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the devoutest Pharisee on earth, than in the vilest pirate that ever sailed the seas; for it is true of every unregenerate man, that he is at enmity against God. (Rom. viii. 7.)
By the law is the knowledge of sin; and by the law a natural man may see that he is a sinner in so complete a sense, as that he has nothing to make a righteousness of; and yet the self-righteous disposition may remain wholly unmortified. Thus in this sense, no doubt, Satan now knows that he is a sinner; and in this sense, it is certain, Satan and all wicked beings will know at the day of judgment that they are sinners. However, the pride of Satan's heart is not mortified now, nor will the pride of Satan, or any other wicked being, be slain by the convictions they will receive at the day of judgment.
Nothing can effectually take down the heart, short of that light in which the divine law and our own character is seen, through the regenerating influences of the Holy Spirit. If before regeneration the commandment come, sin revive, and I die, in a sort; yet all this is sore against the bias of the heart : but it is in regeneration, that “ I through the law am ” cordially “dead to the law, that I may live to God."
For a disposition to justify ourselves in not loving God with all our hearts, will itself actually die and cease to be, and the contrary disposition take place, only in proportion as God appears to our souls worthy of our supreme love. It is this, and nothing short of this, which will incline us, from the heart, of our own accord, to take all the blame of our disaffection to the divine character home to ourselves. And so, while the divine law is viewed in the light of the divine glory, it will appear as it never did before, holy, just, and good, a glorious law; and it will come to pass, as it is written, “I through the law am dead to the law, that I may live unto God.”
The damned will at the day of judgment have such a knowledge of God and of themselves, as will convince their consciences that the law is just. (Rom. ii. 5. Jude 15.) Sore against their wills, they will be forced to own that God ought to have been loved and obeyed; and that they deserve damnation for their disaffection and rebellion. But, being blind to the holy beauty of the divine nature, they will feel no inclination, no free, genuine, cordial disposition to take the blame of their disaffection and rebellion home to themselves. Their proud, self-justifying temper will remain unmortified, while they are conscience-convinced that they are absolutely without excuse. They would be heartily glad to excuse themselves and lay the blame upon God, if they could ; their old
disposition that way will be wholly alive: but their mouths will be stopped ; and therefore they will blaspheme God, and be self-condemned, both at once -- an amazing, dreadful state.
But in regeneration, the sinner is brought to such a view of God, as an absolutely perfect, infinitely glorious and amiable being; and to such a view of the divine law, as holy, just, and good, a glorious law, as even begins to kill a self-righteous, self-justifying disposition in the bottom of the heart. And from the inmost soul the man begins to see, think, and feel, that God is wholly right, and that he himself is wholly wrong; and so from the heart to give up every sin-extenuating, selfjustifying plea, and cordially to take the whole blame to himself, and frankly to own the honest truth — “I have sinned against Heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” “God be merciful unto me, a sinner.'
and not till now, will he begin to see that he needs that kind of pardon which the gospel offers. A pardon which supposes, that our disaffection to the Deity is entirely inexcusable, yea, infinitely criminal ; so very criminal, that the blood of an incarnate God was necessary to make atonement for it, that, consistent with the honor of the divine government, it might be forgiven.
And now, and not till now, will he begin to see the atonement of Christ. For till now he will not begin to see his disaffection to the Deity so very criminal, as to render such an atonement needful, in order to his being pardoned, consistent with the divine honor.
And as his sense of God, as an absolutely perfect, infinitely glorious and amiable being, increaseth ; and his sense of the divine law as holy, just, and good, a glorious law, honored on the cross by the blood of an incarnate God; and his sense of the inexcusableness and infinite evil of not loving God with all his heart; as a sense of these increases, his proud, self-righteous, self-justifying disposition, will die ; and his need of Christ and free grace appear in a clearer and clearer light. No man so sensible of his need of Christ and free grace as the apostle Paul, who beyond doubt was the holiest of all mere men that ever lived — "I through the law am dead to the law, that I may live to God. I am crucified with Christ.”
THE NATURE AND CONSEQUENCES OF SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS; AND
HOW THE GOD OF THIS WORLD BLINDS THE MINDS OF THEM THAT BELIEVE NOT.
When it is said, that Satan provoked or stirred up David to number Israel, (1 Chron. xxi. 1,) it is not to be imagined, that the corruptions of his own heart did not move him to that deed. This was no doubt the true state of the case, (ver. 17,) and Satan only took advantage of those corruptions to set him on. So, when it is said that the God of this world blinds the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them, no doubt the corruptions of the human heart lie at the bottom of all that criminal blindness, which Satan endeavors to increase and strengthen by all ways in his power.
The question therefore comes to this — What is there in the human heart, which renders men blind to the glory of the gospel ? or, in other words, what is there in the heart of a fallen creature, which renders him blind to the beauty and glory of the divine nature, shining with so much brightness, in the gospel way of salvation through the blood of Christ? For if man were not a fallen, depraved, vicious creature, he could not be blind to such beauty; a beauty which affects the hearts and engages the attention of all the angelical hosts, who have not that special concern in the affair which we have. They desire, earnestly desire, to look into these things, (1 Pet. i. 12,) and discern in them the manifold wisdom of God. (Eph. iii. 10.)
