Man's Utter Inability to Recover Himself
by Thomas Boston
For when we were still without strength, at the appointed time Christ died for the ungodly.—Romans 5:6.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.—John 5:44.
WE have now witnessed the complete corruption of human nature and the weight of wrath that rests upon it, the abyss of misery into which it is plunged in its natural state. But there is one aspect of its misery that requires special consideration: its utter inability to recover itself. Knowledge of this is necessary for the proper humbling of a sinner. My intention here is to present a few points that will convince the unregenerate person of this inability, so that they may see an absolute need for Christ and the power of His grace.
Just as a person who has fallen into a pit cannot be expected to help themselves out of it except through one of two ways—either by relying solely on their own efforts or by seizing and utilizing the help offered by others—likewise, an unconverted person cannot be expected to help themselves out of their natural state except through either the path of the law or the covenant of works, by relying solely on their own efforts without Christ, or through the path of the Gospel or the covenant of grace, by exerting their own strength to lay hold of and make use of the help offered by a Saviour. But alas! the unconverted person is dead in the pit and cannot help themselves in either of these ways. Not the first way, for the first passage tells us that when our Lord came to help us, "we were without strength," unable to recover ourselves. We were ungodly, burdened with guilt and wrath, yet "without strength," unable to endure it or remove it. Thus, all of mankind would undoubtedly have perished had not "Christ died for the ungodly" and brought help to those who could never have recovered themselves. But when Christ comes and offers help to sinners, can they accept it? Can they make use of the help when it is within their reach? No, the second passage tells us they cannot. "No one can come to me," that is, believe in me, John 6:44, "unless the Father draws him." This drawing is what enables them to come when previously they could not; it enables them to come and make use of the offered help. It is a drawing that is always effective, for it can be nothing less than "hearing and learning from the Father," which leads everyone who partakes in it to come to Christ, verse 45. Therefore, it is not merely a moral persuasion but a drawing by mighty power, Ephesians 1:12, which is absolutely necessary for those who have no power in themselves to come and take hold of the offered help.
Listen, then, O unregenerate person, and be convinced that just as you are in a most miserable state by nature, so you are utterly unable to recover yourself in any way. You are ruined, so how will you attempt to recover yourself? Which of the two paths will you choose? Will you try it alone or will you seek help? Will you follow the path of works or the path of the Gospel? I know very well that you will not even consider the path of the Gospel until you find the path of the law impracticable. Therefore, we shall begin where corrupt nature teaches people to begin, namely, with the path of the law of works.
I. Sinner, I want you to believe that your efforts will never achieve it. Work and do your best; you will never be able to work your way out of this state of corruption and wrath. You must have Christ, or you will perish eternally. Only "Christ in you" can be the hope of glory. But if you insist on trying, then I must present to you, based on the unchanging word of the living God, two things that you must do for yourself. If you can do them, it must be acknowledged that you are able to recover yourself. But if not, then you can do nothing in this way for your recovery.
"If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments," Matthew 19:17. In other words, if you want to enter life through your own efforts, then perfectly keep the Ten Commandments. These words are meant to humble the pride of the person's heart and show them the absolute need for a Saviour, as it is impossible to keep the law. The response is fitting for the occasion. Our Lord rebukes the person for calling Him "Good Master," verse 16, by telling him, "There is only One who is good, and that is God," verse 17. In other words, when goodness is mentioned, both men and angels should bow before the good God. As for the person's question, which revealed their legal disposition, Christ does not answer by saying, "Believe and you will be saved," as that would not be appropriate for someone who thinks they can do well enough on their own if they only knew "what good they should do." Instead, in line with the person's mindset, He tells them to "keep the commandments," to keep them meticulously and accurately, like guards watching over prisoners to prevent any escape, lest their lives be taken for the lives of those who escape. So, see now, O unregenerate person, what you can do in this matter. For if you want to recover yourself in this way, you must perfectly keep God's commandments.
(1.) Your obedience must be perfect in terms of its principle. Your soul, the principle of action, must be completely pure and entirely without sin. For the law demands moral perfection, not only in actions but also in nature, and therefore condemns original sin and impurity of both nature and actions. Now, if you can accomplish this, you will be able to answer Solomon's question in a way that none of Adam's descendants has ever been able to answer, "Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean'?" Proverbs 20:9. But if you cannot, the mere absence of this perfection is itself a sin, exposing you to the curse and cutting you off from life. It also renders all your actions, even your best actions, sinful. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" Job 14:4. And do you think that by sinning you can help yourself out of sin and misery?
