Treatise on Original Sin,
Part 3, chapter 1, section 4.
“And be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind.” (Ephesians 4:23).
These things premised, let us consider, wherein original sin hath infected the minds of all men, so that in respect thereof it is to be renewed.
1. Horrible Ignorance of God and the Things of Salvation.
First, Horrible ignorance of God, and the things of salvation doth cover the soul of every man by nature, even as darkness was upon the face of the deep. Thus, Romans 3, you heard the Apostle pronounceth generally, “there is none that understandeth, or seeketh after God, No, not one.” Hence also Ephesians 5:8, unconverted persons are said to be “darkness” in the very abstract, and that both because of their original and acquired blindness of mind upon them. What could the wisest and most learned of the world do in respect of any knowledge of Christ, if this were not revealed? For this cause it is called the Ministry, and the Gospel is constantly compared to light, and all the world is said “to sit in darkness” (Ps. 107:10; Luke 1:79) till this doth arise; so that our minds are by nature wholly ignorant about ourselves, about God and Christ, which made our Saviour say to Peter, upon his confession, that flesh and blood had not revealed this to him (Mat. 16:17).
Whereas then in the state of integrity our minds were as gloriously filled with all perfections and abilities, as the firmament with stars, there was sapience, in respect of God, science, in respect of all natural things to be known, and prudence, in respect of all things to be done. Now our eye is put out, and like Sampson, the Philistines can do what they please with us, for this respect it is, that every creature is better than man, they have a natural instinct, whereby they know what is proper for them, Opera natura sunt opera artis, or intelligentae; They have as much knowledge (sensitive knowledge, I mean) as they were made with at first, even the least creatures and most despicable; yea God is, maximus in minimus, most wonderful in the least things, which made Augustine prefer fly before the sun, and that he did more admire Opera Formicarum than Onera Camelorum, the wise works of the Ant before the heavy burdens of Camels. Thus all creatures have a suitable knowledge for their end in their way, only man is in horrible darkness, and is absolutely ignorant about God or his own happiness. Therefore, those opinions of some, who attribute a possibility of salvation to Heathens by the natural knowledge they have, do in effect make void Christ and the Gospel.
Not Only Unbelief, but Erroneous Belief
Secondly, original sin doth not only deprive us of all knowledge of God in a saving way, but also filleth us with error, and positive mistakes, whereby we have not only unbelief, but misbelief. Our condition would not be so universally miserable if our minds were only in a not knowing, or mere privative ignorance about God: but oh, the gross soul and absurd persuasions men have naturally about God! The Atheism naturally that is in us, either denying or doubting about God, but especially, the false and absurd representations of God to us. It is from the error in man’s mind that Polytheism hath so abounded, persuading themselves of many gods. Yea, the idolatry that hath filled the pagan world, and under subtle distractions hath invaded the Church also, doth abundantly proclaim original ignorance and error in us about divine things. Yea, the wiser men, as the Apostle observeth (Rom. 1), became the more foolish in their imaginations, turning the image of God into the likeness of the vilest creatures.
Objection: Original Sin or Actual Sin?
But before we proceed, we must answer an objection, that may be made to the doctrine delivered. For it will easily be said that the corruption hitherto mentioned in the understanding is actual sin rather than original. Ignorance, Atheism, Idolatrous thoughts of God, these must necessarily be judged actual; and if it be so, why do we ascribe this to original sin? And indeed, this objection is commonly made by Papists, against the positions and confessions which the Protestants have made about original sin. For when we describe the nature of it, we usually instance in particulars, as horrible ignorance, Atheism, and dissidence in the mind, etc. To this the Papists reply, saying, we confound actual and original sin; yea, when we bring that famous place to prove original sin, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5), they reply the same thing to that text also.
