Depraved Mind

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
~ 1 Corinthians 2:14-15

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
~ Romans 8:6

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:44

Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:46

This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
~ James 3:15

These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
~ Jude 1:19

He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
~ Matthew 13:11-13

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

To the chief Musician upon Mahalath, Maschil, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.
~ Psalm 53:1

Corruption or Depravation of the Mind by Sin, by John Owen. The following contains an excerpt from Chapter Three of his work, “On the Holy Spirit (Pneumatologia), A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit.

Ἐκ τῶν θείων γραφᾶν θεολογοῦμεν, καὶ θέλωσιν οἱ ἐχθροὶ, καὶ μή. Out of the written word of God come Divine teachings, though His enemies may not wish it. — CHRYSOSTOM

London: 1674.

Chapter III. Corruption or depravation of the mind by sin.

Contempt and corruption of the doctrine of regeneration — All men in the world are regenerate or unregenerate — General description of the corrupted nature — Depravation of the mind — Darkness on it — The nature of spiritual darkness — Reduced to two heads — Of darkness objective; how removed — Of darkness subjective; its nature and power proved — Eph 4.17, 18, explained and applied — The mind “alienated from the life of God” — The” life of God,” what it is — The power of the mind with respect to spiritual things examined — 1Cor 2.14 explained —the “natural man,” who it is — Spiritual things, what they are — How the natural man cannot know or receive spiritual things — Difference between understanding doctrines and receiving things — A twofold power and ability of mind with respect to spiritual things explained — Reasons why a natural man cannot discern spiritual things — How and why spiritual things are foolishness to natural men — Why natural men cannot receive the things of God — A double impotency in the mind of man by nature — 1Cor 2.14 further vindicated — Power of darkness in persons who are unregenerate — The mind is filled with wills or lusts, and enmity thereby — The power and efficacy of spiritual darkness declared at large.

We have, I hope, made our way plain for the due consideration of the great work of the Spirit in the regeneration of the souls of God’s elect. Regeneration is that means by which he forms the members of the mystical body of Christ, and prepares living stones for building a temple in which the living God will dwell. Now, so that we may not only declare the truth in this matter, but also vindicate it from those corruptions with which some have endeavored to debauch it,

I will premise this with a description recently given of regeneration, done with confidence enough, but maybe without too much authority. It is given in these words:

“What is it to be born again, and to have a new spiritual life in Christ, but to become sincere proselytes to the gospel, to renounce all vicious customs and practices, and to give an upright and uniform obedience to all the laws of Christ. And therefore, if they are all but precepts of moral virtue, then to be born again, and to have a new spiritual life, is only to become a new moral man. But their account” (speaking of Nonconformist ministers) “of this article is so wild and fantastic, that if I had nothing else to make good my charge against them, that alone would be more than enough to expose the prodigious folly of their spiritual divinity.”

I confess, these are the words of someone who does not seem to consider much what he says, so that it may serve his present turn in reviling and reproaching other men. For he does not consider that, by this description, he utterly excludes the baptismal regeneration of infants, which is so plainly professed by the church in which he is dignified. But this is publicly declared, avowed, and vended, as an allowed doctrine among us. And therefore it deserves to be noticed, even though the person who states it, is at irreconcilable feuds with this man and his church.

An account of morality and grace will be given elsewhere. At present, the work of regeneration is what is under consideration. And concerning this, those (Noneconformists) who are so severely treated, teach no other doctrine than what, for its substance, is received in all the reformed churches in Europe, and which so many learned divines of the Church of England confirmed with their suffrage at the synod of Dort. Whether this deserves all the scorn which this haughty person pours on it by his swelling words of vanity will, to indifferent persons, be made apparent in the ensuing discourse. As to what is also to be thought of its description by that author, whether it savors more of ignorance and folly, or of pride and fulsome errors, is hard to determine. I know that some words in it are used with the old Pelagian trick of ambiguity, so as to be capable of having another sense and interpretation put upon them than their present use and design will allow; but that artifice will immediately be rendered useless.

There is a twofold state of men with respect to God, which comprehends all individuals in the world; for all men are either unregenerate or regenerate. There being both an affirmation and a negation concerning the state of regeneration in the Scripture, one or the other may be used concerning every capable subject; thus every man living is either regenerate, or he is not. And I suppose there is a general consent of Christians in this.