(2.) Your obedience must also be perfect in its parts. It must encompass the entire law of God. If you lack even one thing, you are undone, for the law pronounces a curse on anyone who does not continue in everything written in it, Galatians 3:10. You must give internal and external obedience to the entire law, keeping all the commands in heart and life. If you break any one of them, it will seal your ruin. Even a vain thought or idle word will still subject you to the curse.
(3.) It must be perfect in terms of degrees, just as Adam's obedience was while he stood in his innocence. This is what the law requires and will accept—nothing less. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind," Matthew 22:37. If you lack even one degree of that love required by the law, if any part of your obedience falls short of the highest command, it is considered a breach of the law and leaves you under the curse. Can a person bring as many buckets of water to a house on fire as they are able to carry, and yet the house may still be consumed unless they bring enough to extinguish the fire completely? Similarly, even if you were to do your best in keeping the commandments throughout your life, a single idle word or vain thought at the hour of death would nullify all your previous righteousness and ruin you, especially in the way you seek to recover yourself.
Such is the obedience you must perform if you want to recover yourself through the path of the law. But even if you were to obey, the law still holds you under the state of wrath until another requirement is fulfilled.
You must pay what you owe. It is undeniable that you are a sinner, and justice must be satisfied for your sins already committed. The honor of the law must be upheld through your enduring the wrath that has been declared. Perhaps you have changed your way of life or are now resolved to do so, to keep the commands of God. But what have you done or what will you do about the old debt? Your obedience to God, even if it were perfect, is a debt owed to Him for the time in which it is performed, and it can no more satisfy for past sins than a tenant paying the current year's rent can settle all past arrears. Can the payment of new debts absolve a person from old accounts? No, do not deceive yourself. You will find that those accounts are stored up and sealed among God's treasures, Deuteronomy 32:34. Therefore, it remains that either you must bear the wrath to which you are liable for your sins according to the law, or you must acknowledge that you cannot bear it and therefore turn to the surety, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me ask you now, are you able to satisfy the justice of God? Can you pay your own debt? Surely not, for He is the infinite God whom you have offended, and the punishment, matching the quality of the offense, must be infinite. But your punishment or suffering for sin cannot have infinite value, as you are a finite creature. Therefore, it must be infinite in duration—it must be eternal. So, all your sufferings in this world are only a foretaste of what awaits you in the world to come.
Now, sinner, if you can answer these demands, you may recover yourself through the path of the law. But are you not aware of your inability to do any of these things, let alone all of them? Even if you don't do all, you do nothing. No matter which path of life you choose, you are still in a state of wrath. Even if you push your obedience to the utmost limit, endure whatever God lays upon you, and bear burdens without impatience, it will not satisfy the demands of the law. Therefore, you remain a ruined creature. Oh, sinner! What are you doing while you strive to help yourself but fail to receive and unite with Jesus Christ? You are toiling in vain, wearying yourself for mere vanity. You are laboring to enter heaven through a door that Adam's sin has bolted shut, a door through which neither he nor any of his lost descendants can ever enter. Can you not see the flaming sword of justice keeping you away from the tree of life? Can you not hear the law pronouncing a curse on you for all your efforts, even for your obedience, prayers, tears, and reformation of life? Because you are under the dominion of the law, your best works are not good enough to escape the curse. Believe it, sirs, if you live and die outside of Christ, without being actually united to Him as the second Adam, the life-giving Spirit, and without taking refuge under His atoning blood, even if you do everything that any person can do to keep God's commands, you can never see the face of God in peace. Even if you bid farewell to worldly joys and dedicate yourself solely to the salvation of your soul, even if you live on the grass of the field, isolating yourself in a wilderness, being companions to dragons and owls, even if you retreat to a dark cave and weep there for your sins until you cry yourself blind, even if you confess with your tongue until it cleaves to the roof of your mouth, pray until your knees become hard as horns, fast until your body becomes like a skeleton, and even if you offer your body to be burnt—all these efforts will not change the fact that, according to the righteous word of the Lord, you will perish forever if you are not in Christ. As John 14:6 says, "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me." And Acts 4:12 declares, "Neither is there salvation in any other." Mark 16:16 warns, "He that believeth not shall be damned."