Therefore to clear this, we are to know that it is true, Atheism, ignorance, etc., these are actual sins as they are put in exercise, but yet when we ascribe them to original sin, we do not so much mean the actual exercise of these evils, rather we mean the proneness and propensity of the heart to them. So that our meaning is that the heart of itself is prone to all these actual wicked things. Therefore though we name these as actual, yet you must understand them habitually and seminally, there being an inclination to all that impiety.
Only the reason why we describe original sin as if it were actual pollution, is because it is a principle always acting, it never ceaseth; the sparks of this lust are like those of Hell which never go out; as the heart of a man naturally, never ceaseth its motion, so neither doth the evil heart of a man.
This difficulty being removed, let us proceed to discover further acts of original sin in the mind, and spirit of man.
2. Incapacity to Apprehend Holy Things.
The second in order is that incapacity which is in every man’s understanding about holy things. Divine and supernatural things are no more received by him than a beast doth apprehend the things of reason. We have this fully affirmed, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). You see there is no habitude or proportion between the understanding of a natural man and spiritual things, no more than is between the bodily eye and a spiritual: […], is one that doth, excolere animam [cultivating life], such as labour to adorn and perfect the soul with the most intellectual and moral endowments that are: such as a Tully [Cicero], a Plato, an Aristotle, these, if brought to Gospel-truth, are not so much as noctuae ad solem, owls to the Sun-beams. To this purpose also we have not only this truth asserted, but also aggravated, where the carnal mind is said to be enmity against God, and it “is not subject to the Law of God, neither can it be” (Rom. 8:7). By which places of Scripture it is evident that the mind of man hath an utter incapacity as to any divine things.
Indeed there is a passive capacity, as some express it, and so the mind of man is susceptible of holy truth, and such a capacity is not in a beast, which is not capable of sin nor of regeneration. But then there is an active capacity, when the soul, by some ability and power of its own, is able to move to these supernatural objects; and thus the understanding of the most learned in the world, cannot of itself receive it, and therefore faith is said to be “the gift of God.” Hence we may justly abhor the Arminian probitas animi and pia doxilitas, which they make preparatory or main part to conversion.
Now there is a twofold receiving of divine truths.
1. Speculatively, by a bare dogmatical assent. And even this, none by nature can receive the truths of God. The Pharisees though they heard Christ preached, and saw the miracles he did, yet they did not believe with so much as a dogmatical faith.
2. There is a practical, and experimental receiving of holy truths in the power of them, which is here called the knowing of truths, as they are in Jesus, and this much less are we able to receive. To the former is required the common grace of God, but to this, a more special one. Wonder not then, if you see men, even the most learned, naturally so brutish, so ignorant about divine things, that they have no more understanding, and apprehension about heavenly things. Oh bewail original corruption, which maketh thee so unteachable, so intractable! Why doth not every Scripture-truth, every powerful sermon have its full and powerful operation upon thee, but because it doth not meet with a prepared and fitted subject?
3. Inclination to Unprofitable Curiosity.
Thirdly, Original sin polluteth the understanding, by making it to incline to curiosity, and a prying into such things, which God hath not revealed. Adam’s actual sin, which is our original imputed one, was partly this, they desired to be as gods, to know good and evil, which hath left its impression upon all. Like the Bethshemite, we desire to be looking into the Ark. The Apostle would not have the Corinthians “think of men above that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), so much less of God contrary to that which is revealed.
This is a great evil upon the understandings of men by original sin that now the mind is not contented with the rule God hath given it. They think it a small and contemptible matter to know no more than what may be known by the Scripture, but they affect extraordinary things. This curiosity is that which filled the Church once with so many Schoolmen and their questions, as Egypt was once with caterpillars.
It is true, School-divinity hath its use, and so far as they deal solidly and improve natural reason in any point they are very admirable, but once they fall into their useless, unprofitable, and sublime questions, where neither the Word of God nor sure reason can conduct them, then they vanish like smoke in the air. How rash are they in their disputes about angels? With what nice conceits have they obscured the doctrine of the Trinity? Insomuch that we may see much of original sin in them, inclining and hurrying of them to a bold and venturous determination of such things, which God hath not manifested, so that none of their seraphic, sublime, or angelical Doctors, could begin their disputations, as John his Epistle: That “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled…” (1 John 1:1). Though therefore the Schoolmen have in somethings their great use, yet in their difficult niceties, which are but as so many cob-webs, there they are as much to be slighted as one king did a man who boasted he could stand at a distance and throw a grain of corn through the eye of a needle.
