Jonathan Edwards - All that Natural Men Do Is Wrong


There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doth good, no, not one. Romans 3:11–12

THE drift of the Apostle in all the former part of this epistle is to establish the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone, and to prove that no man can be justified by his own works. And to this end, from the beginning of the epistle to this place, he insists wholly on it to show that all that world are under sin, and for that reason can't be justified by their works, or by anything, but faith in a Savior. In the Romans 1, he showed how the Gentiles were under sin; in the Romans 2, he shows how the Jews are under sin; in the beginning of this chapter, he answers an objection; and in the Romans 2:9, he sums up the matter: "What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin"; and then proves what he had insisted on out of the Old Testament: "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doth good, no, not one."

The passages here quoted out of the Old Testament are to prove three things. First, that mankind are universally sinful, and that all of them are corrupt. This is chiefly aimed at in the Romans 3:10–12: "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none

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that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doth good, no, not one." Second, that [they] are not only all corrupt, but that everyone is totally corrupt in every part. This is aimed at in the quotations in the Romans 3:13–15, where the several parts of the body are mentioned: the throat is an open sepulcher; the tongue is used for deceit; under the lips is the poison of asps; the mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; and the feet are swift to shed blood. Third, that everyone is not only corrupt in every part, but that in an exceeding degree, so as to have no goodness and only badness, and that to the most dreadful degree. And this is what is aimed at in the Romans 3:16–18: "Destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes." In the text there are five things predicated of natural men.

1. That they don't understand, i.e. they neither know God nor know how to seek or serve him. Natural men, many of them, are taught concerning God and his ways, but they are without understanding. They neither know nor will they learn.

2. That they don't seek after God. Many of them seem to seek after God: they attend on the ordinances of religion; yea, and some of them have their minds very much engaged in it. But yet they don't seek after God. They may pray to God earnestly, and beg mercy of him; but yet they don't seek after God. They seek themselves, and not God.

3. That they are all gone out of the way. Natural men may, to outward appearance, be in the way of their duty. They may be very conscientious, and none that see them may be able to say but that they go in the way they should do. But yet in reality they are not in the right way, but are out of the way. Even in those very duties of religion that seem right to outward appearance, they are going on in wrong ways.

4. They are together become unprofitable. All natural men are unprofitable; they are unprofitable servants. Though some of them may seem to be religious, yet they don't serve God; but in all that they do, they serve other masters, yea, they serve God's enemies.

5. There is none that doth good, no, not one. Many natural men seem to do many things that are good: they attend in the matter of their duty strictly. Many do very much in religion. Some natural men do a great deal that is to the benefit of their fellow creatures: some natural men may be men of great good to the public. But yet there is none of them that doth good, no, not so much as one.

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All that natural men do is wrong.

To clear this point I would, first, show what it is by which anything may be denominated right or wrong; second, premise some things to prevent a misunderstanding of the doctrine; third, give the reasons of the doctrine; fourth, show how this is true of the several kinds of the arts of natural men.

I. It may be inquired what that is by which anything is denominated right or wrong.

Ans. 'Tis its agreement or disagreement with its proper rule. Whenever anything is said to be in any respect right or wrong, it is with respect to some rule. If there were no rule that things were to be regulated by, nothing could be denominated either right or wrong; because in such a case nothing could be said to be either agreeable or disagreeable to rule. Romans 4:15, "Where no law is, there is no transgression."

So the actions of men are said to be right or wrong with respect to that which is the proper rule of men's actions, which is the rule of God's law. The will of God, as manifested either by the light of reason or by his Word, is the proper rule of men's actions. This will of God, as manifested in the works of God and by the light of nature, is called the rule of right reason; and the other is the rule of God's Word. Between these there is the most perfect harmony and agreement.

Now there is nothing that natural men do but what is wrong, as it is disagreeable to this rule. No one thing that ever any natural man does is right or agreeable to the rule which God has given us to walk by; but every act that is properly an human act, or that is done by a natural man as a cause by counsel, is wrong. It is disagreeable to the rule, and in many respects contrary to it. I proceed,

II. To premise some things to avoid [a] misunderstanding of the doctrine.

First. Natural men may do those things that are negatively and comparatively right; i.e. they may do those things whereby they avoid those things that are much more wrong. All that a natural man does is sinful; but yet there are degrees of sinfulness. Some natural men do live much more sinfully than others. And natural men have that power that they can avoid many sins; and so far as they do so, what they do is right. It is negatively so. Though there be no positive goodness in what they do, yet there is this in it, that there is evil avoided.

