Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind…
A sinful state cannot but be a miserable state. If sin goes before, wrath follows of course. In the text we have four things.
1. The misery of a natural state; it is a state of wrath, as well as a state of sin. The natural man is a malefactor, dead in law, lying in chains of guilt; a criminal, held fast in his fetters, till the day of execution; which will not fail to come, unless a pardon be obtained from his God, who is his judge and his opponent too.
2. Here is the rise of this misery; men have it by nature. They owe it to their nature, not to their substance or essence; for that neither is nor was sin, and therefore cannot make them children of wrath; though, for sin, it may be under wrath: not to their nature, as qualified at man's creation by his Maker; but to their nature, as vitiated and corrupted by the Fall; to the vicious quality, or corruption of their nature, as before noticed, which is their principle of action, and, ceasing from action, the only principle in an unregenerate state.
3. The universality of this misery. All are by nature children of wrath, "we," says the apostle, "even as others"; Jews as well as Gentiles. Those that are now, by grace, the children of God were, by nature, in no better case than those that are still in their natural state.
4. Here is a glorious and happy change intimated. We were children of wrath, but are not so now; grace has brought us out of that state. And thus, it well becomes the people of God to be often standing on the shore, and looking back to the Red Sea, or the state of wrath, which they were once weltering in, even as others. The state of nature is a state of wrath.
I. WHAT THE STATE OF WRATH IS. No one can fully describe it. Enough may be discovered, however, to convince men of the absolute necessity of fleeing to Jesus to escape it.
1. There is wrath in the heart of God against the natural man.
(1) His person is under God's displeasure (Psalm 5:5).
2. There is wrath in the Word of God against him (Revelation 2:16).
3. There is wrath in the hand of God against him. He is under heavy strokes of wrath already, and is liable to more.
(1) There is wrath on his body (Genesis 2:17).
(2) Wrath, on his soul.
(3) Wrath on his enjoyments.
(4) He is under the power of Satan (Acts 24:18).
(5) The natural man hath no security for a moment's safety from the wrath of God coming on him to the uttermost.The curse of the law, denounced against him, has already tied him to the stake: so that the arrows of justice may pierce his soul. Does he lie down to sleep? There is not a promise that he knows of, or can know, to secure him that he shall not be in hell ere he awake. He walks amidst enemies armed against him: his name may be Magor-missabib, that is, terror round about (Jeremiah 20:3). Thus the natural man lives, but he must die too; and death is a dreadful messenger to him. It comes upon him armed with wrath, and puts three sad charges in his hand.
1. Death charges him to bid an eternal farewell to all things in this world; to leave it, and haste away to another world.
2. Death charges soul and body to part, till the great day. His soul is required of him (Luke 12:20). O what a miserable parting must this be to a child of wrath! Care was indeed taken to provide for the body things necessary for this life; but, alas! there is nothing laid up for another life. As for the soul, he was never solicitous to provide for it.
3. Death charges the soul to appear before the tribunal of God, while the body lies to be carried to the grave (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
II. I shall CONFIRM THE DOCTRINE of the state of wrath. Consider —
1. How peremptory the threatening of the first covenant is: "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17).
2. The justice of God requires that a child of sin be a child of wrath; that the law being broken, the sanction thereof should take place.
3. The horrors of a natural conscience prove this. Conscience, in the breasts of men, tells them that they are sinners, and therefore liable to the wrath of God.
4. The pangs of the new birth, the work of the Spirit on elect souls, in order to their conversion, demonstrate this. Hereby their natural sinfulness and misery, as liable to the wrath of God, are plainly taught them, filling their hearts with fear of that wrath. As it is the Spirit's work to "convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment" (John 16:8), this testimony must needs be true; for the Spirit of truth cannot witness an untruth.
5. The sufferings of Christ plainly prove this doctrine. Wherefore was the Son of God a son under wrath, but because the children of men were children of wrath?
III. I now proceed to APPLY THIS DOCTRINE of the misery of man's natural state. Is our state by nature a state of wrath? Then —
1. Surely we are not born innocent. Those chains of wrath, which by nature are upon us, show us to be born criminals.
2. What desperate madness is it for sinners to go on in their sinful course! What is it but to heap coals of fire on thine own head! to lay more and more fuel to the fire of wrath! (Romans 2:5).
3. Thou hast no reason to complain as long as thou art out of hell. "Wherefore doth a living man complain?" (Lamentations 3:39).If one, who has forfeited his life, be banished from his native country, and exposed to many hardships; he may well bear all patiently, seeing his life is spared.
1. To you that are yet in an unregenerate state, I would sound the alarm, and warn you to see to yourselves, while there is yet hope. O you children of wrath, take no rest in this dismal state; but flee to Christ, the only refuge. The state of wrath is too hot a climate for you to live in. But if any desire to flee from the wrath to come, and for that end to know what course to take, I offer them these few advices.
(1) Retire to some secret place and there meditate on this your misery.
(2) Consider seriously the sin of your nature, heart, and life. A proper sight of wrath flows from a deep sense of sin.
(3) Labour to justify God in this matter. To quarrel with God about it, and to rage like a wild bull in a net, will but fix you the more in it.
(4) Turn your eyes towards the Lord Jesus Christ, and embrace Him as He offers Himself in the gospel.
2. I Shall drop a few words to the saints.
(1) Remember, that in the day our Lord first took you by the hand, you were in no better a condition than others.
(2) Remember there was nothing in you to engage Him to love you, in the day He appeared for your deliverance.
(3) Remember, you were fitter to be loathed than loved in that day.
(4) Remember, you are decked with borrowed feathers. It is His comeliness which as upon you (ver. 14).
(5) Remember your faults this day, as Pharaoh's butler, who had forgotten Joseph. Mind how you have forgotten, and how unkindly you have treated, Him who remembered you in your low estate.
(6) Pity the children of wrath, the world that lies in wickedness. Can you be unconcerned for them, you who were once in the same condition?
(7) Admire that matchless love, which brought you out of the state of wrath.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.