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II. Sinners do hate God, because they are supremely selfish; and he is, as he ought to be, infinitely opposed to their supreme object of pursuit. The first thing that we discover, in the conduct of little children, is, the desire of self-gratification. At what period of their existence, their desire becomes selfishness, it is impossible for us to say. That a proper desire to gratify an appetite for food, and drink, and all our constitutional appetites, is not sinful, is manifest. These appetites, have no moral character; and their proper indulgence, is not sinful. But whenever their indulgence is inordinate, or whenever the indulgence of our appetites, comes in collision with the requirements of God; whenever, and wherever we indulge our constitutional inclinations, when we are under an obligation to abstain from an indulgence, in every such case, we sin; for in all these cases we are selfish; we make our own indulgence, the rule of our duty, instead of the requirement of God. We consent to indulge ourselves, at the public expense, and in a way that is inconsistent with the glory of God, and the highest good of his universe. This is the essence, and the history of all sin. Now, at whatever period of our existence, we first prefer self- gratification, to our duty to God, when we first make self- gratification the supreme object of choice; at what particular moment self-gratification comes to be the ruling principle of our conduct, and the highest aim of our lives, it is perhaps impossible for us to determine.
But whenever this may be, this is the commencement of our depravity. It is our first moral act. It constitutes our first moral character. Every thing, that has preceded this, has had no moral character at all. The Bible assures us, that this occurs so early in our history, that it may be said, that "the wicked are estranged from the womb. That they go astray, as soon as they be born, speaking lies." This language is not, of course, to be understood literally, because we do not speak at all, as soon as we are born: but the wicked speak lies, as soon as they do speak. Behold, says the Psalmist, "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." This language also, is certainly figurative; for it cannot be possible, that the substance of a conceived fetus should be sin! This would contradict God's own definition of sin. He says, "sin is a transgression of the law;" but the law prescribes a rule of action, and not a mode of existence. If the substance of a conceived fetus is sin: if the child itself, previous to birth, is a sin, than God has committed it. All that can possibly be meant, by this, and similar passages without making utter nonsense of the word of God; without arraying different passages in everlasting contradiction to each other, is, that we were always sinners from the commencement of ourmoral existence. From the earliest moment of the exercise of moral agency. And to insist upon the literal understanding of such passages as these, is the most dangerous perversion of the Bible. Adopt the principle of interpretation, that insists upon these passages being understood literally, and apply it, in the exposition of the whole Bible, and you will prove, not only that sin and holiness, are substances, but that God is, a material being. Indeed, here has been the great error, on the subject of depravity. This grand rule of interpretation, that all language is to be understood, according to the nature of the subject to which it is applied, has been overlooked, and the same meaning has often been attached to the same word, whether applied to matter, or to mind. For instance, to set aside God's definition of sin, as consisting entirely in the transgression of law, and bring in those figurative expressions, that would seem, unexplained by God's own definition, to represent sin, as consisting in something else, than voluntary transgression; is to array the Scripture in irreconcilable contradiction to itself, by overlooking one of the most important rules of Biblical interpretation.
It is to trifle with the word of God. It is tempting the Holy Ghost. It is a stupid, not to say a willful perversion of the truth of God. Now, the great reason why sinners are opposed to God, is not, that there is any defect in their nature, rendering their opposition physically necessary, but because he is irreconcilably opposed to their selfishness. He is infinitely opposed to the supreme end of their pursuit, that is, to their obtaining happiness, in a way, that is inconsistent with HIS glory, and the happiness of other beings.