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Thus when natural men do avoid willfully doing that which is directly contrary to a known command of God, they may be said to do right. Thus when men are chaste, sober, and temperate, they may be said to do things that are right, as they avoid lasciviousness, and drunkenness, and other such like vices that are very heinous sins.

What they do is comparatively right. 'Tis not in itself so wrong as what they avoid. So natural men when they attend external duties as well as they can, they do what is comparatively right; for they avoid thereby what would be a voluntary, direct disobedience to God's command in the matter of their actions, which would be much more sinful. But yet what a natural man does—consider it absolutely—is wrong. The path that a man walks in may be comparatively straight as compared with some other paths; but yet the path he goes in may notwithstanding be indeed crooked. Of crooked paths there may be a great deal of difference. Some may be much less crooked than others, so as to avoid many great crooks that are in others; but 'tis not straight.

Second. A natural man may do those things that are externally and naturally right, or they may do what is right as to the matter of their actions. Thus when a natural man speaks the truth, when he is just in his dealings, when he gives to the poor; he does those things that are right as to the matter of them, though altogether wrong as to the manner. As to what is visible in the action, it is right, that which is as it were the body of that action. But if we look at the inward principle and aim, which is as it were the soul of the act, and is what God looks [at], and which the rule does chiefly respect, it is altogether wrong.

Third. Natural men may do these things that are right in this respect, viz. that they are those things that are likely to issue in the good of their souls. Natural men may seek the good of their souls, for they are influenced by self-love. Self-love may make them desire and seek their eternal happiness, as well as their temporal. And there are many kinds of ways that natural men take, in order to the attaining of this end and of these means. There are some that are likely to attain, and others that are not likely; and therefore in this respect, some means that natural men use may be said to be right and others wrong. Thus he that seeks his salvation in attending on all ordinances of Christ's appointment; watching and striving therein and disallowing of all ways of known sin, and complying, as far as in them lies, with every known duty; he may be said in this respect to seek in a right way. But the papists that seek salvation by praying to the Virgin Mary, and saints, and angels, and going to the priest to confess their sins, and having them seek pardon, and the like; they seek it in a wrong way.

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And so when persons in seeking salvation will hearken to temptation to neglect going to meeting, and will give way to blasphemous thoughts and workings of hearts, or don't reform their lives; they may be said to seek in a wrong way. Not that natural men's seeking salvation in either the one or the other, has any goodness in it; for all that any natural man does, let him seek in what way he will, is sin, and therefore wrong. But he that seeks in the former of these ways is said to seek in a right way only in this respect, viz. as he takes a course that is likely to obtain his end; whereas the others do not. That which persons do may be finally wrong, and contrary to the rule God has given us to walk by, and yet in this respect may be right; i.e. 'tis the best way a natural man can take to obtain this end he seeks, of obtaining converting grace.

God who is the sovereign disposer of all things may, by his own arbitrary disposition, make the doing these things that are negatively and materially according to his commands, though they are finally wrong, the way in which he will bestow his grace. And so it may be said to be the right way to seek it in.

But this rectitude is of a different sort from what is intended in the doctrine. Such a way is said to be a right way of seeking conversion, not so much because 'tis agreeable to that moral rule of life that we should be regulated by, as subject to God as our supreme ruler; but rather as 'tis agreeable to a rule of prudence, as we would seek our own good.

The goodness that is in it is rather a natural than a moral goodness. Things are said to be naturally good, as they tend to man's happiness; or natural good things are morally good, as they are agreeable in the will of the Supreme Lawgiver, and acceptable to him. Such a way of natural men's seeking salvation is said to be right or good, as it is likely to issue in their happiness; and not because their seeking has any goodness in the sight of God, or acceptableness to him.

I proceed now,

III. To give the reasons of the doctrine. And to make the matter clear, it must be remembered, as has been already observed, that things are denominated either right or wrong according to their agreement or disagreement with their rule. And therefore to determine how far men's actions are right or wrong, we must consider what it is that the rule has chiefly respect to; and it has respect to three things, viz. it has respect to a subject to be regulated, and a work to be done, [and] an end to be obtained. And if we consider the rule as it has respect to either of these, it will show plainly that everything that natural man does is wrong. And here it may be considered,

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First. That the main thing that the rule has respect to in the subject that is to be regulated, is the heart; and this is altogether wrong in all that natural men do. God, in giving men the rule of his holy and blessed commandments, has respect to man not merely as one capable of these and those external actions; or as one endowed with an external, corporeal part capable of such bodily notions and behavior; but as a creature that is endowed with an internal, invisible principle of action; as one that hath an heart, and whose actions arise from inclination and choice.

