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ence of God does not reach his heart ; for the way to the heart is by the understanding, and his understanding is far from God: but the influence of the world, and the influence of evil enter there, for on these is his understanding fixed. And as to a man in such a position every object appears inverted; as the earth appears above him, and heaven below him; so to the man who is in this inverted order, natural things appear of the highest importance, and spiritual and eternal objects are viewed as mere chimeras, or at least as things of little or no moment. Such is the state of a natural man.
By reversing this picture we may behold the image of the spiritual man. His understanding is elevated and receives the light of truth, and that truth descends into his heart, cleansing, and purifying him from evil. His outward conversation only is on earth, but his mind is in heaven, where his treasure lies. He beholds things in a proper point of view; eternity appears of the utmost importance, and time comparatively insignificant and valueless.
Such being the states of the natural and spiritual man, it is evident why St. Paul declares, that the former“cannot see the things of God.” He is not in a position to view them. His eyes are cast downwards toward the earth, his understanding grovels in the dust: and as the understanding must be in the light of heaven before it can see the things of heaven; so the natural man, whose understanding is not in this light, cannot possibly discern them
until the whole state of his mind is changed; and the order of his faculties completely reversed.
To behold the truth therefore, a man must be in some degree in the love of the truth. Nor is truth to be loved merely as it serves to gratify curiosity, but for its own sake, and in its own nature: because it proceeds from God; and in order that our evils being manifested by its influence, they may be rejected and put away.
One observation respecting the following work ought to be mentioned here. The doctrines advocated in the notes differ from those in the body of the work: this will be immediately perceived by those who peruse them ; but with these doctrines , and the notes which contain them, the author himself has nothing to do. He is not accountable for the notes, nor are the writers of the notes chargeable with anything which is contained in the work itself: both the work and the notes attached to it must stand or fall according to their individual merit.
In every case however, in which doctrines are offered for our acceptance, it is our duty to bring them to that grand criterion the word of God. Nor should we rest satisfied by the perusal of a few isolated
passages, but attentively comparing Scripture with Scripture, and exercising in this work, the power of enlightened reason, we ought with seriousness and candour to prove all things, thus being enabled to "hold fast that which is good.”
THE FIRST EPISTLE.
IT is an awful and important declaration, which God has made by his prophet, “ Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” In the great concern of salvation, any dependance upon an arm of flesh is as foolish as it is useless. Man, however wise, however pious, is liable to err. To all his reasonings, as to all his actions, imperfection attaches itself; and it is only by following implicitly the Word of God, that we can repose in safety upon a secure foundation. The common sense and reason of man agree in this.
The Almighty—the KING ETERNAL, IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE, THE ONLY WISE God-is in his essence incomprehensible by a nature less perfect than his own: yet upon a proper knowledge of God depends our salvation : for what we do not
know, we cannot love. Finite and imperfect as we are, we have no means in ourselves of obtaining this knowledge: if, therefore, we ever obtain it, and by obtaining it escape eternal ruin, it must be by a revelation from God himself; for," as no man knoweth the Son but the Father, so no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son” (the Eternal manifested truth) “will reveal him."
It is then the perfection of folly, in a concern like this, to leave the written declarations of God, for the creeds and reasonings of men. Trust not your everlasting interests, my brethren, to the keeping of human beings, as erring and as imperfect as yourselves : but with humble dependance upon eternal wisdom, submit yourselves to the guidance of him who is emphatically styled THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.” Instead of doing this, you have leaned upon the broken reed of hunian opinions, and exposed the fate of a never ending existence, to the frail and useless support of arguments, drawn, not from the armoury of divine truth, but from the prejudices, the passions, or the convenience of man.
You, my dear friends, are immortal beings, and permit me to remind you, responsible ones also. It is not merely for the outward actions of life that man has to give an account, but for the motives which prompted, and the causes which produced those actions. It requires no argument to prove that the nature of our faith gives a character to our conduct; and that the life of a man, whether considered as a public or a private character, depends in a great measure upon the ideas which he entertains of his Maker ;-of revelation ;—and of a future state of being. If these ideas are correct, they will assert a proper
his conduct : if they are erroneous, the actions which spring out of them will be erroneous also : if they are vague and undefined, the character of the man will like his views be vacillating and unfixed. Faith is the spring of action, and as is the spring, so will be the waters.
But if the complexion of man's outward actions, is derived from his opinions, then for those opinions, as the principles of conduct, he is responsible to God. It is an assertion of the present age that man is not accountable for his belief, since that belief is not under his control. If this be true it will follow, that man is not accountable at all; for, a mere exertion of the body, abstracted from a governing principle of the mind, is no subject either of reward or punishment, any more than the involuntary movements of an automaton. Words, considered as a succession of sounds, and separated from ideas of which they are the signs, are neither good nor evil, any more than the howling of the wind, or the roar of the ocean. For mere bodily motion, and mere bodily sound, man is not therefore responsible :-it is for action as the expression of