Objection: But God is merciful, and He knows that we are not able to meet these demands. Therefore, we hope to be saved if we do the best we can and keep the commands as well as we are able. Answer 1: Though you may be able to do many things, you are not able to do anything right. You cannot do anything acceptable to God, being outside of Christ. As John 15:5 says, "Without me ye can do nothing." An unregenerate person, like yourself, can do nothing but sin, as we have already proven. Your best actions are sinful and increase your debt to justice. How then can they be expected to lessen it? Answer 2: Even if God were to offer salvation to those who do all they can in obedience to His commands, it is reasonable to think that those who attempt it would never be saved. For where is the person who does as well as they can? Who does not see the many false steps they have taken, which they could have avoided? There are so many things to be done, so many temptations to lead us astray from the path of duty, and our nature is so prone to be set on fire by hell, that we are sure to fail even in some aspect within our natural abilities. Answer 3: Even if you were to do all that you are able to do, you cannot hope to be saved in that way. What word of God is your hope founded on? It is neither founded on the law nor the gospel; therefore, it is merely a delusion. It is not founded on the Gospel, for the Gospel directs the soul to Jesus Christ for everything and upholds the law, as Romans 3:31 states. Your hope cannot be established on a foundation that undermines the law, which God intends to magnify and honor. Thus, it is clear that your hope is not founded on the law either. When God set Adam to work for his happiness and that of his descendants, perfect obedience was required of him as the condition. The curse was pronounced in the event of disobedience. The law was broken by Adam, and he and his descendants were subject to the penalty for sin, yet they were still bound to perfect obedience. It is absurd to think that man's sinning and suffering for his sin should exempt him from the duty of obedience to his Creator. When Christ came as the substitute for the elect to purchase their salvation, the terms remained the same. Justice held the elect under arrest. If He desired to deliver them, the terms were known. He had to satisfy for their sin by suffering the punishment due to it, and He had to do what they could not do—obey the law perfectly and fulfill all righteousness. He accomplished all this and became "the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" (Romans 10:4). And do you think that God will change these terms for you when His own Son received no alteration? Do not expect it, even if you were to beg with tears of blood. If such pleas prevailed, they would prevail against the truth, justice, and honor of God, as Galatians 3:10 states, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." And verse 12 adds, "And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them." It is true that God is merciful, but can't He be merciful without saving you in a way that is inconsistent with His law and His Gospel? Hasn't His goodness and mercy been sufficiently revealed in sending His beloved Son to do "what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh"? He has provided help for those who cannot help themselves. Yet, in your unawareness of your own weakness, you think you can recover yourself by your own works when you are no more capable of doing so than moving mountains of brass.
Therefore, I conclude that you are completely unable to recover yourself through works or by the law. Oh, that you would come to the same conclusion about yourself!
Now, let us examine what the sinner can do to recover himself through the path of the gospel. It may be that you believe you cannot do everything on your own, but with Jesus Christ offering you help, you can embrace it and use it for your recovery. But, oh sinner, be convinced of your absolute need for the grace of Christ. Truly, help is offered, but you cannot accept it. A rope is thrown out to draw shipwrecked sinners to safety, but alas, you have no hands to grasp it. You are like infants abandoned in an open field who will starve even though their food is within reach unless someone puts it in their mouths. To convince natural men of this, let us consider:
Although Christ is offered in the gospel, you cannot believe in Him. Saving faith is the faith of God's elect, a special gift given to them by God through His Spirit. Salvation is offered to those who will believe in Christ, but how can you believe? As John 5:44 states, "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" It is offered to those who will come to Christ, but "no man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). It is offered to those who will look to Him as lifted up on the pole of the gospel, as Isaiah 45:22 says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." But the natural man is spiritually blind, as Revelation 3:17 declares, "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." And as for the things of the Spirit of God, you cannot know them, for they are spiritually discerned, as 1 Corinthians 2:14 states. Furthermore, whoever wills to come is welcome, as Revelation 22:17 affirms, "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." But there must be a day of power upon the sinner before he can be willing, as Psalm 110:3 says, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power."