Again, this original curiosity of the mind, venteth itself in all those magic arts and witchcrafts which have abounded in the world; as also in judiciary Astrology, and such deceitful impostures, men affecting, as Adam did, to be like God, to be able to declare the things that are to come. They are called, curious arts (Acts 19:19). Furthermore this curiosity of the mind is seen, in nauseating and disdaining known things, and what are already discovered, and ambitiously thirsting to find out some veritas incognita, as others have done terra incognita, to bring such new things to the world, that were never known, or heard before. It’s from this sinful curiosity that men forsake the good truths of God and run after heresies, errors, and whatsoever is novel. Therefore, anyone who would examine himself about his regeneration must look to the renovation of his mind in this particular, as well as any other.
4. Vain Thoughts.
Fourthly, original sin discovereth itself in our minds by the vanity that they are filled with. “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain” (1 Cor. 3:20). If the thoughts of wise men without the Scripture be vain, how much more of men who have no more than natural ability? And certainly this must needs be a very heavy censure upon man, that he who hath the best parts, the greatest understanding, yet till grace sanctify, he is but a vain man. His mind is a vain mind, his understanding is a vain understanding. Many ways the vanity of it might be discovered, as thus, the understanding of man is naturally more affected with pleasing things, than with solid and sound truths; it is more affected with words, language, jests, and merry tales, than with that matter which tendeth to spiritual edification. Is not this a great instance of the vanity upon our minds to regard leaves more than fruit, chaff more than good seed, pictures and shews more than substances? Whence ariseth that delight in embroidered language, in plays and Comedies, and in Romances, and such bubbles, and empty vapours, but from a vanity upon man’s mind? To be pleased with stories and merry tales,more than a powerful and divine sermon? Is not this, because man’s mind is vain?
Since man’s fall, as the will, though a noble part of the soul, yet doth act dependently and slavishly to the sensitive appetite. We do not will what is good and the acceptable will of God, but what our sinful affections suggest to us. In the same way the understanding, though the sacred faculty (as it were) of the soul, yet acts dependently on the fancy, and so what tickleth and pleaseth that, the mind also is most affected with. Augustine did much confess and bewail this vanity of his mind, whereby he did disdain the simplicity of the Scripture, and desired to hear that eloquent Ambrose, not out of love to matter, but to words. This is a childish vanity, like children that delight in a book for the pictures that are in it, not the matter contained therein. This vain mind hath sometimes affected both preacher and hearer, what applauded sermons have there been, and yet nothing in them but descanting upon words, and affecting a verbal pomp, being like the nightingale vox & preterea nihil [a mere voice and nothing else], like puppets stuffed with bombast, having no life at all within them? and all was accounted prating that was not such a wordy preaching. And, truly, this vanity hath much infected the mind of hearers; men coming to the Word preached, not as to hear the oracles of God, with fear and trembling, but as to the schools of oratory, looking to the powdering of their words, and the dressing of the language, as much as to the setting and ordering of their own hair. Is not this a great evil and vanity, thus to regard the healing of the finger, when the heart is deadly sick? If thy mind be renewed in this, it will also appear, and in place of that vanity there will be solid gravity.
5. Infected with Folly.
Fifthly, original sin filleth the mind with exceeding great folly. No man born a natural fool is more to be pitied than every man who by nature is a spiritual fool. Those conceited wise ones of the world who condemn the godly for a company of fools, they are fools in the highest degree, as may easily be evinced. God is said to charge his angels with folly (Job 4:18), and that, as some expound even the good angels themselves, because that wisdom they have comparatively to God’s is but folly. Hence how much more is this true of man fallen, who hath lost that wisdom God once bestowed upon him? If you ask, wherein doth a natural man’s folly appear? Truly in everything he doth. “Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.” (Eccl. 10:3). Every oath, every lie, every drunken fit proclaimeth a man to be but a fool; if he had the wisdom of God’s Word he could never do so.
