It is not enough, that we ask God
to free us from disquietude, and give us repose. Before we do this, and
that we may do it successfully, we must employ the language of David,
while under the stings of guilt: "O Lord rebuke me not in thy wrath:
neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Be merciful unto me, O God be
merciful unto me."

What is needed is, more consideration of sin in its objective, and less
in its subjective relations; more sense of it in its reference to the
being and attributes of God, and less sense of it in its reference to our
own happiness or misery, or even to the harmony of our own powers and
faculties. The adorable being and attributes of God are of more
importance than any human soul, immortal though it be; and what is
required in the religious experience is, more anxiety lest the Divine
glory should be tarnished, and less fear that a worm of the dust be made
miserable by his transgressions. And whatever may be our theory of the
matter, "to this complexion must we come at last," even in order to our
own peace of mind. We must lose our life, in order to find it. Even in
order to our own inward repose of conscience and of heart, there must
come a point and period in our mental history, when we do actually sink
self out of sight, and think of sin in its relation to the character and
government of the great and holy God,--when we do see it to be _guilt_,
as well as corruption.

For guilt is a distinct, and a distinguishable quality. It is a thing by
itself, like the Platonic idea of Beauty.[1] It is sin stripped of its
accompaniments,--the restlessness, the dissatisfaction, and the
unhappiness which it produces,--and perceived in its pure odiousness and
ill-desert. And when thus seen, it does not permit the mind to think of
any thing but the righteous law, and the Divine character. In the hour of
thorough conviction, the sinful spirit is lost in the feeling of
guiltiness: wholly engrossed in the reflection that it has incurred the
condemnation of the Best Being in the universe. It is in distress, not
because an Almighty Being can make it miserable but, because a Holy and
Good Being has _reason_ to be displeased with it. When it gives utterance
to its emotion, it says to its Sovereign and its Judge: "I am in anguish,
more because Thou the Holy and the Good art unreconciled with me, than
because Thou the Omnipotent canst punish me forever. I refuse not to The
punished; I deserve the inflictions of Thy justice; only _forgive_, and
Thou mayest do what Thou wilt unto me." A soul that is truly penitent has
no desire to escape penalty, at the expense of principle and law. It says
with David: "Thou desirest not sacrifice;" such atonement as I can make
is inadequate; "else would I give it." It expresses its approbation of
the pure justice of God, in the language of the gentlest and sweetest of

"Thou hast no lightnings, O Thou Just!
Or I their force should know;
And if Thou strike me into dust,
My soul approves the blow.

The heart that values less its ease,
Than it adores Thy ways;
In Thine avenging anger, sees
A subject of its praise.

Pleased I could lie, concealed and lost,
In shades of central night;
Not to avoid Thy wrath, Thou know'st,
But lest I grieve Thy sight.

Smite me, O Thou whom I provoke!
And I will love Thee still;
The well deserved and righteous stroke
Shall please me, though it kill."[2]

Now, it is only when the human spirit is under the illuminating, and
discriminating influences of the Holy Ghost, that it possesses this pure
and genuine sense of guilt. Worldly losses, trials, warnings by God's
providence, may rouse the sinner, and make him solemn; but unless the
Spirit of Grace enters his heart he does not feel that he is
ill-deserving. He is sad and fearful, respecting the future life, and
perhaps supposes that this state of mind is one of true conviction, and
wonders that it does not end in conversion, and the joy of pardon. But if
he would examine it, he would discover that it is full of the lust of self.
He would find that he is merely unhappy, and restless, and afraid
to die. If he should examine the workings of his heart, he would discover
that they are only another form of self-love; that instead of being
anxious about self in the present world, he has become anxious about self
in the future world; that instead of looking out for his happiness here,
he has begun to look out for it hereafter; that in fact he has merely
transferred sin, from time and its relations, to eternity and its
relations. Such sorrow as this needs to be sorrowed for, and such
repentance as this needs to be repented of. Such conviction as this needs
to be laid open, and have its defect shown. After a course of wrongdoing,
it is not sufficient for man to come before the Holy One, making mention
of his wretchedness, and desire for happiness, but making no mention of
his culpability, and desert of righteous and holy judgments. It is not
enough for the criminal to plead for life, however earnestly, while he
avoids the acknowledgment that death is his just due. For silence in such
a connection as this, is _denial_. The impenitent thief upon the cross
was clamorous for life and happiness, saying, "If thou be the Christ,
save thyself and us." He said nothing concerning the crime that had
brought him to a malefactor's death, and thereby showed that it did not
weigh heavy upon his conscience. But the real penitent rebuked him,
saying: "Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same
condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our
deeds." And then followed that meek and broken-hearted supplication:
"Lord remember me," which drew forth the world-renowned answer: "This day
shalt thou be with me in paradise."