In your natural state, you have nothing with which to make use of the help brought by the gospel for your recovery. You are cast away in a state of wrath and are bound hand and foot, unable to grasp the cords of love extended to you in the gospel. The most skilled craftsman cannot work without tools, just as the most talented musician cannot play well on an out-of-tune instrument. How can you believe or repent when your understanding is darkness, as Ephesians 5:8 states? How can you repent when your heart is like stone, unyielding and unfeeling, as Ezekiel 36:26 says? Your affections are disordered and disturbed, inclined toward evil and averse to good. Your natural abilities fall short of reaching the supernatural help available to you. Consequently, those who excel in natural abilities often have the least inclination toward spiritual matters, as Matthew 11:25 testifies, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."
You cannot bring about a saving change in yourself, yet such a change is necessary for you to believe, repent, and ultimately see heaven. No action can occur without a corresponding principle. Believing, repenting, and similar acts are products of the new nature and can never be produced by the old corrupt nature. What can the natural man do in this matter? He must be born again, begotten anew unto a living hope. However, just as a child cannot actively participate in their own conception, a person cannot actively but only passively participate in their own regeneration. The heart is closed off to Christ, and only God can open it by His grace, as Acts 16:14 shows. You are dead in sin and need to be made alive, raised out of your grave, and who can do this but God Himself, as Ephesians 2:1–5 testifies? Moreover, you must be "created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10). These are works of omnipotence and can only be accomplished by a power greater than any other.
In your depraved state, you are utterly unable to do anything truly good, as we have extensively proven before. How then can you obey the gospel? Your nature is the complete opposite of the gospel. How can you, of yourself, align with the plan of salvation and accept the offered remedy? The corruption of your nature inevitably includes complete inability to recover yourself in any way. Those convinced of their inability must acknowledge this truth, for they stand or fall together. Even if all of Christ's redemption were offered to the unregenerate person in exchange for one good thought, they cannot produce it, as 2 Corinthians 3:5 says, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves." If it were offered on the condition of a good word, Jesus Himself asks, "How can ye, being evil, speak good things?" (Matthew 12:35). And if left to choose what is easiest, Christ Himself tells you, "Without me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).
The natural man cannot help but resist the Lord's offer of help, yet that resistance is ultimately overcome by converting grace in the elect. Can a stony heart choose anything other than to resist? There is not only inability but also enmity and obstinacy in the will of man by nature. God knows, whether you acknowledge it or not, that "thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass" (Isaiah 48:4). Such resistance cannot be overcome except by Him who has "broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder." Consequently, the conversion of a sinner is often a laborious process. Sometimes they seem to be caught in the net of the gospel, only to quickly slip away again. The hook catches hold of them, but they struggle and manage to break free, leaving with a bleeding wound. Even when good hopes are formed for them by those who labor in childbirth for the formation of Christ in them, oftentimes nothing is brought forth but wind. The deceitful heart devises many strategies to avoid a Savior and rob a person of eternal happiness. Thus, the natural man remains sunk in a state of sin and wrath, utterly unable to recover themselves.
Objection 1: If we are completely unable to do any good, how can God require it of us? Answer: God created man upright and gave him the power to do everything that He required of him. However, man lost this power through his own fault. We were obligated to serve God and do whatever He commanded us as His creatures. Additionally, we were bound by the covenant to fulfill this purpose. Now, since we have disabled ourselves through our own fault, should God lose His right to require our task because we have squandered the strength He gave us to perform it? Does the creditor have no right to demand payment from the debtor because the debtor wasted the money and is now unable to repay? If God can require no more of us than what we are able to do, we would need nothing more to save us from wrath than to render ourselves unable to perform any duty and incapacitate ourselves from serving God in any way, as many profane individuals frequently do. Thus, the more deeply a person is submerged in sin, the more secure they would be from wrath, for where God can require no duty of us, we would not sin by neglecting it, and where there is no sin, there can be no wrath. As for the objection raised by the unbroken soul against the imputation of Adam's sin to us, the righteousness of that arrangement was explained previously. Moreover, unregenerate individuals continually squander the remnants of their natural abilities, the rational light and strength found amidst the ruins of humanity. Furthermore, they do not believe their own complete inability to help themselves, thus condemning themselves even by their own words. Even those who use their natural impotence as a cover for their sloth still delay turning to God, make grand promises of reformation under conviction, which they ultimately disregard, and postpone their repentance until their deathbed, as if they could suddenly save themselves, indicating their far-from-adequate understanding of their natural inability, regardless of their claims.
