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have drawn himself, as many would themselves at this hour,--wise, obedient, above deceit, superior to base lusts and pleasures, neither unamiable in himself, nor unbeloved. And this character, he thought, belonged to him at the very time when he was most degenerate. But now was fulfilled in him the foretold humiliation of a regenerate state: “ Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings which were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own
sight, for your iniquities and for your aboi minations.” And who can review the time
when they were “ foolish, and disobedient, and deceived, serving divers lusts and
passions, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another;" without feelings of sorrow, and sentiments of self-abhorrence ? Our hearts sink within us, and sicken at the remembrance of past evils, and penetential emotion is stirred afresh.
Doubtless, the Apostle did not put down the above character without emotion; nor was it a random accumulation of terms, without express reference to dispositions and doings that did actually fall within the consciousness of hisown state, and the experience of his own character. When he put down,
foolish, disobedient, deceived,” many in
stances would occur to him; but more especially the signal instance of his opposition to the gospel of Christ, and his injurious treatment of all who embraced it. His cruelties against the church at Jerusalem, and the purpose of his journey to Damascus, would crowd into recollection, and tears would, no doubt, drop plentifully, at the thought of his having persecuted Jesus in his people—that Saviour for whom he did now count all things but loss, and for whom he reckoned it gain to die. At the remembrance of his former enmity, he might well write_“ foolish, disobedient, deceived.” At the remembrance, too, of breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the harmless followers of the Lamb, the malice and hatefulness of the carnal mind would appear in strong conviction. And though his nature was then happily changed, the memory of former evils would much affect the more susceptible and sanctified heart.
How the Apostle came to entertain those views of himself, we shall not now inquire. Suffice it to say, that it was not the teaching of Gamaliel that led him to self-knowledge; but the influence of a Power, whose operation we shall afterwards explain. But, in the meantime, we cannot help in
quiring, How far accord your views, with those expressed by the inspired writer in the text ? “ We ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived,” said the Apostle of himself, and of others in the same state of grace. Now, we ask, what is your estimate of the past ? Have you been at no time foolish, and disobedient, and deceived ? Has no space been given to divers lusts and pleasures? Or have these hearts never felt the workings of malice and envy, and never known a sentiment incompatible with love ?
We shall not press the text in all its aspects on your characters.
Take a single point, and try yourselves by it. Were you always obedient? Did your hearts always comply with the gospel command, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation ? Were your lives always surrendered unto God on the call of his mercy and his love? And has it been the business of daily life to please and glorify God? If disobedient in these leading particulars of faith, love, and daily devotedness, foily and deception were not wanting ; other properties of the unregenerate would adhere to you and the whole nature was doubtless depraved.
We do not allege that one heart has been the seat of all bad affections, or that into one single character every vice has poured its contamination, or that in the unregeneratenothing laudable is to be found. The very contrary we believe and teach; for in some a most engaging amiability towards others is found in all the intercourse of social and domestic life, so far as true piety is not concerned. Yet we do aver, on good grounds, that every unregenerate person has the elements of all those evils in him mentioned by the Apostle, and, in most cases, displays them to the extent here laid down. Indeed, there is only one supposition on which we can hold any man exempt from them, and that is the being regenerated before constitutional evils began their active development. In this case, the new nature diffuses its principles and its power over childhood and youth; and as he grows, he grows in wisdom, fears the Lord, shows inoffensive and amiable dispositions from the first, and is both loving and lovely. Such instances are rare, though not unknown either in Scripture history, or in the experience of any after generation; for some such are needed to convince an incredulous world, that out of the mouths of babes and sucklings the
Lord can perfect the praise of his sovereign mercy, beginning with them ere parents
could even tell them there was a Saviour m and a God. TH If we are speaking to any such, they, i no doubt, will call to mind much in former
life which needs repentance, and they will Is both repent and speak the language of peni
tence; but we ask those who cannot, and
are little inclined to plead early regeneraale tion, what think ye of yourselves ? If any di profess no experience of conversion, we
ought not, nor do we expect from them the sentiment or language proper only in a converted state. To you, however, who think
have obtained the mercy of converting grace, and have passed out of
darkness into light: under that light, how, fire we ask, shows the retrospect of life? Are all ye accustomed to confess and to bewail the i
evils of an unconverted state? Is the pride of life now reduced ? and has the deception
of ignorance fled away ? and seeing what ** ye were, does humility freely tell it, to the i praise of the glory of divine grace, as we see
done by the people of God, both in the Old Testament scriptures and in the New? Are ye ever heard to speak language like this? “ Ah! how foolish I some times was, to