In the fact, then, that man's experience of sin is so liable to be
defective upon the side of guilt, we find another necessity for the
teaching of the Holy Spirit; for a spiritual agency that cannot be
deceived, which pierces to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit,
and is a discerner of the real intent and feeling of the heart.

II. In the second place, man needs the influences of the Holy Spirit, in
order that _he may actually appropriate Christ's atonement for sin_.

The feeling of ill-desert, of which we have spoken, requires an
expiation, in order to its extinction, precisely as the burning sensation
of thirst needs the cup of cold water, in order that it may be allayed,
the sense of guilt is awakened in its pure and genuine form, by the Holy
Spirit's operation, the soul _craves_ the atonement,--it _wants_ the
dying Lamb of God. We often speak of a believer's longings after purity,
after peace, after joy. There is an appetency for them. In like manner,
there is in the illuminated and guilt-smitten conscience an appetency for
the piacular work of Christ, as that which alone can give it
pacification. Contemplated from this point of view, there is not a more
rational doctrine within the whole Christian system, than that of the
Atonement. Anything that ministers to a distinct and legitimate craving
in man is reasonable, and necessary. That theorist, therefore, who would
evince the unreasonableness of the atoning work of the Redeemer, must
first evince the unreasonableness of the consciousness of guilt, and of
the judicial craving of the conscience. He must show the groundlessness
of that fundamental and organic feeling which imparts such a blood-red
color to all the religions of the globe; be they Pagan, Jewish, or
Christian. Whenever, therefore, this sensation of ill-desert is elicited,
and the soul feels consciously criminal before the Everlasting Judge, the
difficulties that beset the doctrine of the Cross all vanish in the
_craving_, in the _appetency_, of the conscience, for acquittal through
the substituted sufferings of the Son of God. He who has been taught by
the Spirit respecting the iniquity of sin, and views it in its relations
to the Divine holiness, has no wish to be pardoned at the expense of
justice. His conscience is now jealous for the majesty of God, and the
dignity of His government. He now experimentally understands that great
truth which has its foundation in the nature of guilt, and consequently
in the method of Redemption,--the great ethical truth, that after an
accountable agent has stained himself with crime, there is from the
necessity of the case no remission without the satisfaction of law.

But it is one thing to acknowledge this in theory, and even to feel the
need of Christ's atonement, and still another thing to _really
appropriate_ it. Unbelief and despair have great power over a
guilt-stricken mind; and were it not for that Spirit who "takes of the
things of Christ and shows them to the soul," sinful man would in every
instance succumb under their awful paralysis. For, if the truth and Spirit
of God should merely convince the sinner of his guilt, but never apply the
atoning blood of the Redeemer, hell would be in him and he would be in
hell. If God, coming forth as He justly might only in His judicial
character, should confine Himself to a convicting operation in the
conscience,--should make the transgressor feel his guilt, and then leave
him to the feeling and with the feeling, forevermore,--this would be
eternal death. And if, as any man shall lie down upon his death-bed, he
shall find that owing to his past quenching of the Spirit the
illuminating energy of God is searching him, and revealing him to
himself, but does not assist him to look up to the Saviour of sinners;
and if, in the day of judgment, as he draws near the bar of an eternal
doom, he shall discover that the sense of guilt grows deeper and deeper,
while the atoning blood is not applied,--if this shall be the experience
of any one upon his death-bed, and in the day of judgment, will he need
to be told what he is and whither he is going?