Again, it is evident in the Scripture, and we have proved it along the way, that all men are born in an unregenerate condition. This is so positively declared by our Savior that there is no rising up against it, John 3.3-8. Now, regeneration is the deliverance of men (or the means of it) from that state and condition in which they are born, or are by nature. Therefore we cannot discover what regeneration consists of, without a declaration of that state which regeneration delivers us from. And we will first insist on this at large, giving an account of the state of lapsed nature under a loss of the original grace of God. And I will handle these things practically, for the edification of all sorts of believers, not in the scholastic way and method, which will yet be done elsewhere.

In the declaration of the state of corrupted nature after the fall, and before its reparation by the grace of Jesus Christ — that is, by the effectual operation of the Holy Spirit — the Scripture principally insists on three things:

1. The corruption and depravation of the mind — which it calls darkness and blindness, with the consequents of vanity, ignorance, and folly.

2. The depravation of the will and affections — which it expresses several ways, such as by weakness or impotency, and stubbornness or obstinacy.

3. By the general name of death — which is extended to the condition of the whole soul.

And these have various effects and consequences, as will appear in our explanation of them. All men by nature — not enlightened, not renewed in their minds by the saving and effectual operation of the Holy Spirit — are in a state of darkness and blindness with respect to God and spiritual things, along with the way of pleasing him and living to him. However wise, knowing, learned, and skillful men may be in other things, in spiritual things they are dark, blind, and ignorant unless they are renewed in the spirit of their minds by the Holy Ghost. This is a matter which the world cannot endure to hear about, and is ready to break into a fight upon its mention. They think it is only an artifice which some weak men have invented to reflect on and condemn those who are wiser than themselves. On a similar occasion, the Pharisees asked a question of our Savior with pride and scorn, “Are we blind also?” John 9.40. But he lets them know that their presumption of light and knowledge would only serve to aggravate their sin and condemnation, verse 41. Thus he had plainly told them that notwithstanding all their boasting, “they had neither heard the voice of God at any time, nor seen his shape,” Joh 5.37.

Some at present talk much about the power of the intellectual faculties of our souls, as though they were neither debased, corrupted, impaired, nor depraved. All that disadvantage which has befallen our nature by the entrance of sin, they say, is only in “the disorder of the affections and the inferior sensitive parts of the soul, which are apt to tumultuate and rebel against that pure untainted light which is in the mind!” And thus they speak of the mind without respect to its renovation by the Holy Spirit; for if they include that also, they are most notoriously confused triflers in their discourses. Indeed, some of them write as if they had never once deigned to consult the Scriptures, and others have plainly gone over into the tents of the Pelagians. But, setting aside their modern artifices of confident boasting, contemptuous reproaches, and scurrilous railings, it is not a difficult undertaking to demonstrate the depravity of the minds of men by nature. Consequently, their minds are impotent to discern spiritual things in a spiritual manner, without a saving, effectual work of the Holy Spirit in their renovation – such that the proudest and most petulant of them will not be able to answer this with anything solid. We plead for nothing in this but the known doctrine of the ancient catholic church, declared in the writings of the most learned fathers, and determinations of councils against the Pelagians, whose errors and heresies are again revived among us by a crew of Socinianized Arminians. To this end, we may first consider the testimonies given in the Scripture to the assertion as laid down in general:

Mat 4.16; “The people which sat in darkness saw a great light; and to those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has sprung up.” What kind of darkness this was in particular will be declared afterward. For the present, it corresponds to what is proposed — that before the illumination given to them by the preaching of the gospel, the people mentioned “sat in darkness,” or lived under its power. And the light by which they were relieved was such that the darkness under which they were detained was of the same kind. And in the same sense, when Christ preached the gospel, “the light shined in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it,” John 1.5 — it gave no place to the light of the truth declared by him, so that it might be received in the souls of men. The commission which he gave to Paul the apostle, when he sent him to preach the gospel was, “To open the eyes of men, and to turn them from darkness to light,” Acts 26.18; — not to a light within them; for internal light is the eye or seeing of the soul.