The folly of man by nature is seen especially in these ways:
1. In making himself merry with sin. It is jollity and sport to him, to be fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. And is not this folly, to be playing with the flames of Hell? As you see fools go laughing to the stocks, so do they to Hell. “It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.” (Prov. 10:23). Herein then thy foolish mind is seen, that thou canst laugh and sport in the acts of sin, which are the preparations to those everlasting burnings in Hell.
2. Thy folly by nature is seen, in preferring a creature before God. What is this but the fools babble before the Tower of London, as the Proverb is? Yet this folly is bound up in every man, till grace make him wiser. He loveth the creature more than God, he would rather have a drop than the ocean, earth than heaven, dirt than gold. Is not this greater folly than can be expressed? Yet till regenerated, such a fool thou art, though thou art ever so wise in thy own conceit.
3. We are naturally foolish in that we attend only to those things that are for the present, and never at all look to eternity, becoming herein like bruit beasts that regard only what is before them. Moses doth in the name of God wish, “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29). It is wisdom to look to the future, hence they say, Prudens, is, qussi porro videns, he seeth a far off; but take any natural man, doth all the wisdom he hath, ever make him to attend to eternity? What will become of him at the day of judgement? Now he is at ease, and in good liking, but what shall he do, when that great day shall come? He is far from Hierem’s temper, thinking he heard always that terrible noise sounding in his ears, “Arise and come to judgement.” Oh thy folly then who dost in effect say: “give me that which is sweet here, though hereafter I be tormented to all eternity!“
4. Thy folly is abundantly discovered in this, that thou takest no pains to know the best things, the chiefest things, the things that most concern thee. Naturally thou knowest nothing of God, or Christ, or the way to heaven, which yet is the proper end for which God made thee. If folly did not reign in thy understanding, thou wouldst not be so careless herein. Thou art careful to know how to live in this world, but not how to live eternally in the world to come. Thou knowest how to buy and sell, how to plough and sow, but knowest not the principles of religion which must save thee. Doth not this proclaim thy folly?
5. Original sin is discovered in our foolish mind by the inconsiderateness that it is guilty of. Its want of consideration that damneth a man. Intellectus cogitabundus est principium omnis boni (Psa. 50). Oh consider this, ye that forget God: If a man considers the majesty of God, the dreadfulness of Hell, the shortness of the pleasures of sin, the mortality of the body and the immortality of the soul, how could he sin? This foolish inconsiderateness maketh man, though mortal, to procrastinate his conversion, he is always beginning to repent, beginning to reform. Inter caetera mala, hoc habet stultitia, semper incipit vivere [among other evils, folly has also this special characteristic, it is always beginning to live].
6. Thy folly in thy mind is seen by thy imprudence and injudiciousness. Thou dost not judge godliness, the favour of God and grace, better than the whole world, as the child thinketh his not better than gold. Sapiens est cui res, sapiunt prout sunt, if thou wert wise, things would savour to thee as they are, earthly as earthly, heavenly as heavenly. The folly of man naturally is seen in this, that he savoureth not the things of God, he hath no judgement to esteem of the true pearl, and therefore will not part with the least thing to obtain it.
