2 Peter 2:17-22
These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.…
I propose to discuss the moral state of the sinner.
I. THE FIRST IMPORTANT FACT TO BE NOTICED IS THAT ALL MEN ARE NATURALLY FREE, AND NONE THE LESS SO FOR BEING SINNERS. THEY NATURALLY HAVE FREEDOM OF WILL. This freedom is in the will itself, and consists in its power of free choice. To do, or not to do — this is its option. It has by its own nature the function of determining its own volitions. The soul wills to do or not to do, and thus is a moral sovereign over its own activities. In this fact lies the foundation for moral agency. Still further: man can distinguish between those acts in which he is free, and those in which he is acted upon by influences independent of his own choice. He knows that in some things he is a recipient of influences and of actions exerted upon himself, while in other things he is not a recipient in the same sense, but a voluntary actor. The fact of this discrimination proves the possession of free agency. Again, the Bible always treats men as free agents, commanding them to do or not to do as if of course they had all the power requisite to obey such commands. A young minister once said to me, "I preach that men ought to repent, but never that they can." "Why not preach also that they can?" said I. He replied, "The Bible does not affirm that they can." To this I replied that it would be most consummate trifling for a human legislature, having required certain acts, to affirm that its subjects have the power to obey. The very requirement is the strongest possible affirmation that, in the belief of the enacting power, the subjects are able to do the things required. Freedom of will lies among the earliest and most resistless convictions. Probably no one living can remember his first idea of oughtness — his first convictions of right and wrong. It is also among our most irresistible convictions. The fact of personal responsibility is fastened on us so that we might as well escape from ourselves as from this conviction.
II. While it is true, past a rational denial, that men have this attribute of moral liberty, IT IS EQUALLY TRUE THAT THEY ARE MORALLY ENSLAVED — in moral bondage. The liberty they have by created constitution; the bondage comes by voluntary perversion and abuse of their powers. The Bible represents men as being in bondage- as having the power to resist temptation to sin, but yet as voluntarily yielding, to those temptations. What the Bible thus represents, experience proves to be true. Wicked men know that they are in bondage to Satan. What do you think puts it into the heart of young men to plot iniquity and drink it in like water? Is it not the devil? How many young men do we meet with who, when tempted, seem to have no moral stamina to resist, but are swept away by the first gust of temptation! Men are in bondage to their appetites. What can be the reason that some young men find it so hard to give up the use of tobacco? They know the habit is filthy and disgusting. So when a man is in bondage to alcohol, and so with every form of sensual indulgence. Satan helps on the influence of sensuality, and does not care much what the particular form of it may be, provided its power be strong enough to ruin the soul. It all plays into his hand and promotes his main purpose. So men are in bondage to the love of money; to the fashions of the world; to the opinions of mankind. By these they are enslaved and led on in the face of the demands of duty. Every impenitent man is conscious of being really in bondage to temptation. What man, not saved from sin through grace, does not know that he is an enigma to himself? What! does he not know that his weakest desires carry his will, the strongest convictions of his reason and conscience to the contrary notwithstanding? This is a most guilty state, because so altogether voluntary — so needless, and so opposed to the convictions of his reason and of his understanding, and withal so opposed to his convictions of God's righteous demands. To go counter to such convictions, he must be supremely guilty. Of course such conduct must be most suicidal The sinner acts in most decided opposition to his own best interests, so that if he has the power to ruin himself this course must certainly do it. This is a state of deep moral degradation. Intrinsically it is most disgraceful. Everybody feels this in regard to certain forms of sin and classes of sinners. A drunkard we regard as a long way towards beasthood. Nay, rather must we ask pardon of all beasts for this comparison, for not one is so mean and so vile — not one excites in our bosom such a sense of voluntary degradation. So of the miser when he gets beyond all motives but the love of hoarding; when his practical question is — not, How shall I honour my race, or bless my generation, or glorify my Maker; but, How can I make a few coppers? Even when urged to pray, he would ask — "What profit shall I have if I do pray unto Him?" When you find a man thus incapable of being moved by noble motives, what a wretch he is! How ineffably mean! So I might bring before you the ambitious scholar, who is too low in his aims to be influenced by the exalted motive of doing good, and who feels only that which touches his reputation. Is not this exceedingly low and mean?
(C. G. Finney.)
Parallel VersesKJV: These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.