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people, and not to forsake the work of his own hands, nor suffer his people to be tempted above their ability, and that his grace shall be sufficient for them, and that his strength shall be made perfect in weakness, and that where he has begun , good work he will carry it on to the day of Christ.
The Corruption of Man's Nature appears by its Tendency, in
its present State, to an extreme degree of Folly and Stupidity in Matters of Religion.
IT appears, that man's nature is greatly depraved, by an apparent proneness to an exceeding stupidity and sottishness in those things wherein his duty and main interest are chiefly concerned.
I shall instance in two things, viz. men's proneness to idolatry ; and so general and great a disregard of eternal things, as appears in them that live under the light of the gospel.
It is manifest, that man's nature in its present state is ato tended with a great propensity to forsake the acknowledge ment and worship of the true God, and to fall into the most stupid idolatry. This has been sufficiently proved by known fact, on abundant trial : Inasmuch as the world of mankind in general (excepting one small people, miraculously deliver. ed and persevered) through all nations, in all parts of the world, ages after ages, continued without the knowledge and worship of the true God, and overwhelmed in gross idolatry, without the least appearance or prospect of its recovering it. self from so great blindness, or returning from its brutisb principles and customs, till delivered by divine grace.
In order to the most just arguing from fact, concerning the tendency of man's pature, as that is in itself, it should be inquired what the event has been, where nature has been left to itself, to operate according to its own tendency, with least opposition made to it by any thing supernatural ; rather than in exempt places, where the infinite power and grace of God have interposed, and extraordinary means have been used to stem the current, and bring men to true religion and virtue. As to the means by which God's people of old, in the line of Abraham, were delivered and preserved from idolatry, they were miraculous, and of mere grace : Notwithstanding which, they were often relapsing into the notions and ways of the heathen ; and when they had backslidden, never were recovered, but by divine gracious interposition. And as to the means by which many Gentile nations have been delivered since the days of the gospel, they are such as have been wholy owing to'most wonderful, miraculous, and infinite grace. God was under no obligation to bestow on the heathen world greater advantages than they had in the ages of their gross darkness; as appears by the fact, that God actually did not, for so long a time, bestow greater advantages.
Dr. Taylor himself observes, ( Key, p. 1.) “ That in about four hundred years after the flood, the generality of mankind were fallen into idolatry." And thus it was every where through the world, excepting among that people that was saved and preserved by a constant series of miracles, through a variety of countries, nations, and climates, great enough; and through successive changes, revolutions, and ages, numeTous enough, to be a sufficient trial of what mankind are prone to, if there be any such thing as a sufficient trial. .
That men should forsake the true God for idols, is an evidence of the most astonishing folly and stupidity, by God's own testimony, Jer. ii. 12, 13. “ Be astonished, O) ye heayens, at this, and be ye horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord : For my people have committed two evils ; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed out to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." And that mankind in general did thus,
so soon after the Mood, was from the evil propensity of their hearts, and because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge ; as is evident by Rom. i. 28. And the universality of the effect shews that the cause was universal, and not any thing belonging to the particular circumstances of one, or only some nations or ages, but something belonging to that nature that is common to all nations, and that remains the same through all ages. And what other cause could this great effect possibly arise from, but a depraved disposition, natural to all mankind ? It could not arise from want of a sufficient capacity or means of knowledge. This is in effect confessed on all hands. Dr. Turnbull (Christian Philosophy, p. 21.) says as follows : « The existence of one infinitely powerful, wise, and good mind, the author, creator, upholder, and governor of all things, is a truth that lies plain and obvious to all that will but think.” And (ibid, p. 245.) “ Moral knowledge, which is the most important of all knowledge, may easily be acquired by all men.” And again, (ibid, p. 292.) « Every man by himself, if he would duly employ his mind in the contemplation of the works of God about him, or in the examination of his own frame, might make very great progress in the knowledge of the wisdom and goodness of God. This all men, generally speaking, might do, with very little assistance ; for they have all sufficient abilities for thus employing their minds, and have all sufficient time for it.” Mr. Locke says (Human Understanding, p. iv. Chap. iv. p. 242, Edit. 11.) “ Our own existence, and the sensible parts of the universe, offer the proofs of a deity so clearly and cogently to our thoughts, that I deem it impossible for a considerate man to withstand them. For I judge it as certain and clear a truth, as can any where be delivered, that the invisible things of God are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead.” And Dr. Taylor himself, (in p. 78) says, “ The light given to all ages and nations of the world, is sufficient for the knowledge and practice of their duty." And in p. 111, 112, citing those words of the apostle, Rom. ii. 14, 15, says, “ This clearly supposes that the Gentiles, who were