6. The Mind has Lost its Superiority in the Soul.
Sixthly, the mind hath lost its superiority in respect of the other parts of the soul, and its subordination to God, both which were the great perfections thereof. For superiority and preeminence, the mind is now debased, and this light is put now, not under a bushel, but a dunghill. God endowed man with understanding that it might be like a Queen in the soul, directing and ordering all actions to true happiness. Though the will is chief in power and efficacy, yet the understanding is chief in direction and counsel, insomuch that the will is called caeca potentia, a blind power of the soul, being essentially subordinated to follow the dictates of the understanding. And if the will be thus subordinate, that is called a rational power participative, though not formaliter [formally]: no wonder then if the sensitive and affectionate part of a man, his love, his grief, his anger, these were not to rise or stir but as the understanding did give orders to them. Thus was the understanding of a man placed in him, as the Sun in the Firmament, to give light to all the powers of the soul. But now by original corruption it’s dethroned, it’s ejected out of its power, and is made a servant to every lust that reigneth in the will, and the affections. Hence it cometh about that whatsoever a man’s corrupt heart carrieth him unto, presently the mind of man, being like a bribed advocate, pleadeth for the lawfulness and the necessity of it. It is true indeed, we have a rule in Divinity, nemo potest credere quia vult, no man can believe a thing to be true, merely because he will. But yet the will and affections can so divert the understanding, or put mists and pretenses before it, that now it’s become like the Sun on a foggy day that cannot put forth its light.
So that if you do ask, what is the true original cause of all heretical opinions and corrupt practices? You may say, it’s because the mind doth not keep up its primitive power. As the reason given in the Judges why so much idolatry and other wickedness was committed, was because there was no King (no Governor) in Israel, everyone did that which was right in his own eyes. Thus, if you ask, whence is that confusion in a man’s opinion, in a man’s practices? It’s because the mind of a man is degraded, the will is carried out to what it listeth, every sinful affection and passion doth what it pleaseth. So that whereas all our affections and actions should have their first rise from the guidance of the mind, now our lusts and affections do first move, and then the understanding is employed to defend and excuse the lawfulness of them. Oh, then bewail this sad desolation come upon thee! Thy mind and judgement are become slaves and vassals to every unlawful way, to plead for that, to defend that, to excuse that. Thus, when Scripture speaketh of a civil desolation making a confusion upon the governors thereof, saith, “The heavens are turned into blackness,” or, “The Sun and Moon into blood,” so it is now upon the face of a man’s soul. If reason and judgement were strong enough to do their office, there would not be that insolence of the affections, and rebellion in our wills, which doth now wholly overpour us.
The second thing in this particular is, the subordination of it to God, and to his rule. The mind of a man did then wholly follow the rule God had prescribed it. To believe, to think, to judge, as the rule was, but now it’s become heretical. It’s prone to choose an opinion of its own, a doctrine of its own. Although the word heresy in itself signifies neither good or evil, and therefore in Eusebius, Constantine applieth it to the Christian religion, calling it heresy, as Tertullian doth the Christian Religion Secta, a Sect; yet in ecclesiastical writers, if not constantly in the Scripture, it is used in an ill sense, and signifieth an election or adhering to a way of our own devising, and not that which is commanded by God. Tertullian calls Adam’s sin heresy, because committed of his own choice against God’s will. Insomuch that though there may be many causes of heresies, as ignorance, pride, discontentment, covetousness, and such carnal principles, yet the main is, that proneness in the mind to lift up itself against God and his rule, having lost its primitive subordination to God. This want of subordination to God and the Scriptures is notably seen in heretics, who when they perceive Scripture against them, rather than submit, they will be guilty of Scripture-slaughter, as Tertullian called it, Marcion (saith he) cometh not with Stilo sed Machara, draweth his sword, and detruncateth a great part of Scripture. Others, though not so audacious, yet because they will not submit, do not Materiam ad Scripturas, but Scripturas, and Materiam accommodare, do not submit their opinions to the Scripture, but the Scripture to their opinions. Valentinus openly professed that he did amend the Gospel.
