Page images
PDF
EPUB

Fatality the only alternative of natural inability. for the exercise of his own powers under law, and in the view of motives, and with a sense of obligation and just liability to reward and punishment. Nothing short of this distinguishes man from animals, or dust and ashes. If some such power be not real, no difference can be pointed out between free agency and fatality, and no reason assigned why God should govern man by moral laws, and hold him accountable rather than any other of the products of his power and natural government. I say, therefore, with Tertullian

A law would not have been imposed on a person who had not in his

power

the obedience due to the law; nor again would transgression have been threatened with death, if the contempt also of the law were not placed to the account of man's free will.

“He who should be found to be good or bad by necessity, and not voluntarily, could not with justice receive the retribution either of good or evil.' p. 64.

[ocr errors]

MORAL INABILITY.

I now proceed to explain the doctrine of Man's Moral Inability, as understood in every age by the orthodox church, and as taught in the Confession of Faith and the Bible, and as I hold and teach it.

I am aware that the doctrine of a moral inability, as distinguished from natural impossibility, is regarded by some as a fiction of the imagination, or a mere metaphysical subtility, of no practical utility; while all its tendencies are powerfully to the territories of dangerous error. But when the nature and evidence of moral inability shall have been stated, it will appear, as I hope, to such persons, that they have not, as Edwards says, “well considered the matter;' and that there is a distinction between natural impossibility and a moral inability, palpable and salutary, without denying the dependence of man for effectual calling on the special influence of the Holy Ghost, or implying the doctrine of self-regeneration and salvation without an atonement by the deeds of the law.

By natural inability I understand, that which an agent, though ever so willing, cannot do from defect of capacity; and by moral inability, that which his capacity as an agent renders possible and makes obligatory, and which is prevented only by his own

The bias of the will to evil never overcome by natural ability.

uncoerced choice, including in the term not only single consecutive volition, but that general and abiding decision of the mind for God or against him -which constitutes holy or unholy character, and includes, what Edwards denominates, “the will and affections of the soul, and Turretin, “a habit of cor

rupt will.

This voluntary hindrance of spiritual obedience is called inability, in accordance, as I shall show, with the uniform use of speech in all the languages of men, applying the terms cannot, unable, &c. to whatever is prevented by the slightest disinclination, up to the most terrible obstinacy of will. In reference to spiritual obedience, it is called inability, also, I have no doubt, from the great and universal difficulty expe. perienced by man in changing from a wrong to a right decision of mind in respect to God and duty, as well as from the absolute certainty that without the Holy Ghost, the obstinacy of the human will, will produce its deadly results with a certainty equal to the connexion between natural causes and their effect, though not in the same manner, or with the same results as to accountability and desert of punishment. It is called in the Creeds of the Reformation, and in our own Confession, inability of will—because spiritual obedience is prevented only by the perverse action of the will; and to indicate that free agency and natural ability never avail in fallen man, to overcome the bias of his will to evil, under the combined influence of original and actual sin; that with the ability to choose right, resulting from free agency and Moral inability of man distinct from natural ability. creating obligation, he actually chooses wrong, and only wrong, until renewed by the Holy Ghost.

It is called a moral inability also in the language of Turretin.

-1. «Objectively, because it has respect to moral duties. 2. As to its origin, because it is brought on one's self; which arises from voluntary corruption, voluntarily acquired by the sin of man. 3. As to its CHARACTER, (FORMALITER,) BECAUSE THAT IS VOLUNTARY

AND CULPABLE WHICH IS FOUNDED IN A HABIT OF CORRUPT WILL.'

By all this I understand Turretin to mean, that the moral inability of man is a reality—is distinct from a natural impossibility, and is called moral, because it respects the aversion of mind to the performance of spiritual duties, brought upon the race, by the voluntary transgression of Adam, and eventuating in a habit of corrupt will. To all of which I subscribe.

It is in this sense that the term moral inability is used by Edwards—We are said to be naturally unable to do a thing which we cannot do if we will, because what is commonly called nature, does not allow of it.

• Moral inability is the want of inclination, or, a contrary inclination.'

This impotency of will to good, according to the Bible and our Confession, and the received doctrines of the church-includes the constitutional bias to actual sin, produced in all men by the fall, anterior to intelligent, voluntary action, which, though it destroys not that natural liberty with which God

« PreviousContinue »