Rather, the darkness consisted in their blindness, in not having their eyes open: “To open their eyes, and turn them from darkness.” Eph 5.8, “You were sometimes darkness, but now are you light in the Lord.” What the change is — the alteration made in the minds of men — as intended in this expression, will be made apparent afterward; but none can doubt that a great change is proposed. Col 1.13, “Who has delivered us from the power of darkness;” also 1Pet 2.9, “Who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.” And the darkness ascribed in these testimonies to persons in an unregenerate condition, Paul compares to what was at the beginning, before the creation of light: Gen 1.2, “Darkness was upon the face of the deep.” There was no creature that had a visual faculty; subjectively, there was darkness in all; and there was no light to see by, but all was objectively wrapped in darkness. In this state of things, God created light by an almighty act of his power: Gen 1.3, “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” And it is not otherwise in this new creation: “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines in the hearts of men, to give them the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ,” 2Cor 4.6. Spiritual darkness is in and upon all men, until God, by an almighty and effectual work of the Spirit, shines into them, or creates light in them. And this darkness is that “light” which some boast is within themselves and others!

To clarify this matter, we must consider first, the nature of this spiritual darkness — what it is, and what it consists in; and then, secondly, we must show its efficacy and power in and on the minds of men, and how they are corrupted by it.

FIRST, The term “darkness” in this case is metaphorical, and borrowed from that which is natural. What natural darkness is, and what it consists in, all men know. If they do not know it by its cause and reason, they know it by its effects. They know it is what hinders men from all regular operations which are to be guided by the outward senses. And darkness is twofold:

1. It is when men do not have light to see by, or when the usual light — the only external medium for discovering distant objects — is taken from them. So it was with the Egyptians during the three days’ darkness that was on their land. They could not see for lack of light; their visual faculty continued for them, yet having “no light,” they “did not see one another, nor did anyone arise from his place,” Exo 10.23: for God, probably to augment the terror of his judgment, restrained the efficacy of artificial light, as well as restraining natural light.

2. There is darkness when men are blind, either born so or made so: Psa 69.23, “Let their eyes be darkened, that they do not see.” So the angels struck the Sodomites with blindness, Gen 19.11; and Paul struck the sorcerer blind, Acts 13.11. Though the sun shines, it is all one perpetual night to those who are blind.

Corresponding to this, spiritual darkness may be assigned to two heads; for there is an objective darkness, a darkness that is on men; and a subjective darkness, a darkness that is in them. The first consists in the lack of those means by which alone they may be enlightened in the knowledge of God and spiritual things. This is intended in Mat 4.16. This means is the word of God, and the preaching of it. Hence it is called a “light,” Psa 119.105, and it is said to “enlighten,” Psa 19.8, or to be “a light shining in a dark place,” 2Pet 1.19. And it is so termed, because it is the outward means of communicating the light of the knowledge of God to the minds of men. What the sun is to the world as to natural things, the word and preaching are to men as to spiritual things. Hence what is said about the sun in the firmament, as to enlightening the world, Psa 19.1-4, our apostle applies to the gospel and preaching it, Rom 10.15, 18. And this darkness is upon many in the world, even all those to whom the gospel is not declared, or by whom it is not received, where it is or has been so. Some, I know, have entertained a vain imagination about a saving revelation of the knowledge of God by the works of creation and providence, that is objected to the rational faculties of the minds of men. It is not my purpose here to divert to confuting that fancy. If it were so, it would be easy to demonstrate that there is no saving revelation of the knowledge of God to sinners, except as he is reconciling the world to himself in Christ; and he is not made known in that, except by the word of reconciliation committed to those who dispense the gospel. Therefore, whatever knowledge of God may be attained by the means mentioned, as he is the God of nature ruling over men, and requiring obedience from them according to the covenant and law of their creation, the knowledge of him as a God in Christ, pardoning sin and saving sinners, is attainable only by the gospel. But I have proved and confirmed this elsewhere.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to remove and take away this darkness; and until this is done, no man can see the kingdom of God, or enter into it. And he does this by sending the word of the gospel into any nation, country, place, or city, as he pleases. The gospel does not gain ground in any place, nor is it restrained from any place or people, by accident or by the endeavors of men.