If God can require of us the duty we are unable to perform, He can also justly punish us for not fulfilling it, despite our inability. If He has the power to demand the debt of obedience, He also has the power to cast the insolvent debtor into prison for failing to pay. Furthermore, even though unregenerate individuals lack gracious abilities, they still possess natural abilities that they choose not to utilize for their recovery. There are many things they can do, but they do not do them because they do not want to. Therefore, their damnation is just. Moreover, their inability to do good is voluntary; they do not come to Christ (John 5:40), they do not repent, they choose death over life (Ezekiel 18:31). Thus, they will be justly condemned because they refuse to turn to God or come to Christ, preferring their chains over their liberty and darkness over light (John 3:19).
Objection 2: Why do you preach Christ to us and call us to come to Him, believe, repent, and use the means of salvation? Answer: It is our duty to do so. It is your duty to accept Christ as He is offered in the Gospel, to repent of your sins, and to live a holy life in all aspects. These things are commanded by God, and His command, not your ability, is the measure of your duty. Furthermore, these calls and exhortations are the means by which God graciously converts His elect and works His grace in their hearts. Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17) for those who, like the rest of mankind, are unable to help themselves. Therefore, in obedience to God's command, we go to their graves, so to speak, and cry out in His name, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" (Ephesians 5:14). Since the elect cannot be distinguished from others before conversion, just as the sun shines on the face of a blind person and the rain falls on both rocks and fertile plains, we preach Christ to all and shoot the arrow which God Himself directs as He sees fit. Furthermore, these calls and exhortations are not entirely in vain, even for those who are not converted by them. Such individuals may be convinced, though not converted. Although they may not be sanctified by these means, they may be restrained from indulging in excessive wickedness they would otherwise engage in. The means of grace serve as a preserving balm for many dead souls that are not quickened by them. Though these means do not restore them to life, they prevent them from putrefying as they would otherwise do. Finally, even though you cannot recover yourself, nor can you grasp the saving help offered to you in the Gospel, you can, by the power of nature, engage in the outward and ordinary means through which Christ communicates the benefits of redemption to ruined sinners who are utterly unable to save themselves from the state of sin and wrath. You can, if you so choose, take steps that will set you on the path toward receiving help from the Lord Jesus Christ. You can strive to come close to the kingdom of God, just as the wise scribe had done (Mark 12:34), even if it appears that he lacked supernatural abilities. Although you cannot heal yourself, you can approach the pool where many such diseased individuals like yourself have been cured. Although there is no one to put you in, you can lie by its side. Who knows whether the Lord may return and leave a blessing behind? Just as in the case of the impotent man recorded in John 5:5–8. I hope that Satan does not confine you to your homes or restrict you to your fields on the Lord's day. You are at liberty to wait at the doorposts of wisdom if you so desire. When you come, God does not beat drums at your ears, preventing you from hearing what is said. There is no external force compelling you to apply everything you hear to others. You can apply what pertains to your own state and condition. When you return home, you are not imprisoned in your houses, where religious conversations are absent. You can retreat to a separate place where you can meditate and examine your conscience, asking appropriate questions based on what you have heard. You are not afflicted with a mute demon that prevents you from opening your mouth in prayer to God. You are not so overwhelmed by your worldly pursuits that you cannot find time for prayer. You are not so driven by your worldly business that you cannot pause to pray for the salvation of your soul. You can examine your own soul in a solemn manner in the presence of God, discerning that you lack grace and that you are lost and condemned without it. You can cry out to God for His mercy. These actions fall within the realm of natural abilities and can be practiced even in the absence of grace. It is a grave indictment of your guilt that you are not willing to exert such efforts concerning the state and condition of your precious soul. If you fail to do what you can, you will be condemned not only for lacking grace but also for despising it.