7. Prone to Call Evil Good, and Good Evil.
Seventh, herein is original corruption greatly depriving the mind of a man, in that it maketh a man prone to deceive and cozen himself, so that sin is presented as sweet or profitable, and good to be embraced, holy things are presented as difficult and irksome. This self-deceiving is especially seen in the judging of ourselves good and right when indeed we are abominable and loathing to God. Whence is it that every man’s ways are clean in his own eyes? Whence is it that every man is a Pygmalion in love with himself, or rather a Pharisee to justify himself? Yea, as it is they judge of God like themselves, loving what they love, pleased with what they please. “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” (Psa. 50:21). As the Ethiopians, though Christians, yet worshipping the Virgin Mary, paint her like a Blackmore, because they are black.
Now what a fearful pollution is this, to deceive ourselves about God, sin, godliness, and our own souls? So that when we can have a pretense, or a colour to justify ourselves, then we rejoice. This self-deceiving is often taken notice of by the Scripture (2 Pet. 2:13; Gal. 6:3; 1 Cor. 6:9; & James 1:22). Deceiving your own selves, putting a fallacy, or a false syllogism upon ourselves. And indeed, it might be easily shown how many false syllogisms a man imposeth upon himself. Doth not presumption argue à divisis ad conjuncta, from the means divided, yet to obtain the end? Yea, in every prayer, in every religious duty the natural man taketh, non causam pro causâ, because he performeth these duties, he thinketh he serveth God, whereas it is not an holy principle, or gracious motive putteth him upon them, but formality, custom, or some other inferior motive.
Thus every natural man deceiveth himself by false causes, he thinketh he repents, he loveth God, he hath a good heart, he shall be saved, when alas all this while thou art deceived and deceiving of thyself. Mourn then under this native pollution, that thou art so deceived in all things about thyself, about the work of grace, about what is flesh, and what is spirit, that thou art deluded in all things, and takest counterfeit for that which is true and genuine. Under this head we may comprehend all that craft and subtlety in men (as in the Jesuits) to maintain idolatry or heresy. For the Devil as at first, so still he delights to use serpents, because they are craftier then others. The craft also in man naturally to do mischief (for which they are compared in Scripture to Foxes), doth declare how original sin hath all over infected the mind.
8. Proclivity to Idle Thoughts.
Eighth, the great pollution of original sin upon our minds is seen, in the proneness to vain, idle, sinful and roving thoughts, so that these do discover an unclean fountain of the heart more than anything. Whence do these sparks arise, but from that furnace of sin within thee? The air is not fuller of flies, Egypt was not fuller of frogs, than every man’s heart is naturally of idle, vain, foolish, and impertinent thoughts. Thoughts are the immediate product and issue of original sin; the first born are streams that come immediately from the fountain. Now certainly, if a man had by nature a holy sanctified mind, he would also have holy and sanctified thoughts. Do you think that Adam in integrity, or the good Angels are troubled with thoughts as we are? For all the while a man is natural he never had a good thought in him, he might have a thought of good, but not a good thought. For as every cogitatio mali, is not cogitatio malâ. We may think of evil to abhor and detest, and this thought of evil is good. So, in a natural man, though he may have a thought about good, yet it is not in a good manner, and therefore evil, though the object matter be good.
What then will prostrate thee, and make thee lie groveling upon the ground, loathing thyself, if this do not? Amongst the millions and millions of thoughts which thou hast, there is not one that isn’t either vain, proud, idle, or impertinent. Yea our thoughts are not in our own power, no more than the birds that fly in the air, but they arise antecedently to our own will and deliberation. And certainly, if vain thoughts be such a burden to a regenerate man, if they do captivate and enthrall him, which made one cry out Libenter (Domine) bonus esse vellem, sed cogitationes meae non patiuntur, I would gladly be good, but my thoughts will not suffer me. No wonder that to the natural man, who is under the power of original sin, sinful thoughts hurry him away without any resistance.
9. Instability of the Mind.
Ninth, original pollution doth greatly defile the mind of a man in the mutability and instability of it. Insomuch that the judgement of every natural man, destitute of true light and faith, which doth only consolidate the soul, is like a reed shaken with every wind. He is mutable and various, ready every day, or every year to have a new faith and a new religion. This maketh the Apostle inform us that one end of the Ministry is that we be not carried away with every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). Such empty straws and feathers are we that any new opinion doth presently seduce us, and therefore the Scripture doth press a sound mind, and an heart established with grace, which is the special preservative against such instability.
