And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
~ Colossians 2:13
And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer.
~ Lamentations 1:6
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
~ 1 Peter 1:20
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
~ Romans 5:8
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
~ Romans 4:5
They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
~ Isaiah 44:18-20
Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.
~ Song of Solomon 1:4
The Inability of Man’s Natural State, by Thomas Boston. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “Human Nature in Its Fourfold State”.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. John 6:44
4. Man, in his depraved state, is under an utter inability to do anything truly good, as was proved before at large—how, then, can he obey the gospel? His nature is the very reverse of the gospel—how can he, of himself, fall in with that plan of salvation, and accept the offered remedy? The corruption of man’s nature infallibly includes his utter inability to recover himself in any way, and whoever is convinced of the one, must needs admit the other; for they stand and fall together. Were all the purchase of Christ offered to the unregenerate man, for one good thought, he cannot command it, 2 Cor. 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think anything as of ourselves.” Were it offered on condition of a good word—yet “How can you, being evil, speak good things?” Matt. 12:35. Nay, were it left to yourselves, to choose what is easiest, Christ himself tells you, John 15:5, “Without me, you can do nothing.”
5. The natural man always resists the Lord’s offering to help him; yet that resistance is infallibly overcome in the elect, by converting grace. Can the stony heart but choose to resist the stroke? There is not only an inability—but an enmity and obstinacy in man’s will by nature. God knows, O natural man, whether you know it or not, that “you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your brow brass,” Isaiah 48:4, and cannot be overcome— but by him, who has “broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.” Hence, commonly speaking, there is such hard work in converting a sinner. Sometimes he seems to be caught in the net of the gospel; yet quickly he slips away again. The hook catches hold of him; but he struggles, until, getting free of it, he goes away with a bleeding wound. When good hopes are conceived of him, by those that travail in birth for the forming of Christ in him, there is oft- times nothing brought forth but wind. The deceitful heart makes many contrivances to avoid a Savior, and cheat the man of his eternal happiness. Thus the natural man lies sunk in a state of sin and wrath, and utterly unable to recover himself.
Objection 1. If we are under an utter inability to do any good, how can God require us to do it?
Answer. God making man upright, Eccl. 7:29, gave him a power to do everything that he should require of him; this power man lost by his own fault. We were bound to serve God, and do whatever he commanded us, as being his creatures; and also, we were under the superadded tie of a covenant, for that purpose. Now, we having, by our own fault, disabled ourselves, shall God lose his right of requiring our task, because we have thrown away the strength he gave us whereby to perform it? Has the creditor no right to require payment of his money, because the debtor has squandered it away, and is not able to pay him? Truly, if God can require no more of us than we are able to do, we need no more to save us from wrath—but to make ourselves unable for every duty, and to incapacitate ourselves for serving God any manner of way, as profane men frequently do; and so the deeper a man is plunged in sin, he will be the more secure from wrath—for where God can require no duty of us, we do not sin in omitting it; and where there is no sin, there can be no wrath.
As to what may be urged by the unhumbled soul, against the putting our stock in Adam’s hand, the righteousness of that dispensation was explained before. But moreover, the unrenewed man is daily throwing away the very remains of natural abilities, that rational light and strength which are to be found among the ruins of mankind. Nay, farther, he will not believe his own utter inability to help himself; so that out of his own mouth, he must be condemned. Even those who make their natural impotency too good a covert to their sloth, do, with others, delay the work of turning to God from time to time, and, under convictions, make large promises of reformation, which afterwards they never regard, and delay their repentance to a deathbed, as if they could help themselves in a moment; which shows them to be far from a due sense of their natural inability, whatever they pretend.
Now, if God can require of men the duty they are not able to do, he can in justice punish them for their not doing it, notwithstanding their inability. If he has power to exact the debt of obedience, he has also power to cast the insolvent debtor into prison, for his not paying it. Further, though unregenerate men have no gracious abilities—yet they lack not natural abilities, which nevertheless they will not improve. There are many things they can do, which they do not; they will not do them, and therefore their damnation will be just. Nay, all their inability to do good is voluntary; they will not come to Christ, John 5:40. They will not repent, they will die, Ezek. 18:31. So they will be justly condemned, because they will neither turn to God, nor come to Christ; but love their chains better than their liberty, and darkness rather than light, John 3:19.
Objection 2. Why do you, then, preach Christ to us—call us to come to him, to believe, repent, and use the means of salvation?