Rather, it is sent and disposed of according to the sovereign will and pleasure of the Spirit of God. He gifts, calls, and sends men to the work of preaching it, Act 13.2, 4; and he disposes them to the places where they will declare it, either by express revelation, as of old, Act 16.6-10, or else he guides them by the secret operations of his providence. Thus the dispensation of the “light of the gospel,” as to various times, places, and persons, depends on his sovereign pleasure, Psa 147.19-20. This is why, even though we are to take care and pray much about continuing the dispensation of the gospel in one place, and its propagation in others, yet we need not be overly concerned about it. The Holy Ghost has taken this work and care on himself, and will carry it on according to the counsel of God, and his purposes concerning the kingdom of Jesus Christ in this world. To this extent, the dispensation of the gospel is only a causa sine quâ non of the regeneration of men; granting regeneration depends solely on the will of the Spirit of God.

It is subjective darkness which is a more direct and immediate consideration in this matter. Its nature, what it regards, and its influence on the minds of men, must be declared before we can rightly apprehend the work of the Holy Spirit in the removal of darkness by regeneration.

This is what the Scripture expresses as the natural depravation and corruption of the minds of men with respect to spiritual things, and the duty that we owe to God according to the tenor of the covenant. Two things must be premised to our consideration of it: —

1. I will not address the depravation or corruption of the mind of man by the fall, with respect to things that are natural, civil, political, or moral, but merely with regard to things that are spiritual, heavenly, and evangelical. It would be easy to evince that the whole rational soul of man — since the fall, and by the entrance of sin — is weakened, impaired, and vitiated in all its faculties, and in all their operations about their proper and natural objects. This could be evinced not only by Scripture testimonies, but by all mankind’s experience, built on reason and the observation of countless instances. Nor is there any relief against these evils, with all those unavoidable vexations with which it is possessed and actually disordered in all its workings — unless it comes by some secret and hidden operation of the Spirit of God, such as he continually exerts in the rule and government of the world. But it is only the impotency, defect, depravation, and perversity of the mind with respect to spiritual things, that we will address at present.

I say, then —

2. Because of that vice, corruption, or depravation of the minds of all unregenerate men, which the Scripture calls darkness and blindness, they are not able of themselves, by their own reasons and understandings, however exercised and improved, to savingly discern, receive, understand, or believe spiritual things, or the mystery of the gospel, when and as they are outwardly revealed to them — not without an effectual, powerful work of the Holy Spirit, creating or inducing by his almighty power, a new saving light in them. Suppose that the mind of a man is in no way hurt or impaired by any natural defect that is not common to the whole race of mankind; instead, its defect is only personal and incidental; suppose it is free from contracted habits of vice or voluntary prejudices. Yet when the doctrine and mysteries of the gospel are proposed to him, even by the most skillful masters of the assemblies, with the greatest evidence and demonstration of the truth, his mind is not able of itself, spiritually and savingly, to receive, understand, and assent to them, without the special aid, assistance, and operation of the Holy Spirit.

To evince this truth, we may consider one instance in the description given in Scripture of the mind itself, and of its operations with respect to spiritual things. We have this in Eph 4.17-18, “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” The apostle speaks of the Gentiles, but he speaks of them on account of what is common to all men by nature. For he addresses their condition with respect to the faculties of their minds and souls, in which there is no natural difference among men as to the life of God or spiritual things. And their operations and effects are the same, as to their substance.

Some, indeed, give such an account of this text, that it is as if the apostle had said, “Do not live in the manner of the heathens, in the vileness of those practices, and in their idol-worship. That long course of sin has blinded their understandings, so that they do not see what they are enabled to see by the light of nature; and because of that gross ignorance and obduration of heart, they run into all kinds of impiety; they are far removed from that life which God and nature require of them.” It is supposed in this exposition —

(1.) That the apostle speaks with respect, in the first place, to the practice of the Gentiles, and not to their state and condition.

(2.) That this practice concerns only their idolatry and idol-worship.

(3.) That what is ascribed to them here, came upon them by a long course of sinning.

(4.) That the darkness mentioned here, consists in not discerning what might be seen by the light of nature.

(5.) That their alienation from the life of God consisted in running into that impiety which was distant or removed from the life that God and nature require.

But all these sentiments are so far from being contained in the text, that they are expressly contrary to it; for —

(1.) Although the apostle carries his description of this state of the Gentiles, on to the vile practices that ensued from it, Eph 4.19, it is their state by nature, with respect to the “life of God,” which is first intended by him. This is apparent from what he prescribes to Christians in opposition to this — namely, “The new man, which is created after God in righteousness and true holiness,” Eph 4.24.

