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Original corruption implies active aversion, not fatal necessity. nothing? Does inability of will' mean a natural impossibility of exercising that natural liberty of the will' in the choice of good; and that it is coerced by a natural necessity to the preference of evil? Does the Confession contradict itself? We are not at liberty, then, to make it in one set of terms deny an ability, which it has asserted in another. And when it declares in appropriate phraseology the natural liberty of the will, it cannot mean to contradict in its account of moral impotency what it had before asserted with respect to its ability to choose, as opposed to fate. I may be able in one sense, and unable in another. The Confession, in fact, interprets itself. (And this, I suppose, is what Dr. Wilsoņ means, when he says, we must receive the language of the Confession without any explanation.) I agree with him, that on many points it needs no explanation. It guards against its own perversion, and its language is such as I should think it almost impossible to misunderstand.
Let us see what is the language which it holds in chap. 6, sec. 4.
• From this original corruption, whereby we are atterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.'
Here is active aversion, not fatal necessity. The man is indisposed, he is disabled by being indisposed. But it has been said, that if a man needs help, it must be a natural inability under which he lies. This I deny. A man who lies under a moral inability needs aid as really as if were naturally unable; and the aid he
Loss of liberty of will does not mean loss of free agency.
needs is such as God alone can bring him. What Christian does not pray that God would help him? But does he mean that he has no strength of any sort? Not at all. He is afraid to trust his own heart. He prays for moral aid, for moral ability, for strength of purpose. Surely we are all agreed in this. We believe alike—for we pray alike. New School and Old School all confess, when they get before God, their impotency of will to good, and pray for help to will and to do. I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on! We feel this impotency; and what we feel, God sees; and that which he sees he has testified.
Chapter ix. on Free Will.
• Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompa. nying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.' When it says that man has lost all ability of will
, it does not mean that he has lost all free
agency. does not mean, that he is not able, as a free agent, and bound to do that which is right, but that he has lost all will to do it. My soul! do I not believe this! Did I not feel it when God convinced me of sin? Full well did I feel it. Did I not fall at the footstool and tell the Lord that I was gone, that I was ruined and helpless, and never should come back to him, unless he put forth his hand to deliver me? If I ever preached any truth to dying men, with all my heart and with all my soul, it is the truth of man's total depravity Man remains utterly averse to all good until God quickens him. and inability; that his condition is desperate, and never will he turn and live, unless God shall look down from heaven and have mercy upon him. This is my doctrine; and it it is the doctrine of the Confession, which says, we are averse from all good. This language suits me. There is no catch in this, no quibble; I mean what I say; I fully and heartily believe that man is utterly averse to all good; that he is dead; dead in law and dead in sin—under the curse of God, and so will ever remain, until God quickens him by his Spirit and grace.
But let us see what the Confession says in sec. 4, chap. 9.
“When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that, by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly nor only will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.'
· Enable' here does not imply that there is any natural inability. It means, inclines him to will. The Confession is orthodox; it says that no mere man is able, without divine aid, to keep God's commandments. That is my faith. I admit, however, that this was the spot at which I once stumbled, when, as I said, I was unable fully to embrace the Confession of Faith. I saw a difficulty here. I believed the Confession to mean just as Dr. Wilson now insists that it does mean; and in that sense I never could receive it. But on reflection, and with Effectual calling-divine illumination. those collateral lights which I have mentioned, I now understand it to speak the very truth, and I embrace it accordingly. I believe in the moral inability which it here declares; and I believe that moral inability to obey the law perfectly, will continue until the christian reaches his home in heaven.
But now let us hear what the Confession says upon effectual calling. I quote from chap. X. sec. 1. .
• All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call by his word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.'
This enlightening I hold to be a divine illumination, and such as the Spirit of God alone can give. The phrase “heart of stone,' which is employed in one of the texts cited as proof, is a metaphor; and so is the heart of flesh;' and this I believe is the only passage in the whole Bible where the term “flesh' is employed to signify anything good. A heart of flesh manifestly means tenderness, susceptibility-in other words, a willing heart. Renewing the will, that is, turning the will into a new direction. It is God who turns it. The sinner left to himself never will turn. But in
Regeneration the most stupendous work of Almighty power. conversion God does not make a free agent. He turns a free agent. I am perfectly aware that some very good men suppose and assert, that the men of the new school (though that, by the by, is one of the most undefined of all designations; the term is like fog, it has no substance and no definite limits, but floats about in a sort of palpable obscure) hold to selfregeneration; and that the influence of the Holy Spirit is not necessary in turning a sinner from darkness to light. No man ever heard me teach such a doctrine. I have taught directly the reverse, and have put the doctrine of man's absolute dependence into as strong terms as I knew how to employ. If there are any stronger, I shall be glad to get hold of them. All who are in the habit of hearing me, know perfectly that the total depravity of man and his dependence on the power and help of the Spirit of God has been the great end of all my preaching; and as I well know has been, under God, the power of my preaching. I think, and always have thought, that the display of divine Omnipotence in converting rebel minds is . greater by far than any exhibition of it, which ever has been made in the material world. And for an obvious reason;
because mind has more power of resistance than matter. Some men seem to think, that if God does a thing by instrumentality, no opportunity is left for God to show his own great power. I think far otherwise. To me the truth seems weak enough in itself to leave ample space for the display of Omnipotence in making it effectual. I think that the act of God in regeneration, is the most stupendous