Now it is with reference to these disclosures that come in like a deluge
upon him, that man needs the aids and operation of the Holy Spirit.
Ordinarily, nearly the whole of his guilt is latent within him. He is,
commonly, undisturbed by conscience; but it would be a fatal error to
infer that therefore he has a clear and innocent conscience. There is a
vast amount of undeveloped guilt within every impenitent soul. It is
slumbering there, as surely as magnetism is in the magnet, and the
electric fluid is in the piled-up thunder-cloud. For there are moments
when the sinful soul feels this hidden criminality, as there are moments
when the magnet shows its power, and the thunder-cloud darts its nimble
and forked lightnings. Else, why do these pangs and fears shoot and flash
through it, every now and then? Why does the drowning man instinctively
ask for God's mercy? Were his conscience pure and clear from guilt, like
that of the angel or the seraph,--were there no latent crime within
him,--he would sink into the unfathomed depths of the sea, without the
thought of such a cry. When the traveller in South America sees the smoke
and flame of the volcano, here and there, as he passes along, he is
justified in inferring that a vast central fire is burning beneath the
whole region. In like manner, when man discovers, as he watches the
phenomena of his conscience, that guilt every now and then emerges like a
flash of flame into consciousness, filling him with fear and
distress,--when he finds that he has no security against this invasion,
but that in an hour when he thinks not, and commonly when he is weakest
and faintest, in his moments of danger or death, it stings him and wounds
him, he is justified in inferring, and he must infer, that the deep places
of his spirit, the whole _potentiality_ of his soul is full of crime.

Now, in no condition of the soul is there greater need of the agency of
the Comforter (O well named the Comforter), than when all this latency is
suddenly manifested to a man. When this deluge of discovery comes in, all
the billows of doubt, fear, terror, and despair roll over the soul, and
it sinks in the deep waters. The sense of guilt,--that awful guilt, which
the man has carried about with him for many long years, and which he has
trifled with,--now proves too great for him to control. It seizes him
like a strong-armed man. If he could only believe that the blood of the
Lamb of God expiates all this crime which is so appalling to his mind, he
would be at peace instantaneously. But he is unable to believe this. His
sin, which heretofore looked too small to be noticed, now appears too
great to be forgiven. Other men may be pardoned, but not he. He
_despairs_ of mercy; and if he should be left to the natural workings of
his own mind; if he should not be taught and assisted by the Holy Ghost,
in this critical moment, to behold the Lamb of God; he would despair
forever. For this sense of ill-desert, this fearful looking-for of
judgment and fiery indignation, with which he is wrestling, is organic to
the conscience, and the human will has no more power over it than it has
over the sympathetic nerve. Only as he is taught by the Divine Spirit, is
he able with perfect calmness to look up from this brink of despair, and
say: "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. The
blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. Therefore, being justified
by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. I know
whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which
I have committed unto him against that day."

In view of the truths which we have now considered, it is worthy of

1. First, that _the Holy Spirit constitutes the tie, and bond of
connection, between man and God_. The third Person in the Godhead is very
often regarded as more distant from the human soul, than either the
Father or the Son. In the history of the doctrine of the Trinity, the
definition of the Holy Spirit, and the discrimination of His relations in
the economy of the Godhead, was not settled until after the doctrine of
the first and second Persons had been established. Something analogous to
this appears in the individual experience. God the Father and God the Son
are more in the thoughts of many believers, than God the Holy Ghost. And
yet, we have seen that in the economy of Redemption, and from the very
nature of the case, the soul is brought as close to the Spirit, as to the
Father and Son. Nay, it is only through the inward operations of the
former, that the latter are made real to the heart and mind of man. Not
until the third Person enlightens, are the second and first Persons
beheld. "No man," says St. Paul, "can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by
the Holy Ghost."

The sinful soul is entirely dependent upon the Divine Spirit, and from
first to last it is in most intimate communication with Him during the
process of salvation. It is enlightened by His influence; it is enlivened
by Him; it is empowered by Him to the act of faith in Christ's Person and
Work; it is supported and assisted by Him, in every step of the Christian
race; it is comforted by Him in all trials and tribulations; and, lastly,
it is perfected in holiness, and fitted for the immediate presence of
God, by Him. Certainly, then, the believer should have as full faith in
the distinct personality, and immediate efficiency, of the third Person,
as he has in that of the first and second. His most affectionate feeling
should centre upon that Blessed Agent, through whom he appropriates the
blessings that have been provided for sinners by the Father and Son, and
without whose influence the Father would have planned the Redemptive
scheme, and the Son have executed it, in vain.