Aquinas maketh this the reason of the good Angels confirmation in grace, and that they cannot now sin, because such is the perfection and immutability of their natures, that what their understanding doth once adhere unto, they cannot change. Indeed, it is thus with God, that his knowledge is unchangeable, but there is no reason to attribute this to Angels, and therefore their confirmation in good, is not so much to be attributed to any intrinsic cause in themselves as to the grace of God establishing them.
But how far short was man newly created of such immutability? How much more than man fallen? From this pollution it is that we have so many apostates, that there are Seekers, that there are so many Neutrals, that there are so many who think any in any religion may be saved. It is true, there may be a just cause of changing our minds in religion, as when educated in Popery, or when we have received any heretical opinions. But I speak here of that instability which is naturally in the mind of a man, that though he be in the truth, yet there is a proneness to desert it, and to discover much lenity in the matters of Religion.
The Remonstrants go too far this way, commending this sinfulness under the name of modesty and humility, and therefore, though in fundamentals they will grant we may say “this our faith is, this we do believe,” yet in other points (which though not fundamentals, yet the errors about them may greatly derogate from the glory of Christ and his grace, as also much prejudice the consolations of those who truly fear God, as their opinions do) they commend those expressions, Ita nobis videtur, and Salvo meliorum judicio. It is our sententia, not our fides. Now if this were said only in some points disputed amongst the orthodox that are at a great distance from fundamentals, it might be received, but they extend this further, if not to the foundation stones, yet to those that immediately join to them, and so do remove such things that will in time endanger the whole structure of Christianity. And so from Remonstrantism proceed to Socinianism, which is adificari and ruinam, as Tertullian expresseth it (De praesc.). Such an edification many unsettled spirits meet with.
10. Original Sin Pollutes the Mind with Pride.
Tenthly, original sin doth pollute the mind of a man with pride and vain-glory, so that he is easily puffed up with his own conceits and altogether ignorant of his ignorance. The Apostle saith that some are “vainly puffed up with a fleshly mind” (Col. 2:18). This tumor, this tympany in the mind hath been the cause of most heresies in the Church. The Gnostics boasted in their knowledge, and had their name from it. The Eunomians did vainly and blasphemously brag that they knew God as well as he knew himself. And some in these later days have not been afraid to compare themselves above the Apostles for gifts and illuminations. So that whereas everyone should humbly say with wise Augur, I have not the understanding of a man, I am more brutish than any man. Or with Augustine, when one admiring his learning used this expression, Nihil te latet, he answered again, Nihil tristius legi, because he knew the falsehood of it, because of his ignorance even in innumerable places of Scripture. They equalize themselves to Angels, yea to God himself.
This pride, this self conceit is a worm bred in the rose, and the more parts men have, the more doth this disease increase. Matthew Paris relateth of a great scholar, much admired for his learning, who in his lectures once in the schools, proving the Divine Nature and also Incarnation of Christ with mighty applause, did most arrogantly say that Christ was beholding to him for this dispute, that he owed, as it were his Divine Nature to his learning, as if he had not been God, if he had not proved it; upon which blasphemy he was immediately stricken with ignorance, and such sottishness, that he was afterwards taught the Lord’s Prayer by a little child.
This pride of mind is worse than all other pride. And certainly, it is a great effect of original sin upon us that we are apt to take such contemplative delight about our own notions and apprehensions, being therein guilty of spiritual fornication. This pride of mind is seen also in owning and defending even the truths of God, not as his, but as they are our own opinions, out of which we may raise our own glory, whereas truth is not mine, or thine, or a third man’s, but the Lord’s. Cave ne privatum dixeris ne à veritate privemur.
