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Native bias to sin never changed but by the Holy Spirit.
hath endowed the will, nor forces, nor determines it by any necessity of nature to the choice of evil instead of good-does, nevertheless evince, that mankind are, as Edwards says—under the influence of a prevailing, effectual tendency to that sin and wickedness, which imply their utter and eternal ruin.'
To this bias isadded in fallen adult man, that terriffic decision of the mind in favor of the world and against God, which never changes, but under the special influence of the Spirit in our effectual calling.
To which may be added, the formidable, accumulating influence of habit, which, though it forces not the will, or determines its perverse obstinacy by any necessity of nature, does yet in accordance with the known laws of perverted mind, powerfully corroborate the perverting influences of both original and actual sin, by impairing the moral sensibilities of the soul, and the power of motive to good, while it fearfully augments the temptations to evil, and facilitates the liability, and diminishes the resistance to a compliance.
This is the view of the subject which is recognized in our Confession, and taught in the Bible, and held forth in the creeds and standard orthodox works of every age, as the received doctrine of the church.
In my preaching, I have not been accustomed to employ the terms natural and moral inability, because they are the technical terms of theological controversy, around which prejudice has gathered odium and mistake. But in the present case I have no other
Love of sin, no evidence of its natural and unavoidable necessity. alternative, because it is on these technical terms that the whole controversy turns.
I say, then, that our Confession, while it teaches unanswerably the free agency and natural ability of man to choose right as well as wrong, teaches with equal clearness his moral inability as consisting in a settled aversion of will to all spiritual obedience, until called efficaciously by the word and Spirit of God.
1. There is no necessity for interpreting the terms of the Confession, as applied to fallen man, to mean the natural impossibility of obedience.
The various phrases expressing inability, are by common use in all languages applied to express whatever is prevented voluntarily, either by slight disinclination, or the most powerful, immutable decision of the mind. We use the terms cannot, unable, &c. continually to express whatever for the slightest reasons we do not find it convenient or feel inclined to do, and where no natural impossibility exists or is thought of. As there is, therefore, no necessity to interpret the terms inability, and unable, as applied to fallen man, as teaching the natural impossibility of obedience—so also from the established use of the terms in all languages, there is no authority for doing it.
The decision and permanence of sinful preference, affords no evidence of its natural and unavoidable necessity.
Edwards has shown that certainty and uniformity of right or wrong action does not decide the manner of it as being voluntary or coerced. He shows, in accordance with our Confession, that
Moral impotency not inconsistent with other doctrines of the Bible.
God is free in his decrees and their execution, as opposed to the coercion of fate; and that Christ, though his character and life were foretold and certain, and he went as it was written of him, acted nevertheless with entire and uncoerced voluntariness. On the same principle Nebuchadnezzar and Judas, and sinners given up of God, though their conduct may be certain as a matter of fact, is not certain by a coerced necessity, but in the highest sense free and accountable, and such throughout are the implications of the Confession and the Bible. Because the moral inability of man therefore, is as immutable to all motive and human effort, as the effects of natural causes, it does not follow that it is made certain and immutable by a natural necessity.
The doctrine of the moral impotency of man is not inconsistent with any other of the doctrines of the Bible.
It is not inconsistent with the doctrine of our entire and absolute dependence for regeneration on the special influence of the Holy Spirit; for, while it includes a natural ability of obedience, as the ground of obligation, it teaches the certainty of its obstinate perversion, creating in point of fact a necessity of the Holy Ghost to renew, as real and as great as if the impediment were a natural impossibility. It no more implies self regeneration, than if the work of the Spirit in subduing the will, consisted in creating new faculties; the influence of the Spirit to make man willing being just as indispensable to his salvation, as if it were indispensable to make him naturally able. Difficulty of choosing right, arising from moral impotency. Nor does that ability to obey, whose exercise is pre• vented by choice, imply that it is an easy matter for man to repent and turn to God, in and of himself; for every thing which is possible as a matter of duty is not therefore easy. I agree therefore with Turretin that man, laboring under such an inability, is falsely said to be able, if he wishes, '—implying that a sinner's wishes may change a heart fully set on evil. For though the phrase may to some extent be tolerated, understood concerning the natural power of willing, which, in whatever condition we may be, is never taken away from us; yet it cannot be admitted when we speak of the moral disposition of the will to good, not only to willing but to willing rightly. For, though in respect to the possibility and corresponding obligation there can be no excuse; nevertheless in respect to the difficulty, nothing which the mind can lawfully be commanded to do, can be more difficult. It is difficult to resist the original bias of the mind to actual sin; difficult to relinquish the chief good located on earth, and set our affections on things above; and difficult to reverse the long accumulating tendency of the habitual indulgence of our evil way. The Bible, therefore, represents it though a reasonable, yet a difficult thing for a lost sinner to save himself; so difficult that none do it, and that God, in doing it, makes glorious displays both of power and grace; and every sinner and every saint, in working out his salvation, finds the scriptural representation true. The inattentive find it difficult to resolve upon immediate attention; and The Confession teaches an inability other than a natural one. difficult to fix their attention when they have done it. The stupid find it difficult to awaken themselves to feel and realize anything: and the awakened find it difficult to see and feel their sins, and the great evil of sin; and when convinced of sin, difficult to repent and come to Christ. And when the sinner is converted, it is so difficult to maintain a spiritual frame and holy resolutions, and watchfulness, and prayer, and perseverance, that, for all that is past, and all that is to come, he says, by the grace of God, I am what I am.
The terms of the Confession preclude the interpretation of a natural impossibility, as their only meaning, and cannot be so interpreted, without making the Confession contradict itself.
According to a well established rule of interpretation, no instrument is to be so explained as to make it contradict itself, without necessity, and when it is just as easy to harmonize all its parts, by adopting a different interpretation. Now if I have not proved that the Confession, as I interpret it, is sustained by other collateral arguments in addition to that which I have drawn from the Bible, then I shall despair of ever successfully expounding a document in the world. I never have seen so much light thrown on any one point of exposition before. Does not the Confession speak of inability other than a natural one? Does it not teach expressly the natural liberty of the will in fallen man to choose good or evil, uncoerced by fate or necessity? And after all is it a natural liberty that means nothing, and can do