2. In the second place, it is deserving of very careful notice that _the
influences of the Holy Spirit may be obtained by asking for them_. This
is the only condition to be complied with. And this gift, furthermore, is
peculiar, in that it is _invariably_ bestowed whenever it is sincerely
implored. There are other gifts of God which may be asked for with deep
and agonizing desire, and it is not certain that they will be granted.
This is the case with temporal blessings. A sick man may turn his face to
the wall, with Hezekiah, and pray in the bitterness of his soul, for the
prolongation of his life, and yet not obtain the answer which Hezekiah
received. But no man ever supplicated in the earnestness of his soul for
the influences of the Holy Spirit, and was ultimately refused. For this
is a gift which it is always safe to grant. It involves a spiritual and
everlasting good. It is the gift of righteousness, of the fear and love
of God in the heart. There is no danger in such a bestowment. It
inevitably promotes the glory of God. Hence our Lord, after bidding his
hearers to "ask," to "seek," and to "knock," adds, as the encouraging
reason why they should do so: "For, _every one_ that asketh receiveth;
and he that seeketh, [always] findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall
[certainly] be opened." This is a reason that cannot be assigned in the
instance of other prayers. Our Lord commands his disciples to pray for
their daily bread; and we know that the children of God do generally find
their wants supplied. Still, it would not be true that _every one_ who in
the sincerity of his soul has asked for daily bread has received it. The
children of God have sometimes died of hunger. But no soul that has ever
hungered for the bread of heaven, and supplicated for it, has been sent
empty away. Nay more: Whoever finds it in his heart to ask for the Holy
Spirit may know, from this very fact, that the Holy Spirit has
anticipated him, and has prompted the very prayer itself. And think you
that God will not grant a request which He himself has inspired? And
therefore, again, it is, that _every one_ who asks invariably receives.

3. The third remark suggested by the subject we have been considering is,
that _it is exceedingly hazardous to resist Divine influences_. "Quench
not the Spirit" is one of the most imperative of the Apostolic
injunctions. Our Lord, after saying that a word spoken against Himself is
pardonable, adds that he that blasphemes against the Holy Ghost shall
never be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the world to come. The
New Testament surrounds the subject of Divine influences with very great
solemnity. It represents the resisting of the Holy Ghost to be as
heinous, and dangerous, as the trampling upon Christ's blood.

There is a reason for this. We have seen that in this operation upon the
mind and heart, God comes as near, and as close to man, as it is possible
for Him to come. Now to grieve or oppose such a merciful, and such an
_inward_ agency as this, is to offer the highest possible affront to the
majesty and the mercy of God. It is a great sin to slight the gifts of
Divine providence,--to misuse health, strength, wealth, talents. It is a
deep sin to contemn the truths of Divine Revelation, by which the soul is
made wise unto eternal life. It is a fearful sin to despise the claims of
God the Father, and God the Son. But it is a transcendent sin to resist
and beat back, _after it has been given_, that mysterious, that holy,
that immediately Divine influence, by which alone the heart of stone can
be made the heart of flesh. For, it indicates something more than the
ordinary carelessness of a sinner. It evinces a determined _obstinacy_ in
sin,--nay, a Satanic opposition to God and goodness. It is of such a
guilt as this, that the apostle John remarks: "There is a sin unto death;
I do not say that one should pray for it."[3]

Again, it is exceedingly hazardous to resist Divine influences, because
they depend wholly upon the good pleasure of God, and not at all upon any
established and uniform law. We must not, for a moment, suppose that the
operations of the Holy Spirit upon the human soul are like those of the
forces of nature upon the molecules of matter. They are not uniform and
unintermittent, like gravitation, and chemical affinity. We may avail
ourselves of the powers of nature at any moment, because they are
steadily operative by an established law. They are laboring incessantly,
and we may enter into their labors at any instant we please. But it is
not so with supernatural and gracious influences. God's awakening and
renewing power does not operate with the uniformity of those blind
natural laws which He has impressed upon the dull clod beneath our feet.
God is not one of the forces of nature. He is a Person and a Sovereign.
His special and highest action upon the human soul is not uniform. His
Spirit, He expressly teaches us, does not always strive with man. It is a
wind that bloweth when and where it listeth. For this reason, it is
dangerous to the religious interests of the soul, in the highest degree,
to go counter to any impulses of the Spirit, however slight, or to
neglect any of His admonitions, however gentle. If God in mercy has once
come in upon a thoughtless mind, and wakened it to eternal realities; if
He has enlightened it to perceive the things that make for its peace; and
that mind slights this merciful interference, and stifles down these
inward teachings, then God withdraws, and whether He will ever return
again to that soul depends upon His mere sovereign volition. He has bound
himself by no promise to do so. He has established no uniform law of
operation, in the case. It is true that He is very pitiful and of tender
mercy, and waits and bears long with the sinner; and it is also true,
that He is terribly severe and just, when He thinks it proper to be so,
and says to those who have despised His Spirit: "Because I have called
and ye refused, and have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded, I
will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh."

