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It is doubtless a present salvation which is represented in the text, when it is said, “ of his mercy he saved us.” And it may throw some light both upon the necessity and the nature of that salvation, if we, in the first place, advert to man's lost condition, as it is briefly and emphatically characterized in the passage before us, in which the natural man is faithfully delineated in the more striking and prominent features of an unregenerate state.
“We ourselves,” says the Apostle,“ were sometimes foolish.” On considering the natural man, in his relation to things present and things to come, the first thing that strikes an enlightened observer of his conduct, is the folly which it displays. By such an assertion, we shall greatly incur the disdain of worldly wisdom, which will indignantly retort the imputation of folly on those who allege it. We will not flatter it, however, to avoid its censures; for though a person of this class may be wiser in his generation than one that is a child of light, he is not wise unto salvation. He acts with respect to God and eternity, as one without judgment or understanding,— as one incapable of distinguishing the comparative worth of objects presented to his
choice; as one that generally prefers the detrimental and the injurious, to the profitable and safe. He is blind to what is morally good in action, and expedient for happiness ; addicting his soul to sin, in preference to the love and cultivation of holiness, which is an attribute of God, the glory of the Creator, the true honour of the creature, and the only way to solid joy, though much disparaged and shunned by foolish man. He is blind, too, to the results and consequences of his actions ; not considering what will take place beyond the grave, overlooking the dread inquest of the last day; nor heeding the serious truth, that as a man soweth in this world, he shall reap in the world to come.
He has a soul that can never lay down its conscious being; he is plainly accountable to God for all the doings of time; he has already contracted much guilt; and his Maker hath revealed the fact of his fallen condition, and exposure to endless destruction ; revealing, likewise, a method of deliverance, and fore-warning him, that if he neglect that way, he shall perish. To save men from so great a ruin which they bring upon themselves by wilful evil, the most merciful Creator devised a scheme of grace,
which derives its efficacy and its glory from the death of his only-begotten Son, as à propitiation for their sins. In this way, he proposes to men free forgiveness, and full reconciliation, if they will at length repent, and believe his love. But by the natural man, the grace of a dying Saviourthe love of God the business of salvationand the interests of eternity, are overlooked and disregarded. Death, judgment, and eternity, are to him objects of no serious
He is even angry with us, when we would divert his attention from the poor trifles, little incidents, and little interests of the passing day, with which he is all engrossed; and when we recal his mind to the certainty of a coming judgment, and the wrath of an avenging God; he turns from us as infatuated, or reproves us as the causeless disturbers of his peace. Salvation is offered him as the one thing needful : perhaps he commends it as a great thing, and says, he means to think of it before he dies, and only waits for a more convenient season for a serious application to the means of grace; but in the meanwhile he
pursues his own way, neglects the word of God, adds sin to sin, till at last, He who long waited to be gracious, swears that he
will be gracious to him no more, Psal. xcv. 9-11. Luke xix. 42.
His conduct is the more foolish, in thus neglecting things eternal, that he finds no enduring good in earthly things, but is ever complaining of their vanity and vicissitude. He knows he must soon die, and yet he makes no preparation for the world to come; and while for some worldly object of insecure possession and doubtful enjoyment, he expends much labour; for the kingdom of heaven, he can hardly be brought, morning or evening, to utter a sincere prayer : nay, if prayer be the language of the heart to God, when does an unregenerate man pray? The condition of eternity, as blessed or accursed, is connected with the choice he makes in this short day of life; yet he trifles it away in idleness and indecision, or labours for pleasure in doings that earn the second death as their proper recompence. In fine, when we look at the natural man, we either find him absolutely engrossed with this present world, and altogether heedless of salvation, or we perceive him taking another way to be saved than God has revealed; we see him earnestly in quest of happiness where it is not to be found, or absolutely averse to seek it
where it might be found; and either case exhibits his folly.
He confesses Christianity, perhaps, to be true, and yet lives as if it were an idle tale. He admits faith to be good ; thinks works, however, the chief thing for man; and then neglects both. He supposes the yoke of Christ is heavy, and the yoke of Satan light ; expresses a great fear of excess in religion; and would have men to guard against overmuch strictness and devotion, as uncalled for from imperfect creatures, and as positively injurious to their interests -the interests of time ! 6 He calls evil good, and good evil ; puts darkness for light, and light for darkness; and bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter;" and though “ wise in his own eyes, and prudent in his own sight,” the judgments of his mind, and the course of his conduct, exhibit a prevailing folly.
The natural man, indeed, may be very wise in his generation, to enlarge his possessions, and procure respect from man; he may be as wise as human knowledge and the experience of prudent life can make him; he may see clearly, and act wisely on his own principles, and according to his own views: But as his views are imited to time, and his principles leave his