(2.) The “vanity” mentioned is subjective in their minds; thus it does not respect idol-worship, except as it was an effect of this vanity. The “vanity of their minds” is the principle of which this walking, whatever it may be, was the effect and consequent.

(3.) Here there is no mention or intimation of any long course of sinning, much less that it might be the cause of the other things ascribed to the Gentiles, of which sinning was indeed the effect. The description given is the state of all men by nature. This is plain from Eph 2.1-3.

(4.) The “darkness” mentioned here is opposed to being “light in the Lord,” Eph 5.8; which is not mere natural light; nor by natural light alone can anyone discern spiritual things, or the things that belong to the life of God.

(5.) The life of God here is not that life which God and nature require, but that life which God reveals, requires, and communicates by the gospel, through Jesus Christ, as all learned expositors acknowledge.

This is why the apostle addresses here the state of men by nature, with respect to spiritual and supernatural things. And he reduces all things in man to three heads. He mentions:

1. The “mind;”

2. The “understanding;” and

3. The “heart.”

All of these comprise one entire principle of all our moral and spiritual operations, and they are all affected with the darkness and ignorance of which we are treating.

1. There is the “mind.” This is the leading and ruling faculty of the soul. It is that in us which looks out after proper objects for the will and affections to receive and embrace.

Hereby we have our first apprehensions of all those things from which deductions are made with regard to our practice. And vanity is ascribed to the mind: “They walk in the vanity of their mind.” Things in the Scripture are said to be vain, which are useless and fruitless. The Greek word for “vain,” mataios, is from the word maten, meaning “to no purpose,” Mat 15.9. Hence the apostle calls the idols of the Gentiles, and the rites used in their worship, “vain things,” Acts 14.15. So he expresses the Hebrew in Jonah 2.8 as “lying vanities”; this is the same as saying a thing is altogether useless and unprofitable, according to the description given of them in 1Sam 12.21, “Vain things, which cannot profit or deliver; for they are vain.” There is no profit in, or use of, what is vain. When the mind is said to be vain or under the power of vanity, two things are meant:

(1.) Its natural inclination is to things that are vain — that is, those which are not a proper or useful object for the soul and its affections. The natural mind seeks to lead the soul to rest and satisfaction; but it is always to vain things, and in great variety. Sin, the world, pleasures, the satisfaction of the flesh, with pride of life, are the things which it naturally pursues. And a vain mind abounds in actings of this nature; it multiplies vain imaginations, like the sand on the seashore. These are called “The figments of the hearts of men,” Gen 6.5, which are found to be only “evil continually.” These it feigns and frames, abundantly bringing them forth, like the earth brings forth grass, or as a cloud pours out drops of water. And in this,

(2.) It is unstable; for what is vain is various, inconstant, unfixed, superficial, as a natural mind is, so that it is like hell itself for its confusion and disorder, or the whorish woman described by Solomon in Pro 7.11-12. And this has befallen the natural mind by the loss of that fixed regularity which it was created in. There was the same cogitative or imaginative faculty in us in the state of innocence, as there remains under the power of sin; but before the fall, all its actings were orderly and regular — the mind was able to direct them all to the end for which we were made. God was, and would have been, the principal object of them, and all other things were put in order to him. But now, being turned away from him, the mind engages in these thing in all manner of confusion; and they all end in vanity or disappointment. They offer their service to the soul, as it were, to bring it satisfaction. And although they are rejected one after another, as not answering what they pretend to, yet they constantly arise under the same notion, and keep the whole soul under everlasting disappointments. And from this, the mind cannot assent to the common principles of religion in a due manner, which yet it cannot deny. This will be further clarified afterward.

Upon this conversion to God, we are said to have our minds renewed, Rom 12.2, and to be “renewed in the spirit of our mind,” Eph 4.23. By the “mind,” the faculty itself is intended: the rational principle in us of apprehension, thinking, discoursing, and assenting. This is renewed by grace, or it is brought into another habit and frame by the implantation in it of a ruling, guiding, spiritual light. The “spirit” of the mind, is the inclination and disposition in its actings; these too must be regulated by grace.