The supreme end, at which they aim, is to promote their own happiness, in a way that is inconsistent with the public good. To this he is infinitely opposed. As they have an unholy end, in view, the means which they use , to accomplish this end, are, of course, as wicked as the end. God is therefore, as much opposed to the means, which they use, as to the end, which they are endeavoring to accomplish by those means. These means make up the history of their lives. They are all designed, directly, or indirectly, to affect the all absorbing object, at which the sinner aims; the promotion of his own happiness. God is therefore, as he ought to be, sincerely and conscientiously, and infinitely opposed to every thing they do or say, while in a state of inpenitency. They would make every thing subordinate to their own private interests. He insists upon it, that they shall seek their happiness, in a way that is consistent with, and calculated to promote the happiness of the whole. This is after all the only way in which, in the very nature of things they can be happy. He accordingly sets himself with full purpose of heart, to defeat every attempt which they make to obtain happiness in their own way. He is the irreconcilable adversary of all their selfish schemes. He embitters every cup of selfish joy, "turns their" selfish "council headlong; and brings down their violent dealing upon their own pate."
Thus you see that sinners hate God, because he is so holy. While they remain selfish, and he is infinitely benevolent, their characters, their designs, their desires, and all their ways are diametrically opposed to his, and his to theirs. They are direct opposites; and until they change, it will always be true as he has said, "I loathe them, and they abhor me."
Holiness, is a regard to right. God requires upon infinite penalties, that every moral being in the universe should do and feel and say, that which is perfectly right; less than this, he cannot require without injustice. But sinners are unwilling to do right. They would be at liberty to consult their own private interest in every thing, and they of course consider God as an enemy, because he insists upon their unqualified obedience to the law of right, however perfectly it counteracts their selfish schemes.
Again. Sinners hate God because he is so good.He is good and does good, and moves on in the promotion of the public interest in a way that often overturns and scatters to the winds, all their selfish projects and Babel-towers upon which they are attempting to climb to heaven. His heart is so set upon doing good, that in the prosecution of his great design, he has often overthrown families and nations that stood in his way; and once, he overwhelmed a world of sinners in a flood to prevent their mischief, and bring the world back into such a state, that, through the introduction of the law and Gospel, he might reclaim mankind, and save a multitude from hell.
Again. Sinners hate God, because he is impartial.They view their own interest as of supreme importance, and are laying themselves out to make everything in the universe bend to it. They would have the weather, the winds, and the whole material and moral universe, conform to the great object they have in view, to consummate and perpetuate their own happiness. But as God has an end in view entirely diverse from theirs; as his object is to promote the general happiness, and the happiness of individuals, only so far as is consistent with the happiness and rights of other beings, he continually thwarts them in their favorite projects. The very elements of the material universe, are so arranged and governed, as often to make shipwreck of their fondest hopes, and annihilate for even their most fondly cherished expectations.
But this is not all. Sinners hate God because he threatens to punish them for their sins. He will not compromise with them; he insists upon their obedience, or their damnation. He requests their repentance and reformation, or the everlasting destruction of their souls. Now, either alternative is supremely hateful to an unrepentant sinner. To repent, heartily to confess that God is right, and he is wrong; to take God's part against himself; to give up the pursuit of his own happiness, as the supreme object of desire; to dedicate himself with all he is and has to the service of God and the promotion of the public interest; is what he is utterly unwilling to do; and inasmuch as God insists upon it, will make no compromise, but demands unqualified and unconditional submission to his will, or the eternal damnation of his soul; the sinner is entirely unreconciled to either. He considers God as his infinite and almighty adversary, and makes war upon him with all his heart.
III. I am to show, that sinners hate God for the very reasons for which they ought to love him. They are the very reasons for which all holy beings do love him. His opposition to all sin, and to all injurious conduct of every kind; his high regard to individual, and general happiness; and in short, all the reasons for which selfish beings are so much opposed to him, are the foundation of obligation to love him, and are the reasons why reasonable beings, that have any regard to the moral fitness of things, feel it right, and infinitely obligatory in them, to love their Maker. He deserves to be loved for these reasons, and for no other. And it is for these, and no other reasons that sinners hate him. They do not hate him because he deserves their hatred, but because he deserves their love. It is not because he is wicked, but because he is good. It is not because they have any good reason to hate him, but because they have every possible reason to love him. I mean just as I say. Sinners not only hate God, in spite of infinitely strong reasons for loving him; but for these very reasons. Not only is it true, that these reasons for loving him do not prevent their hating him, but they are the very reasons for which they hate him.