Objection 3: All of this is unnecessary since we are completely unable to help ourselves out of the state of sin and wrath. Answer: Do not succumb to the delusion that separates what God has joined together—the use of means and a recognition of our own impotence. If the Spirit of God graciously influences your soul, you will become keenly aware of your absolute inability and yet embark on a vigorous use of means. You will act as if you are responsible for your own salvation while simultaneously disregarding all your efforts as if they amounted to nothing. Do not refrain from doing anything for yourself simply because you cannot do everything. Do not arrive at such impious conclusions against your own soul. Do what you can, for perhaps while you are doing what you can for yourself, God will do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
Consider the example of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. When Philip asked the eunuch, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" the eunuch replied, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" (Acts 8:30-31). He could not understand the scripture he was reading, but he could still read it. He did what he could by reading, and while he was reading, God sent him an interpreter. Similarly, when the Israelites faced a dire situation at the Red Sea, with mountains on one side and the pursuing enemy on the other, and Pharaoh's army closing in from behind, what could they do? The Lord said to Moses, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward" (Exodus 14:15). Why should they go forward? Could they part the sea and create a passage for themselves? No, but the Lord commanded them to go forward. Although they could not turn the sea into dry land, they could still move forward toward the shore. And so they did. While they did what they could, God did for them what they could not do.
Question: Has God promised to convert and save those who, in the use of means, do what they can towards their own relief? Answer: We must not speak falsely for God. Natural individuals, who are unaware of the covenant of promise (Ephesians 2:12), do not have such a promise made to them. However, it is irrational for them not to utilize their abilities and do what they can. For, 1. There is a possibility that this course of action may succeed for them. If you do what you can, it is possible that God will do for you what you cannot do for yourselves. This is enough to convince a person in a matter of great importance, such as this one (Acts 8:22). "Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee." (Joel 2:14) If there is a chance of success, then the attempt should be made. For instance, in a shipwreck, if all the sailors and passengers cling to broken boards in order to save themselves, and if one of them witnesses the others perishing despite their utmost efforts, the mere possibility of escape through that means would compel that individual to continue doing their best with their board. So, why don't you reason with yourselves as the four lepers did, who sat at the gate of Samaria? (2 Kings 7:3-4) Why don't you say, "If we sit still," not doing what we can, "we die"? Let's put it to the test. If we are saved, "we shall live"; if not, "we shall only die."
It is probable that this course of action may succeed. God is good and merciful. He delights in surprising people with His grace and is often "found by those who did not seek Him" (Isaiah 65:1). If you do this, you are already on the path of duty, using the means that the Lord typically blesses for the spiritual recovery of individuals. You place yourselves in the way of the great Physician, and it is probable that you may be healed. Just as Lydia went with others to the place "where prayer was customarily made" and "the Lord opened her heart" (Acts 16:13-14). You sow seeds and plough, even though you cannot be certain of reaping a harvest. You use means to regain your health, even though you are uncertain of their success. In such cases, probability guides your actions. So why not in this case as well? We see that persistence has a significant impact on people. Therefore, pray, meditate, desire God's help, spend ample time at the throne of grace, supplicating for grace, and do not grow weary. Even though God may not regard you in your present state, as you are a mass of sin, universally corrupt, and vitiated in all the faculties of your soul, He may still regard prayer, meditation, and other means appointed by Him and bless them to you. Therefore, if you refuse to do what you can, you are not only spiritually dead but also declare yourselves unworthy of eternal life.
In conclusion, let the saints marvel at the freedom and power of grace, which came to them in their helpless condition, caused their chains to fall off, opened the iron gate for them, raised fallen creatures, and rescued them from the state of sin and wrath in which they would have remained and perished had they not received merciful visitation. Let the natural man recognize his complete inability to recover himself. Know that you are without strength and cannot come to Christ unless drawn. You are lost and cannot help yourself. If you have never truly grasped your absolute need for Christ and His grace, but instead believe that you can contrive your own salvation through civility, morality, idle wishes, and self-imposed duties, as well as through a faith and repentance that have arisen from your natural abilities without the power and efficacy of the grace of Christ, then this may shake the foundation of your hopes. Be convinced of your absolute need for Christ and His overcoming grace. Believe in your utter inability to recover yourself so that you may be humbled, shaken out of your self-assurance, and lie down in dust and ashes, groaning over your wretched state before the Lord. A proper understanding of your natural impotence, the impotence of depraved human nature, would be a step towards deliverance. This concludes the discussion of man's natural state, the state of complete depravity.
Excerpt from Human Nature in its Fourfold State by Thomas Boston