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"And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled."
Col. I. 21.
It is a great and wonderful context, whereof these words are a part, which the time will not allow me to look into; but presently to fall on the consideration of the words themselves, which briefly represent to us the wretched and horrid state of men yet unconverted and not brought home to God, and the happy state of those that are reduced and brought home to him. The former, in those words, "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works," The latter, in these words, "Yet now hath He reconciled." I shall apply my discourse to the former part of the words, and thence observe - that men in their unconverted state are alienated from God, and enemies to him by their wicked works. This I shall endeavour, - l. To explain, and shew you the meaning of it ; - 2. To evince, and let you see the truth of it ; - 3. Apply it.
1. For the meaning of it, 'tis evident that it is the unconverted state of man that is here reflected upon and referred unto. You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works. They were so, before they were turned to God; he writes to those Colossians as to converts, to them that were saints, and faithful brethren in Christ (v. 2), to them that were now believers in Christ, and lovers of the saints (v. 4), telling them, they sometime had been enemies by wicked works. Before conversion, they had (as is elsewhere said) their understandings darkened, being alienated from the life of God; walking as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Ephes.4:18, compared with the preceding verse. This is the deplorable condition of the unconverted world, they are alienated from, and enemies to, God by wicked works. We are to consider what this alienation from God doth import. It signifies estrangement, unacquaintance with God; and that without any inclination towards him, or disposition to seek his acquaintance. The word is emphatical, it signifies people of another country, you were like people of another country. Of such a different language, manners, and behaviour they that are converted are to you, and you them; you are estranged to their speech, customs, and ways. All that is of God was strange to you, men in their unconverted state are strangers to God. Wicked men do not understand the words of the gospel, John, viii: 4 What relates to the kingdom of God, the unconverted man dislikes, Job, xxi. 14. They say to God, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. Man who was originally made for the service of God, and communion with him, is now so degenerated, that he is become a mere stranger to him. The next word to be taken notice of, is enemies, which may seem to add somewhat to the former word alienated; there is not only no inclination towards God, but there is a disinclination; not only no affection, but a disaffection. The carnal mind is enmity to God, and the effects of this enmity are obvious. The alienation from God is voluntary, affected, and chosen, men in their unconverted state, are not only strangers to God, but enemies against God, and that in their minds. A most fearful case, full of astonishment, that the very mind of man, the offspring of God, the paternal mind as a heathen called him, that this most excellent part or power belonging to the nature of man, should be poisoned with malignity, and envenomed with enmity against the glorious ever-blessed God! that the mind of man, his thinking power, the fountain of thoughts should be set against Him who gave him this power to think! Yet into this reason must every man's unacquaintance with God be resolved, they know not God, and converse not with him, only because they have no mind to it. That noble faculty in man, that resembles the nature of God, is turned off from him, and set on vain things that cannot profit; as also upon wicked and impure things, that render them more unlike to God, and disaffected to him. By wicked works, which must have a double reference: 1. Former wicked works, as done by them: 2. Future wicked works, as resolved on by them.
1. The former wicked works, which they have done, have more and more habituated their souls unto a state of distance from God. The longer they live, the longer they sin; and the longer they sin, the more they are confirmed in their entity against God.
2. Future wicked works, as resolved on to be done. They purpose to live as they have done, and give themselves the same liberty in sin as before, and will not know God, or be acquainted with him, lest they should be drawn off from their resolved sinful course. For the knowledge of God and a course of sin are inconsistent things, 1 Cor. xv. "Awake to righteousness, and sin not, for some have not the knowledge of God." This is the condemnation (John, iii. 19), that light is come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. They hate the light, because they will not have their course altered, they resolve to do as they have done, and that light, which brings with it a tendency to the obeying of God, they cannot endure. But then, as this alienation of mind and enmity are against the light that reveals God, they finally terminate on the blessed God himself: as God in the term of reconciliation, so he is the term of this enmity and alienation. Wicked men look on God with enmity of mind, under several notions.
I. As he claims to be their Owner; when he claims a principal propriety in them, when he insists on his right in them as their Creator; as having made them out of nothing, When God owns or claims them as their Lord, that first signifies he is their Proprietor, or one to whom they belong.
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