11. Diversity of Theological Opinions.
Eleventh, Original sin polluteth the mind in regard of the difference and diversity of thoughts and judgments of men in the things of God. Had Adam continued in the state of integrity, all had been of one mind, of one way. In Heaven also, when all imperfection shall be done away, they shall all think and speak the same things. But now there are divisions and different ways in religion, one admiring that which another condemneth, which proclaimeth that man hath a Babel upon his understanding. It is no wonder, that among philosophers there were such infinite sects. For if you view that part of the world which owneth the Christian religion, what varieties, what differences, what oppositions are there, and that though we have the Scripture to guide us? This doth evidently manifest, that the mind of man is filled with deep pollution by original sin.
12. The Mind is Apt to Receive the Devil’s Delusions.
Twelfth, the horrible pollution of the mind is seen in its aptness to receive all the Devil’s impressions and delusions, so that the most horrid and dreadful blasphemies that can be imagined have yet been entertained and broached by some men. Now the Devil could never possess the mind of a man so, but because of this original corruption. Some there were called Caiani, that boasted of Cain, and commended Esau, yea Judas, and that he did not sin in betraying Christ. Some have called the holy Trinity, Triceps Cerberus. Some have thought themselves Christ and the Spirit of God. Now how could these devilish delusions be ever believed if the mind had been free from sin? The Enthusiasms, the revelations that the Münster Anabaptists and John of Leiden pretended to, upon which they acted resolutely and violently, may abundantly teach us what monstrous births the mind of a man will deliver if left to itself. So that what is said of the Devil incubus, bodily, is much more true of the mind. What will not the understanding of a man believe, and be resolute for, when it hath once obtained more of the Devils grace (pleniorem gratiam à Diabolo), as Tertullian speaks ironically of some heretics.
13. The more knowledge without grace, the greater opposition to Christ.
Thirteenth, in this is original pollution discovered, that the knowledge we have and the light we enjoy, whether inbred or acquired, without God’s grace we are the worse for it. So that our understanding in us is but like a sword in a mad man’s hand, by it we fight against God and set with all enmity against divine things. The more knowledge without grace, the greater opposition to Christ. The learned men very often have been the Patriarchs of all heresies. They brought in a Stoic, a Platonic, an Aristotelian, etc. Christianity, as Tertullian speaketh. Religion hath suffered far more from unsound learning than from ignorance, though indeed sanctified learning hath been greatly instrumental to propagate the Kingdom of Christ.
14. The Knowledge of Natural Things.
Lastly, the mind is polluted and weakened by original sin, even in the knowledge of natural things. Insomuch that there is little or nothing known certainly by us, our knowledge cometh in by the senses, and they (as Philo alludeth) like Lot’s children make their father drunk, they hinder us of true knowledge. The Academici thought nothing was known certainly in natural things; And Cerda on Tertullian makes Lactantius and Arnobius to incline to that opinion. Certainly, our knowledge in natural things is very weak and confused. The Devil indeed, though he hath lost all spiritual knowledge, yea, and (as some say) is wounded much in his natural abilities, yet still he retaineth much knowledge. But man hath a body that doth much clog and press down his soul, and hence his ignorance is greater.
Thus, in a short table we have represented the manifold pollution upon man’s understanding by original sin. More particulars happily might have been instanced, but these may suffice to make us astonished and amazed at ourselves. Oh, how incurable art thou when thy mind is thus defiled! That is the watchman in thy soul to keep off all sin, and if the watchman be blind, how hopeless is it? It’s this that makes such an obstruction in conversion, which is wrought first upon the mind. While therefore that ignorance, that folly, that unbelief reigneth there, no ministry, no preaching doth any good. Oh, that thou didst know thy ignorance, what a beast thou art! How foolish and destitute of all true wisdom? How quickly then wouldst thou spread out thy arms to receive Christ in the fullness of his offices? Yea it’s the corruption on your minds that makes you not able to understand even this sermon. Oh, then be as those blind men (Matt. 20:30-34), crying and praying, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened!“