2. There is the “understanding.” This is the directive, discerning, judging faculty of the soul that leads it to practice. It guides the soul in the choice of the notions which it receives by the mind. And this understanding is more corrupt than the mind itself; for the nearer things come to practice, the more prevalent the power of sin is in them. This understaning is therefore said to be “darkened;” and being darkened, it is wholly in vain to pretend there is a sufficiency in it to discern spiritual things without a supernatural illumination. Light, in the dispensation of the gospel, shines, or casts out some rays of itself, into this darkened understanding of men, but the darkness does not receive it, John 1.5.

3. There is the “heart.” In Scripture, this is the practical principle of operation in the soul, and so it includes the will also. It is the actual compliance of the will and affections with the mind and understanding, with respect to the objects proposed by these faculties. Light is received by the mind, applied by the understanding, and used by the heart. The apostle says there is “blindness” upon this heart. It is not mere ignorance or incomprehension of the notions of truth that is intended, but a stubborn resistance of light and conviction. An obstinate and obdurate hardness is upon the heart, from which it rejects all the impressions that come upon it from notions of truth. And on these considerations, before their conversion men are said to be “darkness,” Eph 5.8. There may be degrees in a moral privation; but when it is expressed in the abstract, it is a sign that it is at its height, that it is total and absolute. And this is spoken with respect to spiritual and saving light only, or to a saving apprehension of spiritual truths. In such persons, there is not even so much as a disposition remaining to receive saving knowledge, any more than there is a disposition in darkness to receive light. The mind, indeed, remains a capable subject to receive light, but it has no active power or disposition in itself towards it; and therefore, when God is pleased to give us a new ability to understand and perceive spiritual things in a due manner, he is said to give us a new faculty, because of the utter disability of our minds naturally to receive them, 1John 5.20. Let vain men boast as they please, of the perfection and ability of their rational faculties with respect to religion and the things of God — this disability is the state of men by nature, that upon His judgment must stand forever.

And, by the way, it may not be amiss to divert here a little to consider that exposition which the whole world and all things in it give to this text and testimony, concerning the minds of natural men being under the power of vanity; for this is the spring and inexhaustible fountain of all that vanity with which the world is filled. There is, indeed, a vanity which is penal — namely, the vexation and disappointment which men finally meet with in the pursuit of perishing things, which the wise man addresses at large in Ecclesiastes. But I mean that sinful vanity which the mind itself produces, and that is found in all sorts of persons, ages, sexes, and conditions in the world. Some of the heathens saw this same vanity, complained of it, reproved and derided it, and yet they could never reach the cause of it, nor free themselves from being under its power — even though in a way it was peculiar and distinct from the common sort of vanity, as might easily be demonstrated. But the thing is obvious: almost all that our eyes see or our ears hear of in the world, is altogether vain. All that makes such a noise, such a business, such an appearance and show among men, may be reduced to two heads:
(1.) The vanity that they bring into the things that exist, things that are either good in themselves and of some use, or at least things that are indifferent. So men variously corrupt their buildings and habitations, their trading, their conversation, their power, their wealth, their relations. They join countless vanities to them, which render them loathsome and contemptible, and makes the meanest condition the most suitable to their rational satisfaction.

(2.) Men discover and create things, as it were, merely to support, countenance, and nourish their vanity. Such things in religion are carnal, pompous ceremonies, like those of the church of Rome. They have no purpose except to make some kind of provision for the satisfaction of vain minds — stage- players, mimics, with countless other things of the same nature, which are nothing but theatres for vanity to act upon. It would be endless just to mention the common effects of vanity in the world. And men are mightily divided about these things. Those engaged in them think it strange that others do not rush into the “same compass of excess and riot with themselves, speaking evil of them,” 1Pet 4.4. They wonder at the perverse, stubborn, and froward humour which befalls other men, that they do not delight in or approve of those things and
ways which they themselves find so suitable to their own minds. Others, again, are readily amazed that the world is mad about those vain and foolish things which it is almost wholly surrendered to.