Answer. Because it is our duty so to do. It is your duty to accept of Christ, as he is offered in the Gospel; to repent of your sins, and to be holy in all manner of conversation—these things are commanded you of God; and his command, not your ability, is the measure of your duty. Moreover, these calls and exhortations are the means that God is pleased to make use of, for converting his elect, and working grace in their hearts—to them, “faith comes by hearing,” Romans 10:17, while they are as unable to help themselves as the rest of mankind are. Upon very good grounds may we, at the command of God, who raises the dead, go to their graves, and cry in his name, “Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light,” Eph. 5:14. And seeing the elect are not to be known and distinguished from others before conversion; as the sun shines on the blind man’s face, and the rain falls on the rocks as well as on the fruitful plains; so we preach Christ to all, and shoot the arrow at a venture, which God himself directs as he sees fit.
Moreover, these calls and exhortations are not altogether in vain, even to those who are not converted by them. Such people may be convinced, though they be not converted—although they be not sanctified by these means—yet they may be restrained by them, from running into that excess of wickedness, which otherwise they would arrive at. The means of grace serve, as it were, to embalm many dead souls, which are never quickened by them—though they do not restore them to life—yet they keep them from putrefying, as otherwise they would do.
Finally, Though you cannot recover yourselves, nor take hold of the saving help offered to you in the Gospel; yet even by the power of nature, you may use the outward and ordinary means, whereby Christ communicates the benefit of redemption to ruined sinners, who are utterly unable to recover themselves out of the state of sin and wrath. You may and can, if you please, do many things that would set you in a fair way for help from the Lord Jesus Christ. You may go so far on, as not to be far from the kingdom of God, as the discreet Scribe had done, Mark 12:34, though, it should seem, he was destitute of supernatural abilities. Though you cannot cure yourselves—yet you may come to the pool, where many such diseased people as you are, have been cured; though you have none to put you into it—yet you may lie at the side of it—”Who knows but the Lord may return, and leave a blessing behind him?” as in the case of the impotent man, recorded in John 5:5-8.
I hope Satan does not chain you to your houses, nor stake you down in your fields on the Lord’s day; but you are at liberty and can wait at the posts of wisdom’s doors if you will. When you come there, I hope that Satan does not beat drums at your ears, that you cannot hear what is said; I hope there is no force upon you, obliging you to apply all you hear to others; I hope you may apply to yourselves what belongs to your state and condition.
When you go home, I hope you are not fettered in your houses, where perhaps no religious discourse is to be heard; but you may retire to some separate place, where you can meditate, and exercise your consciences with suitable questions upon what you have heard. I hope you are not possessed with a dumb devil, that you cannot get your mouths opened in prayer to God. I hope you are not so driven out of your beds to your worldly business, and, from your worldly business to your beds again—but you might, if you would, make some prayer to God upon the case of your perishing souls. I hope you may examine yourselves as to the state of your souls, in a solemn manner, as in the presence of God; I hope you may discern that you have no grace, and that you are lost and undone without it; and you may cry unto God for it. These things are within the compass of natural abilities, and may be practiced where there is no grace. It must aggravate your guilt, that you will not be at so much pains about the state and case of your precious souls. If you do not what you can, you will be condemned, not only for the lack of grace—but for your despising it.
Objection 3. But all this is needless, seeing we are utterly unable to help ourselves out of the state of sin and wrath.
Answer. Give not place to that delusion, which puts asunder what God has joined, namely, the use of means, and a sense of our own impotency. If ever the Spirit of God graciously influences your souls, you will become thoroughly sensible of your absolute inability, and yet enter upon a vigorous use of means. You will do for yourselves, as if you were to do all; and yet overlook all you do, as if you had done nothing. Will you do nothing for yourselves, because you cannot do all? Lay down no such impious conclusion against your own souls. Do what you can; and, it may be, while you are doing what you can for yourselves, God will do for you what you cannot. “Do you understand what you read?” said Philip to the eunuch; “How can I,” said he “except some man should guide me?” Acts 8:30, 31. He could not understand the scripture he read—yet he could read it—he did what he could, he read; and while he was reading, God sent him an interpreter.
The Israelites were in a great strait at the Red Sea; and how could they help themselves, when on the one hand were mountains, and on the other the enemy in pursuit; when Pharaoh and his host were behind them, and the Red Sea before them? What could they do? “Speak unto the children of Israel,” says the Lord to Moses, “that they go forward,” Exod. 14:15. For what end should they go forward? Can they make a passage to themselves through the sea? No; but let them go forward, says the Lord—though they cannot turn the sea to dry land— yet they can go forward to the shore. So they did; and when they did what they could, God did for them what they could not do.