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natural." "So long as men are in their natural state, they not only have no good thing, but it is impossible they should have or do any good thing." "The nature of man is wholly infected with enmity against God. Every faculty and principle of action is wholly under the dominion of enmity against God. Every faculty is entirely and perfectly subdued under it, and enslaved by it. The understanding is under the reigning power of this enmity. The will is wholly under the reigning power of it. All the affections are governed by enmity against God:- there is not one affection, nor one desire, that a natural man has, or that he is ever stirred up to act from, but what contains in it enmity against God. A natural man is as full of enmity against God, as any viper, or any venomous beast is full of poison." "Man by nature is unholy, and cannot relish or even discern the excellency of true religion. He can neither repent, submit, believe, love, nor obey - but must remain a rebel, an enemy," &c. "There is in the dead body no power to return to life; neither is there in the soul any ability to attain a spiritual life, or the exercise of holy affection toward God. There is in the dead body no spark of life, that time or care may fan into a flame; it will remain a corpse; nothing but the power of God can raise it from the dead. In like manner, there is in the natural man no latent principle of spiritual life; without a divine intercessor he must ever remain as he is: no good education, no good resolutions as they are called, will ever make him a good man, except there be a superadded principle from above, a change wrought in him by an eternal agent, life put into him by the spirit of God. He is born guilty, he is a child of wrath.

Antecedently to our works, or even moral agency, even in infancy, we are under the wrath of God!"

Brethren, do you believe all this fully, thoroughly, in your hearts? If so, you can have no doubt what is meant by being by nature the children of wrath!' But do you disbelieve it? I have given you the very language of the Westminster divines, and of Calvin, their great master, of Gill, and Edwards, and Scott, and Henry Martyn, and will you not believe what such renowned, and learned, and pious men have said? I hope that you do not believe what they have said upon this subject. For myself, did I believe it, I might further follow one of these eminent men whom I have quoted, and while I viewed the unregenerate sinner, "hanging by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing around, ready every moment to burn it asunder," might urge upon him "the utter impossibility of his doing anything to effect his escape from the danger.” "You have nothing to lay hold of to save yourselfnothing to keep off the flames of wrath - nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment!"

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This is a view, which a vast proportion of our christian brethren profess to believe! I say, profess; for it is inconceivable to my mind, that any man can really believe thus - that he can be convinced that the word of God, which to my soul speaks a far different and more endearing language, should utter such appalling language to his! And yet men will sit patiently and hear it, and receive it as the doctrine of holy Scripture! God forbid, that I should charge those, who differ from



me in doctrinal sentiment, with hypocrisy upon the momentous topics connected with human salvation. They may, nevertheless, deceive themselves, and be deceived; and a thousand causes may operate upon their minds to flatter or seduce them into error, and lead them to suppose they really believe, what they have never had occasion to doubt or to question.

I have thus exhibited one way of interpreting the phrase, children of wrath.' This text is one of the strongest holds, in which the defenders of the doctrine of original depravity are used to entrench themselves; and yet it really teaches no such thing. The Apostle meant to teach no such thing; and the whole mistake has arisen from a misconception, or a keeping out of sight, of one of the objects of the Epistle, and breaking up the connexion of the passage with the


Before entering upon its explanation, let me premise, that men are too apt in reading the Epistles, to lose sight of the true nature of epistolary writing; of which this is an important feature; --that the writer always takes for known the existence of many circumstances relating to himself, or to those he addresses; and this, to a stranger, may of itself be a cause of considerable obscurity. It is then always important to know and to regard, as far as possible, the history and other circumstances of both parties, would we understand thoroughly a letter not immediately concerning ourselves. This rule applies to the Epistles of Paul.

The passage is taken from the Epistle to the Ephesians. Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor; celebrated for its extensive commerce and great wealth, and

for the magnificent temple of its patron goddess Diana. It was inhabited by a luxurious, an extremely dissolute and idolatrous population, who were also remarkably attached to the superstitious arts of magic and divination. The apostle had visited their city twice, as we learn from St Luke's history; and it is probable, that it was during the second visit, which has been computed by commentators to have occupied three years, that he gathered the Ephesian church. While a prisoner at Rome, he wrote this Epistle, to secure them against the pernicious doctrines, which the Judaizing and other false teachers were endeavoring to introduce. It is sufficient for the explanation of the verse before us to remark, then, that in the early part of the Epistle he contrasts their present state as professed and adopted Christians, with their former state while unconverted Jews, or heathens; and this will furnish a clue to the three first chapters.

Now, bearing this simple view in mind, nothing can be plainer than that the Apostle had no intention of teaching, or even implying the doctrine of "original sin,” and that these words furnish no proof of a hereditary moral corruption, total or partial. They relate not to natural, but acquired corruption—not a corruption of nature, i. e. natural constitution, but of habits and conduct. Paul is speaking of the state of all men, Jews as well as Heathens, previously to their embracing Christianity. And he says, that in that state they were' children of wrath,' or deserving of wrath. Why? Not because their Maker had introduced them into the world in such a state, but that they had made themselves such, by their impurities, licentiousness and sin; by conform


ing to "the pernicious customs, habits, and practices of that state, into which they were born which," as has been well observed, 66 was a state of nature, as compared with the state of grace, into which they were introduced by Christianity." By the mere circumstance of birth they were in that state of nature, which was so different from the state of grace, which the gospel conferred. They came into the world innocent, but surrounded by temptations, to which they yielded, and were thus rightly considered as morally dead in trespasses and sins'; under the example of idolators, they became idolatrous, they followed the dissolute, they gave themselves up to 'the lusts of the flesh,' and were thus styled 'by nature,' i. e. by the very circumstances into which they were born, and to which they surrendered themselves, 'children of wrath.' And the Apostle leads them to contrast this, their former condition, with their present condition, in which in Christ Jesus they who sometime were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ' they, who were destitute of the knowledge of God and of his Son, strangers to true holiness, idolators, profligate, slaves of passion and lust, are now brought into the common fold of the Great Shepherd, and blessed with gospel light and gospel privileges. They were not 'children of wrath,' because their natural constitution was corrupt and fallen. The expression has nothing to do with natural constitution; it refers only to the position, or condition, or situation, into which they entered when born into the world. We might say in the same sense, that men born into a christian land are 'by nature' Christians, or those in a heathen land are 'by nature' heathens; and in either case, we should not


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