The consideration we have insisted on, gives us a satisfactory account of the grounds and reasons for this. The mind of man is wholly vain by nature; it is under the power of vanity, and it is an endless, fruitful womb of all monstrous births. The world is now growing towards six thousand years old, and yet it is no nearer the bottom of the springs of its vanity, or running out of its supplies, than it was on the first day that sin entered into it. New sins, new vices, new vanities, break forth continually; and all of it is from this: that the mind of man by nature is altogether vain. Nor is there any way or means to put a stop to this in persons, families, cities, or nations, except so far as the minds of men are cured and renewed by the Holy Ghost. The world may alter its shape and the outward appearances of things, it may change its scenes, and act its part in new habits and dresses, but it will still be altogether vain so long as natural uncured vanity predominates in the minds of men; and this will sufficiently secure them from attaining any saving acquaintance with spiritual things.

Again: It is one of the principal duties incumbent on us, to be acquainted with and to diligently watch over the remainders of this vanity in our own minds. The sinful distempers of our natures are not quickly cured at once; rather, healing and removing them is carried on by degrees to the consummation of the course of our obedience in this world. And there are three effects of this natural vanity of the mind in its depraved condition, that are still to be found among believers:

(1.) An instability in holy duties, such as meditation, prayer, and hearing the word. How ready the mind is to wander in them, and to entertain vain and absurd imaginations, at least as to thoughts and apprehensions of things that are unsuited to the duties in which we are engaged! How difficult is it to keep it to an even, fixed, stable frame of acting spiritually in spiritual things! How the mind is ready at every breath to unbend, and to let down its intension! All we experience or complain of in this, is from the uncured relics of this vanity.

(2.) This is what inclines and leads men towards conformity to a vain world in its customs, habits, and ordinary converse, which are all vain and foolish. It is so prevalent in this, and has possessed itself with such arguments to countenance it, that in many instances of vanity, it is hard to distinguish between them and the whole world that lies under its power. It may be that professors will not comply with the world in the things mentioned before, that have no other use or end than merely to support, act, and nourish vanity. But from other things which are indifferent in themselves, yet filled with vanity in their use, how ready many are to comply with the course of the world which lies in evil, and passes away!

(3.) The mind itself acts in absurd and foolish imaginations, by which it secretly makes provision for the flesh and its lusts; for they all generally lead to self-exaltation and satisfaction.

If not carefully checked, these will proceed to such an excess that they will greatly taint the whole soul. In these things lie the principal cause and occasion of all other sins and miscarriages. We therefore have no more important duty incumbent on us than to mightily oppose this radical disease, and also to attend diligently to its remedy. And this consists,

(1.) In a holy, fixed mind, and a habitual inclination to spiritual things; this is communicated to us by the Holy Ghost, as will be declared afterward, Eph 4.23-24.

(2.) In the due and constant improvement of that gracious principle —

(1.) By constant watchfulness against the mind acting in vain, foolish, and unprofitable imaginations, at least to the extent that vain thoughts may not lodge in us;

(2.) By exercising it continually toward holy, spiritual meditations, “minding always the things that are above,” Col 3.2;

(3.) By a constant, conscientious humbling of our souls, for all the vain actings of our minds that we observe.

All of these might be usefully enlarged on, but we must return.

SECONDLY, The minds of unregenerate men thus being depraved and corrupted, thus being affected with darkness, and thereby being brought under the power of vanity, we may further consider what other effects and consequents are ascribed to it on the same account.

The mind of man in this state may be considered either — 1. As to its dispositions and inclinations; or

2. As to its power and actings, with respect to spiritual, supernatural things:

1. As to its dispositions, it is (from the darkness described) perverse and depraved, by which men are “alienated from the life of God,” Eph 4.18; for this alienation of men from the divine life is from the depravation of their minds. Hence are they said to be “alienated and enemies in their mind by wicked works,” or by their mind in wicked works, being fixed on them and under their power, Col 1.21. And that we may better understand what is intended by this, we may consider both what this “life of God” is, and how the unregenerate mind is alienated from it:

(1.) All life is from God. The life which we have in common with all other living creatures is from him, Acts 17.28; Psa 104.30. And,

(2.) That particular vital life which we have by the union of the rational soul with the body, is from God also, given to us in a special manner, Gen 2.7; Job 10.12.

But neither of these is anywhere called the “life of God.” And it is a special life to God which is intended. Various things belong to this life, or various things are applied to its description:

(1.) It is the life which God requires of us, so that we may please him here, and come to enjoy him hereafter; it is the life of faith and spiritual obedience by Jesus Christ, Rom 1.17; Gal 2.19, “I live by the faith of the Son of God;” Rom 6, 7.

