« PreviousContinue »
of his infinite mercy and grace to others, and the more for its being so great in some instances, in being exercised towards those who are so unworthy ; and yet they would not like him if he were not infinitely merciful; they would wish him to be merciful enough to pardon the most unworthy, and yet sometimes quarrel with him because he is no more merciful.
Now there is a similar inconsistency in them with themselves in that they do not like men for being godly; they have an enmity against such sort of men: and at the same time, they do not like those who are godly, they hate men for being wicked, and will have a bitter spirit against them for it. The world in its fallen state cannot agree with the church of God; it has always had a spite against it, and has almost always from the beginning of the world hitherto been persecuting it; and yet neither can they agree among themselves, but are at the same time contending and quarrelling with one another. And there is no suiting them in this world, so neither is there any suiting them in another; they would neither go to heaven, nor to hell. They do not like heaven because it is holy; and yet they would not like it, if it were a world of wickedness. And such is the jarring and confusion that is in their disposition, that those things that they do choose are impossibilities, and self-contradictions, and self-inconsistences. They would have a sufficient Saviour and not a holy one; they would have one good, and excellent, and holy enough to save them, and yet would not have one with any holiness at all. They have a mind to have salvation from misery, without salvation from sin; when sin is their misery. They have a mind to have light, and yet to keep darkness without light; they would have a light, consisting in darkness; and sweet, consisting in bitterness; and good, consisting in evil. They would have such a sort of happiness as is impossible in its own nature ; for they would have happiness with upholiness, which is as much as to say they would be happy men, and yet remain destroyed and ruined. And when life and death are set before them to choose, and they are urged to make their choice, and told that they must certainly have one or the other, that there is no possibility of avoiding it ; yet they will come to a deliberate determinate choice to have neither one nor the other. They are always halting between two opinions, they are always choosing and yet never come to a choice. Instead of those holy principles that man had in his heart at first, that sweetly consented one with another, he has now introduced into his soul a number of vile and hateful lusts, that clash one with another : pride clashing with covetousness, and covetousness thwarting sensuality, and sloth crushing all these ; and instead of the purity in body and mind, which man had at first, he is now, if he has
any show of purity, become like a whited sepulchre, that is beautifully adorned outside, and within full of dead men's bones, and all uncleanness. Their hearts disagree with their hearts, and their mouths disagree with their hearts; they have the visage and show of saints, and the hearts of devils. Their prayers are filled up with thanksgiving, adoration, great honour to God, praise and glory to him, a show of humility before him, a show of repentance for sin, trust, thankfulness, desire of obedience, and trust in Christ alone; when within is nothing but a slight and contempt of God, enmity against God, distrust of God, pride, self-righteousness, obstinacy and disobedience, without one jot or tittle of honour, or love, or trust, or humility, or repentance, or obedience, or any of those things that there is a show of in their prayers. And now they say and profess one thing, and practice another; they will show one thing to God, and do another, and will live all their days in this world carnally, contentious, and alienated from God, in the indulgence of brutish lusts and filthiness; and yet hope when they die to go to be with him, and in eternal communion with him in perfect holiness, and with holy angels, spending an eternity in holy contemplation and praise, and to have these things for their everlasting happiness. And when they seem to practice well for a time it lasts but a litile while, but their practice at one time is utterly inconsistent with that at another. Yea, if they were narrowly observed, their practice at the same time is inconsistent with itself: saints at church, and heathen at home; saints before the world, heathen in secret ; with the tongues and faces of the children of God, and with the hearts of the children of the devil.
Such work has the fall made in the nature of man, such a creature as this is man become, instead of shining as at first, in the holy and lovely image of God. Thus has the fall of man ruined God's workmanship. And if the fall has thus ruined man, what can be more effectually ruined ? Does not this show that it is indeed so, that man is in a lost and undone condition; and can it be expected that any other can ever restore to him the divine image, but only that same God that made hiin at first ? And how vain are the attempts of natural men to rectify their natures in their own strength, wherein is such woful ruin and confusion! And is there not need of a mighty Saviour in order to this?
2. This subject may be applied in the way of conviction to natural men, in several particulars.
1. Hence you may see your Folly. Wisdom is ever consistent with itself, and wise men are not wont to act inconsistently. Self-inconsistency in temporal things is ever looked
upon as a note of folly. Those men, that talk very inconsistently, are accounted to talk very foolishly; and so those men that act inconsistenly with themselves in temporal matters, are looked upon as acting very absurdly and ridiculously, and it is common with men to treat such with derision. Certainly, then, to be so exceedingly self-inconsistent in such great concerns as we have spoken of, is the highest degree of folly.
The inconsistency of the judgment of wicked men shows their folly. It shows the foolishness of those practical judgments they govern themselves by, that they make them contrary to the plain dictates of their own reason. Men oftentimes count the judgments of others very foolish, because they are very inconsistent with other men's reason, though their judgments are formed acccording to the best light of their own reason; but how much more foolish is it for men, in such things as infinitely concern them, to make such practical judgments of things as are plainly contrary not only to other men's reason, but to their own; so as to determine their will and their practice by those judgments ! as for instance, when men's practical judgment and conclusion within themselves, by which they determine their choice and practice, is, that it is best for them for the present, to neglect their souls and seek the vanities of this world, which are but for a moment, more than their eternal welfare.