Consider man only with respect to his external part, and as capable of external actions, and he is no more properly the subject of such a rule as God hath given than a piece of clockwork; whose motions are mechanical, and that goes with weights, and springs, and has no internal, spiritual principle from whence its motions proceed. And therefore what is mainly respected by the rule in the subject to be regulated, is the heart or spiritual principle. This is primarily respected, and man's external actions are respected only secondarily, viz. as proceeding from an inward, invisible principle; for they are neither good nor bad any other wise than as arising from thence. Nothing in man is either good or bad any other wise than as arising some way from the heart, any more than the motions of a clock can be said to be good or bad. Christ has taught us that nothing in man is bad, but only what comes from thence; for he has taught us that not those things that go into a man, but those that come out of the man, and come out of the heart, defile a man; as Matthew 15:11, Matthew 15:15–20. And we are often taught that nothing is good in the sight of God only as coming from thence. 1 Samuel 16:7, "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Proverbs 23:26, "My son, give me thine heart." Proverbs 21:2, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts." When men think their own ways right, God looks at the heart and tries that, to see whether their ways be right or no.

If the heart is not right, whatever men's external actions be, there is nothing that they do [that] is right in the sight of God. Thus we read in the Psalms 78:34–35, how the children of Israel sought God, and sought him early, "and remembered that God was their rock, and the most high God their redeemer." Now, herein they externally did their duty. What they did was, as to the matter of it, right; but yet it was all wrong in the sight of God; as it follows in the next verse, "Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongues." Flattery and lying ben't right things; especially, flattering God and lying to God is exceeding wrong. And then in

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the next verse is given the reason why God looked upon [them] so wrong, "For their heart was not right with him." Where the heart is not right with God, nothing is right.

But the heart is altogether wrong in all that a natural man does. Whatever his words or his outward behavior be, yet his heart in all is wide from the rule, and quite contrary to it. He does nothing that he does from right principle. Whatever fair show there [is], there is nothing that arises from any good disposition or principle of heart. Actions are good or bad chiefly according as they are exercises of a good or corrupt principle in men; but all the actions of a natural man do proceed from a corrupt principle.

Second. The main thing the rule has respect to as the work to be done is a spiritual service to God, which all that natural men do is very wide from. As God hath made man not only with a fleshly body, but also breathed into him a spiritual substance, which is his principal part by which his nature is enabled and exalted above the brute creatures; so it is a spiritual, and not a bodily, service that God chiefly looks at and requires of man.

Every rule has respect to some work to be done. If there be no work to be done, there is no need of a rule to direct in the doing of it. But the work to be done, that the rule that God has given to man has a main respect to, is a spiritual service to God.

He that gave the rule gave it to direct us in the service of the giver of the rule; and that not mainly that we should serve him with our bodies, but with our spirits, which is our principal part. For God made us not only with animal bodies, but with rational, immortal souls, for that end that we might serve him, and serve not only with our bodies, but with our souls. The work that the rule directs to is godliness, but we find this distinguished from bodily exercise. 1 Timothy 4:8, "For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."

But natural men in nothing that they do, do afford God a spiritual service. Let them be never so religious, never so moral, and never so exact in their walk and obedient in duties, yet this is wanting. Therein the life and soul of religion and duty is wanting. That which they do in religion is neither spiritual, nor is it a service to God. What they do in religion is not spiritual. This is evident from the foregoing. Particularly if they are destitute of a spiritual principle in the heart, they will be also unavoidably destitute of spiritual exercise; for there can be no exercise without a principle. Whatever natural men seem to do in religion, there are no right or holy

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actings of the heart. There is not one good motion or exercise of soul. When they pray, when they read, and when they hear; or when they do alms, or do acts of moral honesty and justice; there is no spiritual, inward, good exercise that accompanies such external behavior. There is a course and train of outward, seeming good action, but no such train of inward, good exercises; no, nor so much as one good act of soul all the while. Nor is anything that they do a service to God. That is impossible, for they don't know God: they are wholly strangers to him, and have no true respect to him in their hearts. There is no devotedness of heart to God; no exercise of any love to God, or true fear and reverence of God; no true respect to his authority; no spirit of submission or obedience to him.