(2.) It is that life which God works in us, not naturally by his power, but spiritually by his grace; and that is both as to its principle, and all its vital acts,
Eph 2.1, 5; Phi 2.13.

(3.) It is that life by which God lives in us — that is, in and by his Spirit through Jesus Christ: Gal 2.20, “Christ lives in me.” And where the Son is, there the Father is;Joh 14.3 from which this life is also said to be “hidden with him in God,” Col 3.3.

(4.) It is the life by which we live to God, Rom 6, 7, of which God is the supreme and absolute end, as he is the principal and efficient cause of it. Two things are contained in this:

(1.) That we do all things to his glory. This is the proper end of all the acts and actings of this life, Rom 14.7-8.

(2.) That we design in and by it to come to the eternal enjoyment of him as our blessedness and reward, Gen 15.1.

(5.) It is the life of which the gospel is the law and rule, John 6.68; Acts 5.20.

(6.) It is a life in which all of its fruits are holiness, and spiritual, evangelicalobedience, Rom 6.22; Phi 1.11.

(7) Lastly, It is a life that does not die, that is not exposed to death — “eternal life,” John 17.3.

These things contain the chief concerns of that particular spiritual, heavenly life, which is called the “life of God.”

The carnal mind is alienated from this life. It has no liking of it, and no inclination to it, but carries away the whole soul with an aversion to it. And this alienation or aversion appears in two things:

(1.) In its unreadiness and unaptness to receive instruction in and about its concerns. Hence men are dull and “slow of heart to believe,” Luke 24.25; “heavy in hearing,” Heb 5.11, 12; and slow in the apprehension of what they hear. So are all men towards what they do not like, but have an aversion to. God complains of this in his people of old: “My people are foolish, they have not known me; they are senseless children, and they have no understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good, they have no knowledge,” Jer 4.22.

(2.) In choosing and preferring any other life before this one. The first choice a natural mind makes is to have a life of sin and pleasure, which is but death: a death to God, 1Tim 5.6, Jas 5.5 — a life “without the law,” and before it comes, Rom 7.9.

This is the life which is suited to the carnal mind, the life which it desires, delights in, and would never willingly depart from. Again, if by afflictions or convictions it were forced to forsake and give up this life, in whole or in part, it would choose, magnify, and extol a moral life — a life in, by, and under the law — even though at the Last Day, this will put it in no better stead than the life of sin and pleasure which it had been forced to forego, Rom 9.32, 10.3. It cannot do away with thoughts of this spiritual life, this “life of God.”

(Yet in the carnal mind), the notions of this life are uncouth, the description of it is unintelligible, and the practice of it is either odious folly, or needless superstition. This is the disposition and inclination of the mind towards spiritual things, as it is corrupt and depraved.

2. The power of the mind with respect to its actings towards spiritual things may also be considered. And this, in short, is none at all — the sense of this will be explained immediately, Rom 5.6. For this is what we will prove concerning the mind of a natural man, or of a man in the state of nature: however his mind may be excited and improved under those advantages of education, and the allocations it may have received, it is still not able, it has no power of its own to spiritually and savingly, or in a due manner, receive, embrace, and assent to spiritual things when they are proposed to it in the dispensation and preaching of the gospel — not unless it is renewed, enlightened, and moved by the Holy Ghost. The apostle plainly asserts this: 1Cor 2.14, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

(1.) The subject spoken of is a “natural man,” This epithet in the Scripture is opposed to “spiritual,” 1Cor 15.44, Jude 19, where natural men are described as those who do not have the Spirit of God. The foundation of this distinction, and the distribution of men into these two sorts, is laid down in that saying of our apostle, 1Cor 15.45, “The first Adam was made a living soul.” Hence every man who has no more than what is passed on from Adam is called a “living soul,” as the first Adam was. And, “The last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” Hence someone who is of the last Adam, of Christ, who partakes of his nature, derives from him a “spiritual man.” Therefore the person spoken of here, a natural man, is someone who has all that is or can be derived from the first Adam; he is someone endowed with a “rational soul,” and who has the use and exercise of all its rational faculties.