Page images
PDF
EPUB

Bias to actual sin not a coercive cause.

[ocr errors]

to free agency, or that the free agency which suffices to create a perfect obligation to obey, ever suffices without the special influence of the Holy Spirit to secure in fallen man even the lowest degree of holy,

actual obedience. On the contrary, I hold and teach, is that such a change in the constitution of man was

produced by the fall, as creates a universal and prev(.? alent propensity to actual sin—to the setting of the

affections on things below, and loving the creature i more than God-preventing in all men the existence

of holiness, and securing the existence of that actual,

total depravity, which is enmity against God, not subeject to his law, neither indeed can bema bias which

prevents the power of all truth and motives to reconcile men to God till its power is overcome by the special influence of the Holy Spirit in regeneration; and though impaired by that event, still remains in the regenerate

until removed entirely by the Spirit, in making the ef soul of the saint meet for heaven. I only say with

our Confession, that this bias to actual sin acts not in 4 the form of a coercive cause, creating a fatal and irre

sistible necessity of sinning, and of course constitutes no excuse for actual sin, and no mitigation of the curse due to it, or abatement of God's boundless mercy

in providing redemption for incorrigible man. This impediment to obedience, arising from a prevalent bias of nature and actual aversion to spiritual

obedience, is called in the Confession and the Bible, Einability to obey on account, as I suppose, of the

same absolute certainty between their existence and the result, that appertains to natural causes and their

[ocr errors]

Moral inability.

Certainty of wrong action.

effects; and it is called a moral inability to indicate that though wrong, as securing wrong action with unfailing certainty, it does so not by a fatal necessity of sinning, but by an unnecessary, unreasonable, inexcusable aversion of the soul to God and his reasonable service.

While I teach, therefore, the ability of man as a free agent, and as the ground of obligation, I teach his moral inability as a sinner—the subject of the carnal mind which is enmity against God—not subject to his law, neither indeed can be.

In the true sense of the terms as employed in the Confession, and in the Bible, and in the common and well understood language of men, I teach that, "no mere man since the fall has been able perfectly to keep the commandments of God--and that the natural man cannot understand and know the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned—and that no man can come to Christ, except the Father draw him.'

I proceed now to show, that the preceding account of man's free agency, and natural ability, and of his total depravity and moral impotency, are the doctrine of our Confession, and of the Bible.

The point at issue is not, whether fallen man ever did; or ever will, act right, in a spiritual sense, without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. It is admitted, and insisted, and to be proved, that he never did, and never will. The point at issue is—in what manner the certainty of the continuous wrong action of the mind comes to pass? Does it come to

The mind not forced to a wrong choice.

a: pass coerced or uncoerced by necessity? Does fallen 1. man choose, under the influence of such a constituotion of body, and mind, and motive, that every voliI tiọn bears the relation of an effect to a natural and i necessary cause, rendering any other choice than the

one which comes to pass impossible in existing cirsi cumstances? Or is fallen man still an agent, so ad constituted that in every act of choice he is unconche strained and uncoerced by any necessity, like that

which binds natural effects to their causes? 'Is the

soul so exempt from the laws of a natural necessity, he that it is never forced to choose wrong; there existending in every case the possibility and obligation

growing out of the possibility of a different, or con1. trary choice? The latter is the view of free.agency Et and accountability which I shall endeavor to estab

lish, as the doctrine of the Confession and the Bible; and,

I. There is no reason to doubt that God is able to create free agents, who being sustained and placed under the illumination and influence of his laws and

perfect government, shall be able to obey or disobey hi in the regular exercise of the powers of their own mind.

The alleged impossibility of created self-existing s agents acting independently of God, does not touch

the point: for the supposition of agency able to e choose the good and refuse the evil, does not imply

the mind's self-existence, but the efficacy of its powners, while upheld; and it might as well be said that 10 God cannot create natural causes, which, while he

Creation and government of mind upon principles of free agency.

upholds them, can, by their own power, produce an effect, as that he cannot create mind, which, while upheld by him, is capable of acting right or wrong, under the requirements and motives of his government; both lead to pantheism, denying all created causes, and making God the only cause and the only agent in the universe.

There is no perceptible difficulty in creating mind, more than in creating matter—in creating active, than passive existence—or thinking, than unthinking -voluntary, than involuntary being. It is just as conceivable that God should create mind endowed with an energy which, while it is sustained, is commensurate to every requisite action under his government, by its own power, as that he should create passive matter, dependent for every movement and change on external causation.

How God can originate existence of any kind, is incomprehensible, but no one can prove it to be impossible. The creation of an intelligent universe, of free, accountable minds, capable of all the responsibilities of a perfect, eternal government, is just as conceivable therefore, as the creation of hills and valleys, plants and animals.

II. If it be possible to create and govern mind upon the principles of free agency, and a perfect and permanent moral government, the presumption is strong that this is in fact the divine plan. What other conceivable course could the wisdom of God devise, so comprehensive of good, as the creation of a universe of mind, with its constitutional susceptibilities, and

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Animal life.

Capabilities of mind. active, and social, and voluntary powers; qualified for all the results of a government of perfect laws, perfectly administered ? '

It is self-evident that the creation of unorganized matter could not illustrate the copiousness and power of the Divine benevolence.

God might amuse himself with curious workmanship, but how could he impart happiness to unorganized matter? It is equally clear that mere animal life falls, in its capacity of enjoyment, unspeakably below the capabilities of mind. How limited is the range of the monotonous appetites! How narrow the circle of mere fleeting, instinctive action; and how feeble the momentary tie of natural affection, compared with its corroboration by ties of blood, and habits of intercourse, and the illumination of reason, and the powers of memory, and the light of an anticipated eternity, of unextinguished, purified, augmented and reciprocated friendship!

How immeasurable is that expansion of capacity in man, above the animal, which opens the eye of his intellect upon the character, will, and government of God; which brings him into fellowship with his Maker, and opens before him the joys of a blessed immortality; associated with a reasonable service, and benevolent activity, under the high and perfect guidance of heaven.

A single mind, through a duration which will never end, may be capable of more enjoyment than it were, in the nature of things, possible to pour through the narrow channels of animal instinct

« PreviousContinue »