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The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 COR. ii. 14.
THE state of a true Christian is a state of peace, joy, love, and holiness; but before a man attains to it, he must go through a course of fear, anxiety, and repentance, whether long or short; for no one was ever cured in soul, by the great Physician, Jesus Christ, till he felt himself sin-sick, and was loaded in his conscience with the burden of his iniquities; especially that of a hard impenitent heart, which he could not himself break and soften. Therefore, St. Paul, writing to the children of God at Rome, told them, that they were no longer under the spirit of bondage to fear;' but that they had received the Spirit of adoption,' whereby they knew that God was 'their Father,' and heaven their inheritance. Whence it clearly appears, that those who now had the Spirit of grace, of love, and adoption, had had the spirit of bondage and fear. Before which, they were in their state of nature, wanting the grace both to love and fear God; of one in this last state St. Paul speaks under the appellation of a natural man,' in the words of the
There are then three states through which all the children of Adam must pass before they can be real
Christians. That of an unawakened or natural man," who neither loves nor fears God:-That of a penitent man, or returning sinner, who, being awakened into a real concern for his salvation, fears God and the threatenings of his law, and dreads death with its consequences: And, Thirdly, That of a man under grace,' or a true believer, who loves God above all persons and things, and rejoices in the expiation and pardon of his sins, which he has now received in Christ by a living faith.
We see these three states exemplified in the clearest manner in the life of St. Paul. Though he was one of the most learned, sober and honest men in Jerusalem, and very strict in observing the hours of prayer, and of the service of the God of his fathers, as he had been taught; though he had endeavoured, as he says himself, 'to keep a conscience void of offence towards God and men,' and though his persecuting the saints was owing to his ignorance, he himself declaring that he did it in the sincerity of his mistaken zeal, thinking he was doing God service: Nevertheless, he was but an unawakened, unregenerate man all the while, and remained such till Jesus awoke him from his sleep of carnal security, as he was going to Damascus, and shewed him that he was but a painted sepulchre. Then he entered into a second state, the state of an awakened and returning sinner, who dreads the wrath to come, and endeavours, if possible, to flee from it. Three days and nights he remained in this state, crying for the pardon of his sins, without allowing himself time to eat or drink. But these pangs of his new birth were too severe to last long. The fourth day God introduced him into the third state I mentioned, gave peace to his guilty conscience, scattered all his fears, and gave him the Spirit of adoption by revealing Jesus in his heart, as he himself speaks. Then was he a Christian; then was he born again, and began to be kept in the love of God, and in the knowledge of Christ by the peace that passes all understanding, fighting the good fight of faith in union with those Christians whom he hated and despised before. Take away only the external light and splendour, and the miraculous circumstances
of St. Paul's conversion, and you see in him what God must do in us, that we may become living branches of the true vine, Christ Jesus.
Now as we are all most certainly in one of these three states, and it highly concerns us to know in which of them this morning, I shall describe to you that of the unawakened or natural man, that you may be able to judge whether you are yet in it; or whether you have taken one true step towards your everlasting home. And, in the evening, by God's grace, I shall endeavour to point out a little farther that narrow, but sure way, that leads to life. You see the vast importance of the subject, and that it demands all your attention. O may you give it willingly! and may God speak himself to your hearts, while I, in his name, address your outward ears!
The natural unawakened man is one that is born a child of wrath, as being descended from fallen Adam, and having brought into the world with him the root and seed of all manner of evil, which is the case of every child of man; for where is the person that can say, he never was in the condition of David, who owned, in the bitterness of his heart, that he was born in sin,' and that his mother conceived him in iniquity?' Is there one under heaven that never was proud, self-willed, passionate, stubborn, and a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God?' And are not these the only sources of all those streams of iniquity which over flow the whole earth? We are then all born natural men,' spiritually, asleep, that is to say, partakers of the fallen nature of Adam, (which in the original language signifies Man,) partakers of that proud and stubborn nature which made him resemble devils, and of that sensual and earthly nature by which he became like the beasts that perish. This Lature of Adam, this old man within us, as St. Paul terms it, we must put off by repentance and conversion, or die in the same state in which we were born, that is, 'children of wrath,' and unawakened, mere natural And there will be no need of passing a new sentence of condemnation upon any such, for they shall have their curse written upon their hearts.Depart, ye
put on in Christ
cursed,' shall Jesus Christ say to them, ye that do not
Being thus fast asleep in his own ignorance, he is in some sense at rest; for, as he is blind, so is he secure, and cries with the presumptuous man in the Psalm, Tush, there shall no harm happen to me.' The darkness which covers him on every side, keeps him in a kind of peace, (so far as peace can consist with the works of the devil, and with an earthly devilish mind,) he sees not that he stands on the edge of the pit, therefore he does not fear it; he cannot tremble at the danger he does not know, and has not understanding enough to fear. Why is it, O natural man, sleeping Jonas, that, even now in the temple of God, thou art in no dread of God? Because, thou art totally ignorant of him, if not saying in thy heart,There is no God; or, "God Almighty does not trouble himself with considering what passes
under the sun;" yet satisfying thyself as well, to all Epicurean intents and purposes, by saying, "God is merciful;" swallowing up and destroying, in that confused idea of mercy, all the holiness of God, and his essential hatred of sin; all his wisdom and truth, and even that strict justice which covered once the whole earth with a flood, which rained fire from heaven upon thousands of sinners, which bade the earth open its mouth and swallow up Corah and his rebellious com. pany; nay, that strict justice whose sword pierced the very soul of the holy Jesus, when he hung in our place upon the accursed tree.
But what wonder is it, brethren, if, as long as we remain in our natural, unawakened state, we are in no dread of the vengeance denounced against those who are unconverted, and obey not the blessed law of God? We do not understand it, we think that nothing is so easy as to be a true Christian. We suppose, the main point is to be careful of performing external duties, and to be outwardly blameless. We imagine that all is done, if we live honestly, give a few alms, are free from the gross vices of the age, and do not omit attending the church service. We do not see that the law of God extends to every temper, desire, thought, motion of the heart, or, what is still worse, we fancy perhaps that the obligation to obey it is abrogated, that Christ came to destroy the law, and purchase for us the privilege of enjoying the world, and the things that are in it, without fear of punishment; to save his people in, not from their sins, and to bring us to heaven in our state of nature; notwithstanding Christ's own words, that not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass away, till all things are fulfilled; and that only those shall enter into the kingdom of heaven who do the will of our Father who is in heaven.'
But, brethren, the unawakened man is secure, not only because he has no just notion of the inflexible justice of God, and of the strictness and holiness of his law, but because he is also utterly ignorant of himself; for he does not know, or (which comes to the same) he does not