then in the world, might have done the things contained in the law by nature, or their natural power.” And in one of the next sentences, he says, “ The apostle, in Rom. i. 19......21, affirms that the Gentiles had light sufficient to have seen God's eternal power and godhead, in the works of creation ; and that the teason why they did not glorify him as God, was bea cause they became vain in their imaginations, and had darkened their foolish heart ; so that they were without excuse." And in his paraphrase on those verses in the 1st of Romans he speaks of the “ very heathens, that were without a written revelation, as having that clear and evident discovery of God's being and perfections that they are inexcusable in not glori. fying him suitably to his excellent nature, and as the author of their being and enjoyments." And in p. 146, S. he says, “God affords every man sufficient light to know his duty." If all ages and nations of the world have sufficient light for the knowledge of God, and their duty to him, then even such nations and ages, in which the most brotish ignorance and barbarity prevailed, had sufficient light, if they had had but a disposition to improve it ; and then much more those of the heathen, which were more knowing and polished, and in ages wherein arts and learning had made greatest advances. But even in such nations and ages, there was no advance made towards true religion ; as Dr. Winder observes ( History of Knowledge, Vol. ii. p. 336) in the following words : “ The Pagan religion degenerated into greater absurdity, the further it proceeded ; and it prevailed in all its height of absurdity, when the Pagan nations were polished to the height. Though they set out with the talents of reason, and had solid foundations of information to build upon, it in fact proved, that with all their strengthened faculties, and growing powers of reason, the edifice of religion rose in the most absurd deformities and dispositions, and gradually went on in the most irrational, disproportioned, incongruous systems, of which the most easy dictates of reason would have demonstrated the absurdity. They were contrary to all just calculations in moral mathematics." He observes, « That their grossest abominations first began in Egypt, where was an ostentation of the greatest
progress in learning and science ; and they never renounced clearly any of their abominations, or openly returned to the worship of the one true God, the Creator of all things, and to the original, genuine sentiments of the highest and most vencrable antiquity. The Pagan religion continued in this deep state ofcorruption to the last. The Pagan Philosophers, and inquisitive men, made great improvements in many sciences, and even in morality itself; yet the inveterate absurdities of Pagan idolatry remained without remedy. Every temple smoked with increase to the sun and moon, and other inanimate material luminaries, and earthly elements, to Jupiter, Juno, Mars and Venus, &c. the patrons and examples of almost every vice. Hecatombs bled on the altars of a thouss and gods; as mad superstitions inspired. And this was not the disgrace of our ignorant, untaught northern countries only; but even at Athens itself, the infamy reigned, and circulated through all Grecce ; and finally prevailed, amidst all their learning and politeness, under the Ptolemys in Egypt, and the Cesars at Rome. Now if the knowledge of the Pagan world, in religion, proceeded no further than this ; if they retained all their deities, even the most absurd of them their deifed beasts, and deified men, even to the last breath of Pagan power; we may justly ascribe the great improvements in the world, on the subject of religion, to divine revelation, either vouchsafed in the beginning when this knowledge was competently clear and copious; or at the death of Paganism, when this light shone forth in its consummate lustre at the coming of Christ.”
Dr. Taylor often speaks of the idolatry of the heather world, as great wickedness, in which they were wholly inex. cusable ; and yet often speaks of their case as remediless, and of them as being dead in sin, and unable to recover themselves. And if so, and yet, according to his own doctrine, every age, and every nation, and every man, had sufficient light afforded, to know God, and to know and do their whole duty to him ; then their inability to deliver themselves must be a moral inability, consisting in a desperate depravity, and inost evil disposition of heart.