I. Spiritual blindness consists primarily in the want of spiritual sight; or in not being sensible of the loveliness, beauty, and glory of divine things, as they are in themselves. There is a natural beauty and glory in the natural world, in the sun, moon, and stars, etc., which men see, who are not naturally blind; so there is a holy, heavenly, divine beauty and glory in divine things, in God and Christ, in the law and gospel, which men see, who are not spiritually blind. The word blindness, which is applied to the mind, is borrowed from one of our external senses; and in its original signification means a privation of sight. So it' was with the man born blind. He was destitute of the sight of his eyes from his birth. But although this outward blindness has, in several respects, a great resemblance to inward spiritual blindness, -as a blind man has
no more idea of natural beauty than one spiritually blind has of divine beauty,--yet there is this great essential difference between the blindness of the eyes and the spiritual blindness of the mind, namely, one is the nature of a calamity simply, the other is not only a calamity, but is also of a vicious nature, in itself properly a crime ; as it is seated chiefly in the heart, and consists in being stupid to that divine beauty and loveliness, with which the mind ought to be deeply affected. To have no relish for holy beauty, to have no heart to look upon holiness itself as a lovely thing, is equivalent to having no heart to love the Holy One of Israel, who is the God of glory; which beyond all doubt is criminal, and that in a very high degree.
Were we acquainted with a man, who appeared to be withont any spark of generosity or friendship in his heart, a man that cared not in the least for his neighbor's welfare, or for the public good, and even without natural affection to his own offspring, no feeling to any interest but his own, common sense would teach us to look upon such a character as very vicious. And if he was blind to the wants of the poor, and deaf to their cries, we should look upon that blindness and deafness of a criminal nature ; and the more blind and deaf, the more criminal should we pronounce the man.
And by parity of reason, if we are blind to the loveliness of the most excellent being in the universe, discovered in the clearest and brightest manner, it must, by all holy beings, by all good judges, be looked upon as being of the nature of a crime. If a hard-hearted man justifies himself in being blind to the distressing wants of the poor, every self-justifying plea, in the eyes of his benevolent neighbor, will render his character so much the more vile and odious. And if to be blind to the beauty of the divine nature, ever so clearly revealed, is no crime, then it is no crime not to love God; that is, no crime to live in the breach of the first and great command, and no crime to be without that which is the chief foundation of all religion. And we may as well say, there is no crime in a total disregard to all being, in general, and in being entirely under the government of selfish affections; which is as absurd as to say, that there is nothing in the system worth the least regard but ourselves. And therefore, in the language of Scripture, a “heart of stone," that is, a blind, senseless, stupid heart, is one name given to a wicked, ungodly heart; because, in Scripture account, to be as blind, senseless, and stupid to the glory of divine things as a stone, is of a criminal nature. A heart of stone is a wicked heart. Our blessed Savior, by all he said and did, gave himself a character without a blemish, perfect in beauty. His disciples, who were but poor,
illiterate fishermen, " beheld his glory as the glory of the only. begotten Son of God.” Others, who were gentlemen of good sense and a polite education, “wise and prudent,” were so far from discerning any form or comeliness in him, that they cried, “He is a Samaritan, and hath a devil; why hear ye him?" And therefore, as their blindness to the beauty of his character was not for want of natural abilities, or outward advantages, but owing entirely to the state of their minds, to the frame of their hearts, so it was altogether of a criminal nature; and they had no cloak for their sin, in our Savior's judgment. To say, they had some cloak, and were not altogether criminal in their blindness, is to say, there was some blemish in our Savior's character; which is no better than downright infidelity.
II. Spiritual blindness, which originally consists in a want of relish for holy beauty, for that beauty which is peculiar to holy beings and holy things, and is criminal, considered as such, is capable of being greatly increased and confirmed through the exercise and influence of the various corruptions of a wicked heart, whereby it may become criminal in a still higher degree. And here the God of this world may have a great hand in blinding the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine unto them.
Thus, to a worldly heart, the devil may possibly present the glory of this world, the glory of riches, honors, and pleasures, in so strong a light, as quite to carry away the mind from all serious thoughts about God and Christ, and a future state. “ They say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” So that when the gospel is preached in all its glory, it shall not be able to gain the least regard; nay, not so much as to gain the least attention of the mind; and when sermon is over, like the generality of the Jews in Christ's day, they make light of it, and go their way, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise. By this means, multitudes, if not by far the greater part of ungodly men, under the gospel, live and die so inattentive to the gospel scheme, as never to gain any considerable acquaintance with it. They are too indifferent about the matter ever to get what is called a doctrinal knowledge of the Christian religion. So also the young and gay part of mankind are eager in the pursuit of pastimes, merriments, and sports, to the entire neglect of all divine things, while Satan is not wanting to do all he may to push them on, that they may never attend to the glorious gospel of Christ. And while mankind thus serve divers lusts and pleasures, and live in malice and envy besides, hateful and hating one another, the gospel is to them, like the seed which fell by the way-side, all thrown away and lost.