Third. If we consider the end to be obtained that the rule has respect to, it will appear that everything that natural men do is wrong. Every rule has respect to some end. It has respect to a subject, and to a work, and to an end. The subject that is to be regulated by the rule is not to be regulated to no purpose or end. If there be no end to be obtained by the subject, there is no need of any rule. He that has no end to seek needs no guide in seeking. And so the work that is respected by the rule is also in order to some end. The only reason why there is need of a rule to direct in any work, is that so the end of the work may be attained.

But natural men in all that they do entirely fall short of the end aimed at by the rule. God is the great end that the rule has respect [to] in glorifying of him, and in the enjoyment of him. But if we consider how that nothing that natural men do points to this end, but points quite another way, it will appear that all that natural men do is entirely wrong. Natural men don't so much as aim at this end in anything they do. They don't aim at the glory of God. All that they do, however fair and specious a show it may make, is for other ends very diverse from it. Nor do they aim at the happiness of the enjoyment of God. Natural men do neither desire to glorify God, nor to enjoy him. They have no sense of the happiness that is to be had in the enjoyment of God.

Instead of aiming at these ends, they aim at contrary ends. They set up other things in opposition to God. They set up themselves, and their own heart's lusts, in God's stead. They worship and serve the creature more the Creator who is over all, God blessed forevermore.

And therefore everything that a natural man does is wrong, because it is directed and aimed the wrong way and to a wrong end, as the arrow goes wrong that goes wide from the mark. And therefore God compares false professors to a deceitful bow that carries the arrow on one side of the mark, and deceives him that shoots with it. Psalms 78:57, "But turned back,

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and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow." They are compared to a deceitful bow, because God is not their end. They seem to be religious, but the Most High is not the end of their religion; as Hosea 7:16, "They return, but not to the Most High: they are like a deceitful bow." Hence 'tis said in the text, "They are all gone out of the way, they are altogether become unprofitable." I proceed now, in the

IV. [Fourth] place, to show how this is true with respect to several kinds of actions of natural men.

First. All that natural men [do] in attending on their secular occasions is wrong. Their outward occasions are what they attend with a wicked heart. They are not moved from a right principle in following the business of their particular calling; but they do all that they do from day to day from a corrupt and perverse principle, and it is attended in a corrupt manner, and for wrong ends. The God that has made us and made the world, and placed us here on this lower world, did that [that] we might here serve him, and live to his glory. And therefore that is the great business of our lives, being the business that our Creator has made us for, and that our great Lord and master and absolute owner has appointed us. And we have no liberty to attend any work or business, but only in subordination to this. God has indeed appointed us the work of our particular calling; but he has called us to it only as to a business subordinate to the main end, and we have no liberty given us to attend it any other way. But natural men don't attend the business of their particular callings in subordination to the great business of serving and glorifying God. And they don't only fail of doing of it so much in subordination as they ought; but they don't do it at all in subordination. There is no one thing that they do, no one act that is performed in an attendance on their secular occasions, that ever was done in subordination to the service and glory of God. But they attend their worldly business as if it was the highest business, and not a subordinate business. Their hearts are upon the world, and the world is sought and pursued by them, as if it were the highest good, and not as a subordinate good.

Worldly good things are to be sought for in an attendance on the business of our particular callings, that thereby life may be preserved and supported; that so we may live to God, and to give us purpose to serve him; and that we may have wherewithal to use and improve on his service. But natural men don't seek the world that they may serve God with it; but on the contrary, they seek and serve the world itself as god. Instead of making it a servant to God, they set it up for an idol in opposition to God. And

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so God that has made 'em, and set 'em in the world, fails of being served by them, and his service is given to another. And surely an attending on their wordly occasions thus must be altogether wrong in the sight of God. They take God's wool and his flax, his corn, and his wine, and his oil that he gives them to serve him with, and devote it to the service of their lusts.

All their labor from day to day is in service of sin. When a natural man goes forth [to] his daily labor, he goes forth to the service of his lusts; and all the while he continues plowing, or sowing, or reaping, or mowing, he is laboring in the service of sin: he serves sin and Satan with the sweat of his face. He is all the while at his idolatry. When a natural [man] works diligently and laboriously in the field from day to day, he is only diligent all day long in worshipping his idol, that he sets up in opposition to the true God. And hence is that in Proverbs 21:4, "The plowing of the wicked is sin."

Second. All that they do in an attendance on moral duties is done wrong: when they do acts of justice, and are honest in their duty; and when they are liberal to the poor, and the like. When they do an act of justice, 'tis not wrong as an act of justice; and when they do an act of liberality, it is not wrong as an act of liberality. What they do, as has been already observed, is as to the matter of it right and agreeable to the rule. But yet as they do it, as the act is performed by them, that act is wrong, for the reasons already mentioned, because done with a corrupt and rotten heart. And what is done is only a shadow without substance: there is the shell of the duty, but the inside is hollow. Their honesty and their liberality don't flow from any true principle of righteousness or charity within.

And so there is no inward exercise of any internal grace, or virtue of righteousness, or charity in it. Nor is the end right. God, who ought to be the supreme end of all, is left out of the view and aim of the agent.

Thus that [that] appears with such a specious show, as though men loved their neighbor as themselves, and as though they had a love to virtue, is not either from any sincere real love to virtue, or love to their neighbor. But indeed all arises only from self-love, and there is no love to their neighbor nor to virtue, but what self is at the bottom of.

Third. All that is done by natural men in an attendance on religious duties is done wrong. When natural men pray in secret, yea, when they are very diligent and earnest in prayer; and when they read the Bible; and when they go to meeting, and attend the public worship, and hear the Word preached; and when they meditate, and search their own hearts—they do all these things wrong. There is nothing that they do right. Everything crooked and out of the way. All these things proceed from a perverse

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heart and a corrupt principle, and there is nothing spiritual in any of it. Nor is the true and right end aimed at.

As particularly, when they pray to God, what they do in prayer is exceeding wrong many ways. They worship God ignorantly, not knowing what they worship, like those in Acts 17:23. But this is a very wrong way of worshipping God, and greatly to God's dishonor. They that worship God ought to do it understandingly, as knowing what manner of being he is that they worship, and understanding the difference that there is between God and them. But natural men, when they come before God, they don't know who he is that they come before. They are ignorant of his perfections. When they come to pray to him, they don't know that they are in the presence of God, or that God sees them and knows what they ask for. They don't know that he is able to give 'em their requests.

When God is worshipped, he ought to be worshipped in spirit and in truth; but natural men don't worship him so. There is outward worship; but if we could look within, into the heart, we should see no worship there. There we should find nothing [but] enmity, and rebellion, and opposition to God.

There is a body upon the knees. But [if] we could look within there, we should see an heart proudly exalting itself against God. There is a submissive, humble voice, and gesture, and looks that seems to show forth a great deal of reverence and self-abasement. But if we could look within there at the same time, we should see an heart opposing the sovereignty of God, and finding fault with his ways, and objecting against God's dealings towards him, and haughtily exalting himself, and trusting in himself.

If we heard the sinner at his secret prayer, very likely we should hear him telling God that he is able to show mercy to him, and that his mercy is infinite and sufficient for the greatest sinners. But at the same time, if we could look within, we should see that he believes no such thing. We, it may [be], should hear him saying to God that he is a poor, sinful, vile creature unworthy of any mercy, and that he deserves to be cast in to hell. But if we could look within, we should find no sense of any such vileness or unworthiness as he tells of; and that, at the same time that he confesses that he deserves that God should cast him into hell, he thinks the contrary; and that his heart stands ready to object and quarrel, if God don't show him mercy, and answer his prayers. It may be [he] thinks at the same time that 'tis strange God don't show him mercy, when he has shown mercy to so many others that never have done near so much for it as he has done.

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We should probably hear them praying to God for mercy, and seeming to beseech and supplicate as for free and sovereign grace; whereas if we could look within 'em, we should see that at the same time they don't believe that [he] is the true and sovereign bestower of his own grace. They think that he stands bound to bestow it, and can't justly deny it.

Whatever they do outwardly, inwardly they don't supplicate but challenge; and their hearts stand ready to quarrel in a dreadful manner in case God refuses. Such kind of hypocrisy and dishonoring as this is the praying of natural men made up of. Psalms 78:36, "They flattered him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues." And so are their other duties as well as prayer. They make a show of that which there is nothing in their hearts.

Now, how wide is such a manner of praying and attending religious duties from being right. How far is this from the right way of worshipping God. Hence it is said, as in Proverbs 15:8, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight." And so Isaiah 1:13–15, "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." And Isaiah 66:3, "He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; and he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations."

