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gan to say, In me dwelleth no good thing. The clause, That is, in my flesh is inclosed in a parenthesis, and serves to explain what he meant by “ me." “ In me (that is, in my flesh) dwell. eth no good thing." If the apostle had left out his parenthesis, his idea would have been intelli. gible to his christian brethren. When Mr. BRAINERD says, “ I never did any thing in my life but run away from God,” he is understood by his christian readers to say, That his own nature, with which he was born, just so far as it had prevailed, had ever led him to depart from the living God; and that if he had ever returned to God, and followed hard after him, this was the fruit of supernatural grace. So if Paul, in connexion with the other things which he says in this chapter, had said, “ In me dwelleth no good thing," his christian brethren would have understood him to say, “ As I am in myself, without the influence of special renewing grace, I am destitute of any good thing." But it was not strictly and, in every sense, true, that Paul had no good thing in him, at the time he wrote this epistle. Before this, he had been effectually called into the fellowship of the gospel, and made a partaker of the divine nature. He declares in this chapter, that he delighted in the law of God after the inward man. There was really then some good thing dwelling in him, if holiness is a good thing---if real hearty delight in the law of God is a good thing. As he did not mean to say, that divine grace had not made a new creature of him, he inserted the words included in the parenthe. sis; “ In me (i. e. in my flesh) dwelleth no good
thing." By his flesh he did not mean his animal nature ; for of this, moral good and evil are not predicable ; but in connexion with the text, he says, that with the flesh he served the law of sin. In the next chapter he testifies, " They that are in the flesh cannot please God;" and then, in an address to his christian brethren, he adds, “ But ye are not in the flesh.” Men who are in the body can please God, and it is evident that the christians at Rome, though not in the flesh, were in the body. When flesh and spirit are used in contrast, flesh means the sinful, corrupt nature, which we bring into the world with us, while spirit is meant to designate the holy nature, which is implanted by the spirit of God.
By “ good thing” in the text, the apostle means moral good, or holiness. « No good thing," means no holiness. He is speaking of nothing but sin and holiness in this chapter. In the verse immediately preceding the text, he speaks of indwelling sin..." sin that dwelleth in me." He then adds, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing," i. e. nothing which is the opposite of sin.--no holiness. It is a full acknowledgment, that in his nature, unchanged by grace, there dwelt nothing better than sin.--not the least particle of holiness. If the whole of unrenewed nature is not sinful, there would be no meaning in the text worthy of the pen of in. spiration. To say, that as far as I am sinful, there is no good thing in me, is really to say nothing : But to say, that as far as I am unsanc
tified by special grace, there is no good thing in .me, is to communicate this humbling idea, that
before this infinitely important and merciful work was begun, I was a totally depraved sinner. The text therefore clearly teaches for DOCTRINE,
The total depravity of all unrenewed men..
It will be attempted I. To explain the doc. trine, and II. To prove it.
I. I shall attempt to explain the doctrine. To, tal depravity is the same as the entire sinfulness of the heart. Depravity does not directly affect the rational faculties of the mind. We read of men wise to do evil, while, to do. good, they have no knowledge. The fallen angels have not lost their intellectual greatness; if they had, they would not be so dangerous. We do not say, that men would not have more enlarged understandings and more awakened consciences, if their hearts were better ; but nothing is more ey. ident, than that a bright intellect and a wicked heart may go together. It is also evident, that the understanding may bę enlarging, while the heart is hardening. An awakened conscience and a wicked heart may exist in the same person. There will not be a single unawakened conscience at the day of judgment; but there will be a great many totally depraved hearts.
By total depravity we do not mean, that men thus depraved cannot reason correctly, even on religious subjects; nor that they cannot be clear. ly convinced of their duty ; nor is it meant, that there is none of the external conduct of unre.. newed men, such as it ought to be. But by to. tal depravity is meant, that the heart is wholly, and continually under the power of sin---that ev: ery desire or thought of the heart is wrong---that
there is no bearty obedience rendered to the law of God.--that the heart is directly the reverse of what it should be, and of what it must be, to hold communion with the holy God, and to be united to his saints. Being totally depraved, we have departed from God; we have loved to wander ; we have loved darkness rather than light; we have held fast deceit, and have refused to return. In us (that is, in our flesh) dwelleth no good thing. I proceed,.
II. To prove the doctrine of the total depravi. ty of all unrenewed men. May we enter upon this proof, both preacher and hearers, with candor, prayerfulness and deep humiliation! It is not a point of mere speculation, which we are attending to ; but a doctrine which should greatly influence our hearts and practice. It is not the character of some other beings which we are in. quiring about; but it is our own character. It is not our literary or political character, but it is our character as the creatures of God, before whom we are soon, very soon, to appear in judgment.
The total depravity of all men in their unrenewed state may be proved,
I. By the most plain and unequivocal declara. tions of scripture. Concerning fallen man it is said, Gen. vi. 5, God saw that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. This was said of men before the flood ; but it is again said of him, after the earth was purged by the flood “For the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth," Gen. viii. 21. It is not some particular man, but man, comprehending the whole race, whose heart is cvil, not good and evil, but evil only, and that from his youth, i. e. from the beginning of his days. “I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This total depravity begins with our moral existence. It is inherited from our first father. Apostate “ Adam begat a son in his own likeness." As it is evident, that in the scriptures the righteous and wicked include all mankind, so it follows, that all the unrenewed come under the denomination of the wicked. Concerning every one of this character it is said, Psal. x. 4. The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts." What is there but sin in one, who through pride of heart will not seek after God? The universality of this estrange. ment from God is also plainly taught in the 14th Psalm, “ The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men ; to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become fil. thy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
In the writings of Solomon the word fool is frequently used in application to one destitute of a principle of true piety. This inspired writer says, Wherefore, is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it? Christ spoke of sinners as loving only those who loved them; and this is as much as to charge them with being entirely selfish. To be entire. ly selfish, is to be governed by as base and un. worthy a motive as possible. Surely there can be no good where self is always the chief end. Christ told them who had not true faith, that he