Let no one say: "God has promised to bestow the Holy Ghost to every one
who asks: I will ask at some future time." To "ask" for the Holy Spirit
implies some already existing desire that He would enter the mind and
convince of sin, and convert to God. It implies some _craving_, some
_yearning_, for Divine influences; and this implies some measure of such
influence already bestowed. Man asks for the Holy Spirit, only as he is
moved by the Holy Spirit. The Divine is ever prevenient to the human.
Suppose now, that a man resists these influences when they are _already_
at work within him, and says: "I will seek them at a more convenient
season." Think you, that when that convenient season comes round,--when
life is waning, and the world is receding, and the eternal gulf is
yawning,--think you that that man who has already resisted grace can make
his own heart to yearn for it, and his soul to crave it? Do men at such
times find that sincere desires, and longings, and aspirations, come at
their beck? Can a man say, with any prospect of success: "I will now
quench out this seriousness which the Spirit of God has produced in my
mind, and will bring it up again ten years hence. I will stifle this
drawing of the Eternal Father of my soul which I now feel at the roots of
my being, and it shall re-appear at a future day."

No! While it is true that any one who "asks," who really _wants_ a
spiritual blessing, will obtain it, it is equally true that a man may
have no heart to ask,--may have no desire, no yearning, no aspiration at
all, and be unable to produce one. In this case there is no promise.
Whosoever _thirsts_, and _only_ he who thirsts, can obtain the water of
life. Cherish, therefore, the faintest influences and operations of the
Comforter. If He enlightens your conscience so that it reproaches you for
sin, seek to have the work go on. Never resist any such convictions, and
never attempt to stifle them. If the Holy Spirit urges you to confession
of sin before God, yield _instantaneously_ to His urging, and pour
out your soul before the All-Merciful. And when He says, "Behold the Lamb
of God," look where He points, and be at peace and at rest. The secret of
all spiritual success is an immediate and uniform submission to the
influences of the Holy Ghost.

[Footnote 1: [Greek: _Anto, kath anto, meth anton, monoeides_.]--PLATO:
Convivium, p. 247, Ed. Bipont.]

[Footnote 2: Guyon: translated by Cowper. is expressed by VAUGHAN in
Works III. 85.--A similar thought "The Eclipse."

"Thy anger I could kiss, and will;
But O Thy grief, Thy grief doth kill."]

[Footnote 3: The sin against the Holy Ghost is unpardonable, not because
there is a grade of guilt in it too scarlet to be washed white by
Christ's blood of atonement but, because it implies a total quenching of
that operation of the third Person of the Trinity which is the only power
adequate to the extirpation of sin from the human soul. The sin against
the Holy Ghost is tantamount, therefore, to _everlasting_ sin. And it is
noteworthy, that in Mark iii. 29 the reading [Greek: _amartaemartos_],
instead of [Greek: kriseos], is supported by a majority of the
oldest manuscripts and versions, and is adopted by Lachmann,
Tischendorf, and Tregelles. "He that shall blaspheme against the Holy
Ghost.... is in danger of eternal _sin_."]


HEBREWS vii. 19.--"For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in
of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh to God."