All that a natural man does in seeking salvation is wrong. Persons that are under trouble are sometimes ready to say that they fear they don't seek aright, and therefore seem that they shall never obtain. But to such persons it may be answered, that 'tis true without doubt all that they do is wrong; and it is [a] pity but they were more sensible of it. Natural men don't seek salvation aright in many respects, but in a very wrong way. Persons ought to seek salvation with a sense of the great worth and value of that which they seek: but so natural men don't seek it. Persons ought to seek that salvation that is offered, viz. a being freed from sin as well as from punishment, and the attainment of holiness as well as happiness: but so

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natural men don't do. Men ought to seek that happiness that consists in holy and spiritual enjoyments, and in the enjoyment of union and communion with God: but so natural men don't do. Persons ought to seek salvation of God as the only bestower of it, depending only on his power and his free grace to bestow it: but so natural men don't seek it, but seek it in themselves, in their own strength.

Persons ought to seek salvation only in and through Christ, [Mosiah 16:13 and 6 other BofM references] looking to God for it through him, depending on his merits and righteousness alone [Moroni 6:4]for the attainment of it: but so natural men don't seek it. They seek it through their own righteousness and worthiness. So that all natural men seek salvation in a way that is altogether wrong. "They are all gone out of the way. There is none that seeketh after God"; as it is said in the text. Those of them that are most concerned and engaged, they may be seeking in such a way as, through the infinite grace [of God], if they continue, may be likely legally to prepare 'em for converting grace, and so to issue in it. But indeed all natural men seek salvation in a wrong way; not only wrong in some low degree, but exceeding wrong in a way that is in many respects diametrically contrary to the rule.


Use I, Of Instr. Hence we may learn how glorious and triumphant the grace of God is in the conversion of a sinner. It is an unspeakable deliverance and blessedness that God bestows on a sinner, when he is converted. And this God bestows on all that are the subjects of it, without their ever having done anything till then but sin. He that is the subject of the converting grace of God, he never had anything in his heart till that moment that was good, nor ever did he do anything that was good. Whatever he had done in religion, whatever pains he had taken and diligence he had used, he never did anything but what was wrong. He was perverse in all his ways.

Therefore the grace of God in the conversion of a sinner is exceeding glorious and wonderful. That God should have such respect to a poor, sinful creature that never yet did one act but what was a sinful one, and that till that moment was going on in his perverse ways; that God should snatch a sinner out of such a state, [Mosiah 27:28] and immediately translate him into the kingdom of his dear Son, and give him a new heart, charge him and give him a principle of holiness, and make him his own child and an heir of everlasting glory: everyone that has truly been converted has been such a instance of grace as this. Let all those here present that have on good

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grounds entertained such a hope, consider how glorious the grace of God has been to them. It may be profitable to you often to look back and consider how you lived before—how wretched, miserable, poor {a creature you were}; how destitute of anything that was good; and how vile all your religious performances [Alma 25:15 and 5 other BofM references]—so that you may see that you never did anything for so great a mercy.

Use II may be of Conv. to natural men, to convince them how unreasonable is a dependence on their own works. Notwithstanding that 'tis so as we have heard, yet natural men are exceedingly and desperately prone to entertain high thoughts of their own doings, and to be depending much therein for salvation. So that 'tis most apparent that persons do really do it that have lived many years under such instructions, whereby they have been most plainly and abundantly taught the insufficiency of their own righteousness, and the exceeding pollution of all that they do. They will still hang on their own righteousness, and make much of it, and will be greatly exalting themselves in it.

Let those natural persons that are seeking their salvation, and that trust to their prayers and other duties that they attend, consider what they have now heard. Consider that all that ever you have done in your life is wrong. There are many things that you have done that 'tis probable you will freely acknowledge are wrong, such and such things that have been even externally contrary to God's commands. But not only those things have been wrong, but you never yet did anything right: all that you have done in your common affairs, and all that you have done in morality and religion, has been sin.

As to that seeming respect which you have shown to God in what you have done, God may justly abhor it; for it has been in hypocrisy, and has been done indeed not out of respect to God, but out of respect to some other god. And will not an holy and a jealous God abhor everything that you do out of respect to an idol, and especially when you color it over with a flattering pretense of respect to him?

If a man has an adulterous wife that carries it with a seeming respectfulness to him, not from real love, but only to flatter and blind [him], that she may the more freely and with less molestation keep company with an adulterer; if he knows that her seeming respectful carriage is not from love to him, but from love to another man, will he not abhor her respectful carriage? Will not that respectful carriage of hers be provoking and abominable to him? Will he not, instead of counting himself obliged by it, look upon it as the highest injury, and that he has just cause to have his wrath provoked by it? But this is the case with you towards God. That seeming

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respect that you show to God in your external behavior don't proceed from the least jot of real respect in your heart; but you do but flatter God in it, and it really proceeds from respect to something else. 'Tis from respect to some idol, that you set up in the room of God, to whom you give that respect that is God's due, and that you deny to him. Thus treacherously and deceitfully do you deal with God.

