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4. The sin of our nature is, of all sins, the most fixed and abiding. Sinful actions, though the guilt and stain of them may remain, yet in themselves they are passing. The drunkard is not always at his cup, nor the unclean person always acting lewdness. But the corruption of nature is an abiding sin ; it remains with men in its full power by night and by day, at all times, fixed as with bands of iron and brass ; till their nature be changed by converting grace ; and the remains of it continue with the godly, until the death of the body. Pride, envy, covetousness, and the like, are not always stirring in thee. But the proud, envious, carnal nature, is still with thee; even as the clock that is wrong is not always striking wrong ; but the wrong set continues with it, without great intermission.
5. It is the great reigning sin, Rom. vi. 12. « Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof." There are three things you may observe in the corrupt heart. (1.) There is the corrupt nature; the corrupt set of the heart, whereby men are unapt for all good, and fitted for all evil. This the Apostle here calls, sin which reigns. (2.) There are particular lusts, or dispositions of that corrupt nature, which the Apostle calls the lusts thereof; such as pride, covetousness, &c. (3.) There is one among these, which is (like Saul amongst the people) higher by far than the rest, name. ly, sin which doth.80 easily beset us, Heb. xii. l. This we usually call the predominant sin, because it doth, as it were, reign over other particular lusts; so that other lusts must yield to it. These three are like a river which divides itself into many streams, whereof one is greater than the rest.
The corruption of nature is the river-head, which has many particular lusts, in which it runs ; but it mainly disburdens itself into what is commonly called one's predominant sin. Now, all of these being fed by the sin of our nature, it is evident that sin is the great reigning sin which never los eth its superiority over particular lasts, that live and die with it, and by it. But as in some rivers, the main stream runs not always in one and the same channel ; so particu. lar predominants may be changed, as lust in youth may suceceded by covetousness in old age. Now, what doth it avait to reform in other sins, while the great reigning sin remains in its full power? What though some particular
Just be broken ? If that sin, the sin of our nature, keep the throne, it will set up another in its stead; as when a water course is stopped in one place, while the fountain is not dammed up, it will stream forth another way. And thus some cast off their prodigality, but covetousness comes up in its stead; some cast away their profanity, and the corruption of nature sends not its main stream that way as before; but it runs in another channel, namely, in that of a legal disposition, self-righteousness, or the like, so that people are ruined by their not eyeing the sin of their nature.
Lastly, It is an hereditary evil, Psal. li. 3. 4 In sin did my mother conceive me.” Particular lusts are not so, but in the virtue of their cause. A prodigal father may have a frugal son; but this disease is necessarily propagated in nature, and therefore hardest to cure. Surely then the word should be given out against this sin, as against the King of Israel, 1 Kings xxii. 31. Fight neither with small nor great, save only with this ; for this sin being broke, all other sins are broken with it; and while it stands entire, there is no victory.
IV. That ye may get a view of the corruption of your nature, I would recommend to you three things. (1.) Study to know the spirituality and extent of the law of God, for that is the glass wherein you may see yourselves. (2.) Observe your hearts all times, but especially under temptation. Temptation is a fire that brings up the scum of the vile heart: Do you carefully mark the first rising's of corruption. Lastly, Go to God through Jesus Christ, for illumination by his Spirit. Lay out your soul before the Lord, as willing to know the vileness of your nature; say unto him, That which I know not, teach thou me, and be willing to take in light from the word. Believe, and you shall see. It is by the word the Spirit teacheth, but without the Spirit's teaching, all other teaching will be to little purpose. Though the gospel should shine about you, like the sun at noon-day, and this great truth be never so plainly preached; you will never see yourselves aright, until the Spirit of the Lord light his candle within your breast : The fulness and glory of Christ, the corruption and vileness of our nature, are never rightly learned, but where the Spirit of Christ is the teacher.