I shall conclude this discourse with several remarks.
1st. From this subject you can see the ridiculous hypocrisy of infidels. It is very common for them to profess in their investigations and inquiries after truth, to be impartial. They insist upon it that Christians are already committed, and are therefore incapable of giving Christianity a candid and unbiased examination. Christians, they say, cannot make up a judgment to be relied upon, because they are already committed in favor of Christianity. But infidels seem to suppose that they are in circumstances to make up an unbiased and enlightened judgment; and to examine and decide without prejudice. But this is utterly absurd. They are not on neutral ground, as they suppose themselves to be. They are committed against the Bible. That they are the enemies of God, is demonstrated by their conduct, entirely irrespective of the Bible. That their lives are such as no good being can approve; such as God if he is holy must abhor, is a plain matter of fact. It needs no Bible to prove this. Now, here is a book claiming to be a revelation from God, demanding of them holiness of heart and life; and threatening them for their sins with eternal death. Now, is it not absurd? Is it not ridiculous and hypocritical, for these enemies of God, committed as they are against God, and against this revelation; to set themselves up as the only impartial judges?
They can sit down to the investigation of the subject without bias. They are on neutral ground. They feel no such prepossessions as to misguide their judgment. The fact is; admitting that Christians are as much prejudiced in favor of Christianity, as infidels say they are; still, unless infidels will admit that Christians are perfect, that they are wholly sinless, and entirely devoted to God; it will appear after all, that Christians are not so liable to be prejudiced in favor of Christianity, as infidels are against it. Infidels are entirely opposed to God, and all unrepentant sinners, as I have shown in the two former discourses, are totally depraved; and until Christians are entirely perfect, they will not be so completely biased in favor of God, as sinners are in favor of the devil. They will not until then of course, be so liable to misjudge in favor of the Bible, as sinners will be against it.
Christians, being upon the whole in favor of God, and therefore feeling a strong attachment to the Bible, and yet, having much remaining sin about them; and therefore liable to feel many objections to the strictness of its claims; are in the best circumstances, and in the most favorable state of mind of any beings in the world, to judge impartially. They are not so wicked as to reject what they see to be true, nor so obsequiously disposed, as blindly to submit to every thing that pretends to have a claim upon their obedience without investigation. By this I do not mean that Christians are better qualified to judge of the truth of the Christian religion, than if they were perfect; but I do mean to repel the absurd assertions of infidels, that the Christian's faith, is nothing more than a blind credulity. There never was at any time, piety enough in the church, to bear the restraints of pure Christianity, if the evidence in its favor, did not come upon them, with the power of demonstration.
2nd. From this subject you can see, that the wicked conduct of sinners is no proof that their nature is sinful.The universal sinfulness of men, has been supposed to conduct to the inevitable conclusion, that the nature of man must be in itself sinful. It has been said that in no other way, can the universal sinful conduct of men, be accounted for. It has been maintained, that an effect must be of the same nature of its cause; and that as the effects or actions of our nature are universally sinful, that therefore the nature or cause must be sinful.
But if the effect must be of the same nature of its cause, if the cause must have the same nature of the effect, then God must be a material being, for he is the cause of the existence of all matter, and therefore he must himself be material. The soul of man must also be material. It acts upon his material body, and causes his body to act upon other material things around him, and as it is constantly effecting material changes on every hand, the soul must be material. This would, indeed, be a short hand method of disposing of the existence of all spirits. But who will after all admit of this mode of argumentation, and adopt as a serious and grave truth, the absurd dogma that the character of an effect, decides in all cases the character or nature of its cause.
The universally sinful conduct of men is easily and naturally accounted for, upon the principles of this discourse. They universally adopt in the outset, the principle of selfishness as their grand rule of action, and this from the very laws of their mental constitution, vitiates all their moral conduct, and gives a sinful character to every moral action.