And will you yet notwithstanding trust to that outward show of respect to God that you make? Will you plead it or hang upon it, and bring this as a price to God, as though it were a price adequate to his eternal mercy?

Will you think that this is a price sufficient to purchase an interest in a Savior by? Will you look upon it as thinking that God may have so much respect to it as to give you his converting grace for it? But here consider particularly the following things:

First. If all that you do is wrong, then nothing that you do can make atonement for any of your sins. That would be a strange way of making satisfaction for sin, by committing more sin. Therefore you may hence learn that however you may have reformed your life, and however strict you have been of late as in moral duties, [and] how much pains soever you have taken in religion, yet you are not the less guilty for it. You han't by all this removed the least part of the guilt of your former sins. You stand as guilty as ever still in the sight of [God], as vile and as hell-deserving a creature as ever you was in all your life.

Second. If all that you have done is wrong, then you have more cause to be ashamed of it than proud of it. Very commonly, natural men will look back on what they have done with exalting thoughts of themselves for it, especially when they at any time have denied themselves anything considerably; when they think they have denied themselves of their temporal interest to do an act of justice towards their neighbor; or when they have parted with something considerable of their worldly possessions for the poor, or to pious uses.

They set a great remark on it themselves, how well they have done. They are very often looking back and casting their eye upon what they have [done] with much self-commendation, and are pleased and taken with their good deed.

And so it is oftentimes with respect to religious duties they have performed. When they have made a prayer, wherein they thought they were very much engaged, and seemed to be affectionate, and shed tears plentifully; they rise up from their knees with an high conceit of what they

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have been doing, and their eye is cast back again and again upon it. It looks very well in their eyes, and they can't but conceit that it also looks well in God's eyes.

And so when they seem to find within themselves a willing spirit to take a great deal of pains in seeking salvation, they can find that they are willing to pray a great many times in a day, and to rise out of their beds at midnight to go and pour out their souls before God, as they call it. They are much taken with it, and are conceited of themselves on that account.

But if the doctrine be true, there is no cause for this. There is no reason that they should have a high conceit of themselves for these things. There is no such loveliness in it as they imagine: they are dreadfully deceived about it. All they have been doing that they commend themselves so much for, has all been done wrong, with a wicked, vile heart, and in a corrupt and perverse manner, so that 'tis all abomination. They have reason to be ashamed of it every time they look upon it. If they saw it as it is, they would be far from entertaining such thoughts of it as they do. It would strike 'em down with shame and confusion. They would see that it was filthy rags, indeed odious to God, and it would be nauseous to them.

Third. If all that you have done is wrong, then certainly it don't bring God under any obligation to bestow anything upon you, unless you can lay God under obligation to bestow good things upon you by sinning against him. If you did a great deal that was right, and that had real goodness in it, yet God would not be obliged. For though you did good in some things, yet there would be your sins that you are guilty of at other times that would remain, by which you would deserve eternal wrath. Yea, if you all your lifetime [have] done that which is good, you would only [have] done what you are obliged to, and not what God would be obliged to you for. You would only have paid a debt to God, and not have brought God into debt to you.

But how unreasonable is it to think God [is] obliged, when you never so much [have done] anything that is good in all your lifetime, but have filled up your life from the beginning hitherto with sin.

'Tis unreasonable therefore to think that God is obliged by anything that you have done to give converting grace to you, or hear any of your prayers, or to bestow anything at all upon you. And as your works and doings ben't what God is obliged by in the nature of the thing, so the doctrine shows it to be unreasonable to suppose that God has obliged himself by any absolute promises to bestow his converting grace for anything

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that a natural man can do. For is it not unreasonable to think that God should go to enter into solemn covenant obligations to bestow saving blessings on man for those things that are wrong, or for that which is entirely sinful?

God is pleased commonly to bestow his saving grace on those that diligently and constantly seek it in an attendance on those duties that are materially right, though finally wrong and sinful. But then he does it in an arbitrary way, and as an absolute sovereign, and not as having bound himself to such doings of men by promise, nor would it become God so to do. It is not suitable that God should by covenant become obliged to sin and iniquity.

