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JOHN XV. 25 -"They have hated me without a cause."
These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. In my two former discourses on total depravity, I have endeavored to demonstrate, that all unrepentant sinners, hate God supremely. And having, as I suppose, established this doctrine beyond controversy by an appeal to matters of fact; it now becomes a very solemn and important question, why sinners hate god?
If sinners have good reason for hating God, then they are not to blame for it; but if they have no good reason, or if they hate him when they ought to love him; then they have incurred great guilt by their enmity to God.
In speaking from this subject, I design
1st. To show what is not the reason of their hatred.
2nd. What is the reason of it.
3rd. That they hate him, for the very reasons, for which they ought to love him.
I. I am to show, what is not the reason of their hatred.
1st. It is not because God has so constituted them, that they have a physical, or constitutional aversion to God. The text affirms that sinners have hated God without a cause. Not that there is no reason why they hate him; but no good reason. Not that there is strictly no cause for their hatred; for every effect must have some cause; but there is no just cause. If God had so created man, that he was under a physical necessity of hating his Maker, this would not only be a cause, but a just cause for hating him. If god had incorporated with the very substance of his being, a constitutional aversion to himself; this would be a sufficient cause, not only for the sinner's hating him, but a good reason why all other beings should hate him.
2nd. The sinner's hatred of God, is not caused by any hereditary, or transmitted disposition to hate him. A disposition to hate God, is itself hatred. Disposition, is an action of the mind, and not a part of the mind itself. It is therefore absurd, to talk of an hereditary, or transmitted disposition to love or hate God, or anything else. It is impossible that a voluntary state of mind should be hereditary, or transmitted from one generation to another.
4th. There is no just cause, in the constitution of our nature, for opposition to God. The nature of man, is as it should be. Its powers are as God made them. He has made them in the best manner, in which infinite power, and goodness and wisdom could make them. They are perfectly adapted to the service of his creator; and if we survey all the exquisite mechanism, and delicate organization of the body, and scrutinize all the properties, and powers, and capabilities, of the mind, we can find no just cause of complaint; but on the other hand, infinite reason to love, and adore the great architect, and exclaim with the Psalmist, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
5th. There is no just cause for the sinner's hatred, in that wise and benevolent arrangement, by which all men have descended from one common ancestor; and under which divine arrangement, we are naturally, (not necessarily) influenced; and our characters modified by the circumstances under which we have our being. Our being so constituted, as naturally to influence each other, and be highly instrumental in modifying each other's character, is a wise and benevolent arrangement, of the highest importance to the universe: but like every other good thing, is liable to great abuse; and by how much the more powerful our influence is, to promote virtue when we do right, by just so much the greater is our influence, to promote vice, when we do wrong.
6th. Again. There is no cause for the sinner's hatred, in the moral government of God. His commandments are not grievous; nor impossible to be obeyed; nor calculated to produce misery when obeyed: but on the contrary, "his yoke is easy, and his burden is light." His commandments are easily obeyed; and obedience naturally results in happiness. If God had established a government, the requirements of which, were so high, that it was extremely difficult to yield obedience to his laws. If the laws were so obscure and intricate, and difficult to understand, that an honest mind were in great danger of mistaking the real meaning of his requirements; or if his laws were arbitrary, unnecessary, and capricious; or if they were guarded by unjust and cruel sanctions: if any of these things were true, sinners would have a just cause to hate God. But not one of them is true.
Again. Sinners have no just cause for their hatred, in the requirements of the Gospel. If the conditions of salvation, held forth in the Gospel, were arbitrary, capricious, or unjust; if it were impossible to comply with them; if the terms of salvation were put so high, that men have not natural power to obey them, and fulfil the conditions upon which their salvation is suspended. If God commanded them to repent, when they had no power to repent; if he required them to believe, when they had no power to believe; and threatened to send them to hell, for not repenting and believing; in any, and in all these cases, sinners would have just reason to hate God. But none of these things are true. The conditions of the Gospel, so far from being arbitrary, are indispensable in their nature, to salvation, so far from being put so high, that it is impossible, or even difficult to comply with them; they are brought down as low as they possibly can be, without rendering the sinner's salvation impossible. Repentance and faith, are indispensable to fit the soul for the enjoyment of heaven; and if God should dispense with these conditions, and consent that the sinner should remain in his sins, it would render the sinner's damnation certain.
Again. Not only are the conditions of salvation necessary in their own nature, but it is easy to comply with them. Much easier than to reject them. Our powers of mind, are as well suited to accept, as to reject the Gospel. The motives to accept, are infinitely greater than to reject the offers of mercy. So weighty, indeed are the motives to comply with the conditions of the Gospel, that sinners often find it difficult to resist them, and they are under the necessity of making almost ceaseless efforts to maintain themselves in impenitence and unbelief.
Again. There is no just cause for hating God, in his providential government of the world. There is no reason to doubt, that God, so administers his providential government, as to produce upon the whole, the highest, and most salutary, practicable influence in favor of holiness. It is manifest that his moral laws, are guarded by the highest possible sanctions: that all has been done, which the perfection of moral government could do, to secure universal holiness in the world. So it is true, beyond all reasonable doubt, that his physical or providential government, is administered in the wisest possible manner.
It is doubtless administered solely for the benefit , and in support of moral government. It is so arranged, as to bring out and exert the highest moral influence, that such a government is capable of exerting. Many sinners talk, as if they supposed God might have administered his governments, both moral, and providential, in a manner vastly more judicious, and more highly calculated to secure perfection in the conduct of his subjects. They seem to think, that because God is almighty, he therefore can work any conceivable absurdity, or contradiction. That he can secure perfection in moral agents, by the exercise physical omnipotence; and that the existence of sin in our world, is proof conclusive, that, although on some accounts, he is opposed to sin, yet upon the whole, he prefers its existence to holiness in its stead. They seem to take it for granted, that the two governments which God exercises over the universe, moral, and providential; might have been so administered, as to have produced universal holiness throughout the universe. But this is a gratuitous, and most wicked assumption. It is no fair inference from the omnipotence and omniscience of God; and the assumption is founded upon an erroneous view of the nature of moral agency, and of moral government.
Again. There is no just cause for hatred, in any thing that belongs to the character of God. There is nothing hateful or repellant to any just mind, in any view that can be taken of the character of Jehovah. But on the contrary, his character comprehends every conceivable, or possible excellence.
Again. There is no just cause for hatred, in the conduct of God. There is no inconsistency, between his conduct, and his professions. Some people seem to have conceived of God, as a sly, artful, hypocritical being, who says one thing, and means another. Who professes great abhorrence of sin, yet so conducts himself, and the affairs of his kingdom, as necessarily and purposefully to produce it. Who commands men to keep his law, on pain of eternal death, and after all, prefers that they should break it. Who commands all men to repent, and believe the Gospel, yet has made atonement but for the elect. Who, while he requires them to repent, has so constituted them, that he knows they are unable to repent; professes greatly to desire the salvation of all men, and yet has suspended their salvation upon impossible conditions. Indeed, many seem to represent the conduct, and professions of God, at everlasting variance with each other; and as making up a complicated tissue, of contradiction, absurdity, and hypocrisy. But all such representations, are a libel upon his infinitely fair and upright conduct.
Again. There is nothing unkind, or unnecessarily severe, in the conduct of God, towards the inhabitants of this world. There has been a great deal of complaint of his conduct, among sinners; they have often complained of the injustice of his dealings, and have sometimes inquired, what they had done, that he should chastise them with such severity. But all such complainings only prove their own perverseness, and can never fasten any just suspicion upon the conduct of God.