And now to shut up this weighty point, let the consideration of what is said commend Christ to you all. Ye that are brought out of your natural state of corruption unto Christ, be humble ; still coming to Christ, and improving your union with him, to the further weakening of the remains of this natural corruption. Is your nature changed ? It is but in part so. The day was ye could not stir ; now ye are cured; but remember the cure is not perfected, ye still go halting. And though it were better with you
than it is, the remembrance of what you were by nature should keep you low. Ye that are yet in your natural state, take with it; believe the corruption of your nature ; and let Christ and his grace be precious in your eyes. O that ye would at length be serious about the state of your souls ! What mind ye to do? Ye must die ; ye must appear before the judgment-seat of God. Will ye lie down, and sleep another night at ease, in this case ? Do it not; for before another day you may be sisted before God's dreadful tribunal, in the grave-cloths of your corrupt state ; and your vile souls cast into the pit of destruction, as a corrupt lump, to be for ever buried out of God's
sight. For I testify unto you all, there is no peace with God, no pardon, no heaven for you, in this state ; there is but a step betwixt you and eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord : If the brittle thread of your life, which may be broke with a touch, ere you are aware, be indeed broken while you are in this state, you are ruined for ever, and without remedy. But come speedily to Jesus Christ; he has cleansed as vile souls as yours; and he will yet « cleanse the blood that he hath not cleansed,” Joel iii. 21. Thus far of the sinfulness of man's natural state,
THE MISERY OF MAN'S NATURAL STATE.
EPHESIANS ii. 3.
We were by nature the Children of Wrath, even as
AVING shewed you the sinfulness of man's natural
state, I come now to lay before you the misery of it. A sinful state cannot be but a miserale state. If sin go before, wrath follows of course. Corruption and destruction are so knit together, that the Holy Ghost calls destruction, even eternal destruction, corruption, Gal. vi. 8. “ He that soweth to his fic sli, shall of the flesh reap corruption;" that is, everlasting destruction; as is clear from its being opposed to life everlasting, in the following clause. And so the Apostle having shown the Ephesians their real state by nature, viz. that they were dead in sins and trespasses, altogether corrupt; he tells them in the words of the text, their relative state, namely, that the pit was digged for them, while in that state of corruption ; being dead in sins, they were by nature children of wrath, even as others.
In the words we have four things:
1. The misery of a natural state ; it is a state of wrath, as well as a state of sin. We were, says the Apostle, children of wrath, bound over, and liable to the wrath of God; under wrath in some measure; and, in wrath, bound over to more, even the full measure of it in hell, where the floods of it go over the prisoners for ever. Thus Saul, in his wrath, adjudging David to die, 1 Sam. xx. 31. and David, in his wrath, passing sentence of death against the man in the parable, 2 Sam. xii. 5. say each of them, of his supposed criminal, He shall surely die : or, as the words in the first language are, he is a son of death. So the natural man is a child of wrath, a son of death. He is a malefactor dead in law, lying in chains of guilt; a criminal held fast in his fetters, till the day of execution ; which will not fail, unless a pardon be obtained from his God, who is his judge and party too. By that means, indeed, children of wrath may become children of the kingdom. The phrase in the text, however common it is in holy language,
is very significant. And as it is evident, that the Apostle calling natural men the children of disobedience, ver. 2. means more than that they were disobedient chil. dren; for such may the Lord's own children be: So to be children of wrath is more than simply to be liable to, or under wrath. Jesus Christ was liable to, and under-wrath; but I doubt we have any warrant to say, he was a child of wrath. The phrase seems to intimate, that men are, whatsoever they are in their natural state, under the wrath of God; that they are wholly under wrath ; wrath is, as it were, woven into their very nature, and mixeth itself with the whole of the man; who is (if I may so speak) a very lump of wrath, a child of hell, as the iron in the fire is all fire. For men naturally are children of wrath, come forth (so to speak) out of the womb of wrath ; Jonah's gourd was the son of a night, which we render came up in a night, Jonah iv. 10. as if it had come out of the womb of the night, (as we read of the womb of the morning, Psal. cx. 3.) and so the birth following the belly whence it came was soon gone. The sparks of fire are called sons of the burning coal, Job v. 7. marg. Isa. xxi. 10. “ O my threshing, and the corn (or son) of my floor," threshed in the floor of wrath, and, as it were, brought forth by it. Thus the natural man is a child of wrath; “ It comes into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones,” Psal. cix. 18. For though Judas was the only son of perdition amongst the Apostles, yet all men, by nature, are of the same family.
2. There is the rise of this misery; men have it by na. ture. They owe it to their nature, not to their substance or offence; for that neither is nor was sin ; and, therefore, cannot make them children of wrath, though for sin it may be under wrath ; not to their nature as qualified, at man's creation, by his Maker, but to their nature, as vitiated and corrupted by the fall. To the vicious quality, or corruption of their nature,(whereof befort,)