Fourth. If all {that you have done is wrong}, then 'tis a vain thing for you to expect to win and draw the heart of God by it. Sinners are taught that God is not obliged by what they do. Yet they secretly hope to incline God to bestow mercy upon them by what they do, and are vainly ready to flatter themselves that their earnest and affectionate prayers, and the great pains they take will now move God's heart; and that God will take notice of these things, and not be so hardhearted as to turn a deaf ear notwithstanding. If they think they can't oblige God's justice, yet they hope to prevail on his mercy; for they think it will be inconsistent with the mercy of God to deny it, considering what they do for it.

But how unreasonable are such thoughts, if the doctrine be true. Shall we expect to win God's heart by sinning against him? Will the adulterous woman win the heart of her husband by that respectful carriage that he knows proceeds from love to another man?

Fifth. If {all that you have done is wrong}, then nothing that a natural man can do will ever fit him for Christ's acceptance. Natural men oftentimes think with themselves that for the present they are not fit to come to Christ: they are too bad. They don't think that Christ will be willing to accept of them before they are better; and therefore they are striving to make themselves better. They are laying up a stock of duties that they may have to go to Christ with, hoping as it were to purchase his acceptance with them.

But if the doctrine be true, how unreasonable is this. Can a man fit himself the more for Christ's acceptance, but continue to perform those acts that are wrong? Will committing sin make any man more fit for Christ's acceptance?

Those that are wanting to make themselves better in order to come to Christ, hoping in length of time they shall become better than they be now, have no reason to think they shall become better by what they do,

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unless the growing of the number of their sins, and the increasing [of] their guilt, will make 'em better.

They don't consider that that stock that they are laying up that they hope wherewithal to come to Christ, is only a stock of sins. They are treasuring up sin, and such treasure as this will never purchase Christ's acceptance.

Sixth. If all that you have done is wrong, then a long time spent in doing as you have done deserves no more than a short time. Sinners oftentimes make a plea of that, that they have been seeking for so long a time, [and] they have done so much. They have been in the wilderness, and have gone with a heavy heart, and have [been] striving what in them lay, and crying earnestly to God for so long a time, that they think it would be hard if God should reject 'em after all and refuse to show any mercy to 'em.

They say within themselves, God has shown mercy to others that have sought but a very little while. They have done ten times or, it may be they'll say, an hundred times as much for it as they, and yet God has [not] shown them mercy. And yet they have [been] wading along for so long a time in difficulties without any help, which seems to them very hard.

But the doctrine teaches us the vanity of such imaginations. If all that natural man does is wrong, then nothing that he does deserves anything; and if it deserves nothing, then a great deal of it deserves no more than a little. Nothing that they do has any goodness in it, and a great deal of that which has no goodness in it has no more goodness than a little of it. A thousand dead bodies have no more life in them than one dead body. If there be no life in the particulars, there is no life in the aggregate of 'em all. Five, or ten, or twenty, or forty years spent in doing wrong is no better than one day so spent, and deserves no more. And those that have spent a long time in such doing have no reason to complain, because that God don't show 'em mercy, or do so much for them, as for some that have spent but a little time in so doing. If all that natural men do is wrong, then God is not to blame for acting arbitrarily and sovereignly in the bestowment of his grace on sinners without any regard to their doings, whether they have done much or little.

If all that you have done is wrong, then what you have done is more just ground for God to contend with you than you him. Many sinners make what they do a ground of contending and quarrelling with God. They quarrel dreadfully with God, and their hearts rise against him, that

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he don't have any more respect to what they do; that God won't show 'em mercy, though they have taken so much pains for it; that God won't hear their prayers, though they have cried to him so often.

But certainly if what we have heard be true, God has more cause to contend with you from what you have done; for it has been all wrong. You have only been sinning against him all this while, and it would be just, if he should contend against you with his great power for it.

Here some may be ready to make an objection, and say, "If it be so that all that I do is wrong, then what signifies for me to do any longer? Why had not I better leave off doing?"

Ans. 1. That is what you can't do unless you cease to be. As long as you continue to be, you will continue to act.

[Ans] 2. This objection has been already obviated in the beginning of this discourse, where it was observed that natural men could do what was negatively and comparatively right. {They do} that by which they avoid doing what is more wrong, as they do by attending, as far as in them lies, all moral and religious duties. [They] do [what is] materially right; [for it is] better [to] do that which is materially right than do what is both materially [and] finally wrong.

[Natural men] can do what is right according to a rule of providence; {for it is} in a way likely to issue in saving good, though in itself wrong. [It] may be a legal preparation and, by sovereign grace, be the way to obtain mercy.

But having already spoken particularly to these things, I shall not further insist on them.