And how does it show the folly of men's judgment when some of their judgments are inconsistent with others; as when in one thing they will judge that a long continued eternity is of less importance than this short and fleeting life! So it shows the great folly of men's wills and dispositions, that they are so inconsistent, that in some respects ihey will both choose and refuse the same things, will wish and pray for them, and take pains for them, and yet will not have thein when offered. How madly would a man be looked upon to act, that should so act in temporal concerns, if he was sick and like to perish for want of a certain medicine, and should wish and long for that medicine, and ask others to seek it for him, and yet when it was bought and offered, he should utterly refuse it!
What folly does it argue that men's dispositions are so inconsistent with each other, that there is no suiting them with any thing! they are pleased neither with piping por mourning, with eating nor fasting; they will not have God, or Christ, or heaven as they are, and yet will not have either any otherwise. How would men, if they manifested such a disposition in temporal things, often be hissed at, as most ridiculous, childish, and foolish; yea, and be accounted to act like madmen! and what folly does it discover, that they will choose, and accept of nothing but that which is impossible in its own nature, VOL. VIII.
and a self-contradiction, as when they will have happiness without holiness. If any man should act thus in temporal things; if he would have no house, because he could not build one in the air; if he refused to go, because he could not go without feet; or to see, because he could not see without eyes, what words would be thought adequate to describe his folly! Yet this is the very folly of sinners with regard to their salvation.
How would men be looked upon if they acted thus in their temporal affairs! If they must inevitably perish in the winter, if they did not labour in the summer, and yet spend all the summer in halting between two opinions; or if they were sick with some deadly disease, and were told that they must inevitably die if they did not send for a physician, yet were undetermined, and when the distemper increased upon them, still continued undetermined, and when it was come to extremity, and seemed very near death, still could not come to a conclusion; or if an house should be on fire over their heads, and they could not make up their minds to flee from under it.
And what folly does it argue for men, that their practices are so inconsistent with their hearts, and that they say one thing and do another, and so are unsteady in their practice, and inconsistent with themselves at different times ! It is looked upon as great folly, and what persons are much to be ashamed of, to be so unsteady in temporal matters, to undo one day what they did another; and so, in their practice in some things to be inconsistent with their practice in others; in one thing to act like a friend, and in another like an enemy. Persons that do so in temporals are abhorred of men, and looked upon as not fit for human society.
2. You may hereby be convinced of your Misery. A man cannot be happy, and cannot but be miserable, with whom it is thus. It shows a man to be undone. He, whose nature is brought into such violation, is evidently brought into a state of ruin. Where there is such self-inconsistency and self-opposition, a man is at war with himself, and therefore must be miserable. It is a calamity for a man not to be at peace with his neighbour; and to live in contention with those that are about him, but certainly it is a much greater calamity for him to be at war with himself; to have his judgment at war with his judgment, and his will at war with his reason and conscience, and his will at war with itself, and one lust thwarting another, and his outward man at war with his inward man; his mouth contradicting his heart, his practice contradicting his profession, and contradicting itself. It is impossible that such a man should enjoy any happiness as long as things are thus within him. Do what you will here, you cannot make him happy; if you take bim and place him in a palace, and set him on a throne, and clothe him in the robes of princes, and put
a crown of gold on his head, and set before him the richest dainties, feed him and feast him as much as you will, still he that so disagrees with himself, is a miserable wretch. Though he may be stupid, yet it is impossible he should enjoy any true peace or rest. How should he, in whom all things are in such utter confusion and uproar within, and in whom there is so much self-opposition ?
This may convince us of the truth, and show us the reason of Isai. lvii. 20, 21, “ But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
How should he have any peace, who is his own enemy, who chooses and practices these things which his own conscience condemns, and which his own reason tells him tend to his own ruin? How should he have any peace, that hates his own soul and loves his own death, and that has one lust holding him one way, and another the contrary, so as in some respects to choose and refuse the same thing, to wish for a thing that at the same time he hates and refuses, and so goes on from day to day in warring against himself?
3. This shows your Inexcusableness. By this inconsistency with yourself, you are condemned out of your own mouth in that you act contrary to your own conscience. Your own conscience condemns you in your will, and practice being contrary to your own reason; your own reason condemns you in acting contrary to your profession; your own profession condemns you in the sense in which the apostle speaks of an heretic as being condemned of himself. Titus iii. 10, 11. “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself:" i. e. he in departing from his former profession, is inconsistent with himself: his present heretical tenets are contrary to his former solemn profession, and therefore that former profession condemns him.
Consider how inexcusable you, who are thus inconsistent with yourself in your wickedness, will appear at the last day; when you come to stand before the judgment-seat of God, when you are by him called to an account for your wicked life, how will your mouth be stopped. When you are called to an account why you have preferred things of such short and uncertain continuance as the things of this vain world, to the great things of the eternal world, what will you have to say for yourself, when it shall appear that herein you acted in direct opposition to the plain dictates of your own reason, and that this choice is inconsistent with the judgment and choice you were wont to make in temporal things ? And what will you say for yourself when you are called to give