It is the aim of the Epistle to the Hebrews, to teach the insufficiency
of the Jewish Dispensation to save the human race from the wrath of God
and the power of sin, and the all-sufficiency of the Gospel Dispensation
to do this. Hence, the writer of this Epistle endeavors with special
effort to make the Hebrews feel the weakness of their old and much
esteemed religion, and to show them that the only benefit which God
intended by its establishment was, to point men to the perfect and final
religion of the Gospel. This he does, by examining the parts of the Old
Economy. In the first place, the _sacrifices_ under the Mosaic law were
not designed to extinguish the sense of guilt,--"for it is not possible
that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin,"--but were
intended merely to awaken the sense of guilt, and thereby to lead the Jew
to look to that mercy of God which at a future day was to be exhibited in
the sacrifice of his eternal Son. The Jewish _priesthood_, again,
standing between the sinner and God, were not able to avert the Divine
displeasure,--for as sinners they were themselves exposed to it. They
could only typify, and direct the guilty to, the great High Priest, the
Messiah, whom God's mercy would send in the fulness of time. Lastly, the
moral _law_, proclaimed amidst the thunderings and lightnings of Sinai,
had no power to secure obedience, but only a fearful power to produce the
consciousness of disobedience, and of exposure to a death far more awful
than that threatened against the man who should touch the burning

It was, thus, the design of God, by this legal and preparatory
dispensation, to disclose to man his ruined and helpless condition, and
his need of looking to Him for everything that pertains to redemption.
And he did it, by so arranging the dispensation that the Jew might, as it
were, make the trial and see if he could be his own Redeemer. He
instituted a long and burdensome round of observances, by means of which
the Jew might, if possible, extinguish the remorse of his conscience, and
produce the peace of God in his soul. God seems by the sacrifices under
the law, and the many and costly offerings which the Jew was commanded to
bring into the temple of the Lord, to have virtually said to him: "Thou
art guilty, and My wrath righteously abides within thy conscience,--yet,
do what thou canst to free thyself from it; free thyself from it if thou
canst; bring an offering and come before Me. But when thou hast found
that thy conscience still remains perturbed and unpacified, and thy heart
still continues corrupt and sinful, then look away from thy agency and
thy offering, to My clemency and My offering,--trust not in these finite
sacrifices of the lamb and the goat, but let them merely remind thee of
the infinite sacrifice which in the fulness of time I will provide for
the sin of the world,--and thy peace shall be as a river, and thy
righteousness as the waves of the sea."

But the proud and legal spirit of the Jew blinded him, and he did not
perceive the true meaning and intent of his national religion. He made it
an end, instead of a mere means to an end. Hence, it became a mechanical
round of observances, kept up by custom, and eventually lost the power,
which it had in the earlier and better ages of the Jewish commonwealth,
of awakening the feeling of guilt and the sense of the need of a
Redeemer. Thus, in the days of our Saviour's appearance upon the earth,
the chosen guardians of this religion, which was intended to make men
humble, and feel their personal ill-desert and need of mercy, had become
self-satisfied and self-righteous. A religion designed to prompt the
utterance of the greatest of its prophets: "Woe is me! I am a man of
unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips," now
prompted the utterance of the Pharisee: "I thank Thee that I am not as
other men are."

The Jew, in the times of our Saviour and his Apostles, had thus entirely
mistaken the nature and purpose of the Old dispensation, and hence was
the most bitter opponent of the New. He rested in the formal and
ceremonial sacrifice of bulls and goats, and therefore counted the blood
of the Son of God an unholy thing. He thought to appear before Him in
whose sight the heavens are not clean, clothed in his own righteousness,
and hence despised the righteousness of Christ. In reality, he appealed
to the justice of God, and therefore rejected the religion of mercy.

But, this spirit is not confined to the Jew. It pervades the human race.
Man is naturally a legalist. He desires to be justified by his own
character and his own works, and reluctates at the thought of being
accepted upon the ground of another's merits. This Judaistic spirit is
seen wherever there is none of the publican's feeling when he said, "God
be merciful to me a sinner." All confidence in personal virtue, all
appeals to civil integrity, all attendance upon the ordinances of the
Christian religion without the exercise of the Christian's penitence and
faith, is, in reality; an exhibition of that same legal unevangelic
spirit which in its extreme form inflated the Pharisee, and led him to
tithe mint anise and cummin. Man's so general rejection of the Son of God
as suffering the just for the unjust, as the manifestation of the Divine
clemency towards a criminal, is a sign either that he is insensible of
his guilt, or else that being somewhat conscious of it he thinks to
cancel it himself.

Still, think and act as men may, the method of God in the Gospel is the

Book of the day: