Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

God, and love to man for his sake, or any thing spiritually good, and pleasing to God, be included, we maintain that fallen man is incapable of them, except by the grace of God: and it seems his Lordship, at some times at least, coincides with us in opinion.1

'The approbation of virtue, and detestation of vice' (that is, of some virtues and some vices,) as an inefficacious sentiment, has been indeed general; but far from 'universal,' as to the same virtues and vices. The term 'moral sense,' in some modern writers, seems equivalent to conscience, in the language of scripture. Now the conscience of fallen man, though greatly disqualified in various respects for its important office, is far from annihilated. Men in general, all over the world, are convinced in conscience that they ought not to practise those things which yet their hearts cleave to, and which form a part of their habitual conduct, plan of life, and character; and that they ought to do many things which yet their hearts oppose, and which they will not do. In some respects, they approve in others what they refuse to do themselves: and the opposition, in which their will, heart, and conduct stand against their consciences, leaves them self-condemned. This is more especially the case where men have the word of God set before them in simplicity, plainness, and authority; when the preacher, "by "manifestation of the truth, commends himself to "every man's conscience in the sight of God:" then " Herod does many things," " Felix trembles," "Agrippa is almost persuaded;" yet the opposition of the heart bears down the feeble voice of conscience, till conscience itself often becomes, as it were " seared with a hot iron."

1 Ref. 61.

This, therefore, greatly illustrates the depravity of fallen nature, that in man, as left to himself, the only principle remaining, which would speak, as it were, for God and duty, is uniformly opposed and silenced as an enemy: but it will awake at length, and eternally be, in the obstinate rebel, " the worm "that never dieth," to aggravate his misery.

'Peace and delight,' says Bishop Butler, ' in 'some degree, and upon some occasions, is the ne'cessary and present effect of virtuous practice, an 'effect arising immediately from the constitution 'of our nature. We are so formed, that well do'ing, as such, gives us satisfaction, at least in some 'instances; ill doing, as such, in none.' And upon another occasion he observes, ' that this 'moral principle is capable of improvement by dis'eipline and exercise.'l

It will appear in the sequel, that Calvinists do not generally deny that well doing, as such, gives satisfaction in many cases. Self-approbation, whether before God or not, whether on just or erroneous grounds, always gives a kind and measure of satisfaction: besides the effects of moral well doing, on a man's character, interest, health, and peace, foreseen and calculated on by all prudent men, however destitute of true piety. "Conscience "excusing" will always be more agreeable than "conscience accusing:" and many concurrent circumstances, with a delusive and ignorant selfcomplacency, tend to increase this satisfaction.1 It may also be questioned whether the position, 'ill doing, as such, in none,' can be supported. Is not the gratifying of malignity in some men as great a pleasure, as the gratifying of covetousness or ambition in others? And is not revenge as sweet to the malignant, as other indulgences to men of another temperature ?—It is, however, readily conceded that this moral principle is capable of improvement' by discipline and exercise :' for all the difference between the civilized and uncivilized regions of the globe; and that between the moral and virtuous, and the immoral and vicious part of the same society, arises principally from this improvement. But, we cannot grant, that' what is good before men' can be improved into ' what is good in the sight of God.' Brass may be purified, and burnished, and made beautiful by skill and labour; but no skill or labour can improve it into gold. And it is that which ' is good in the sight of God,' exclusively, of which we maintain that fallen man in himself is incapable.

1 Ref. 3.

1 An eminent minister, among those who are called the evangelical clergy, having acquired much credit by his general conduct, and especially by meekness under ill-usage, a kind of emulation was excited among those who disliked his doctrines: and one man, who was by no means distinguished as a conscientious character, was induced on a very provoking occasion to repress his rising indignation, and to maintain a resolute silence till it subsided. This accomplished, he said, with much self-satisfaction, ' I have conquered the devil, and what could'Mr. R.... do more?' The conduct in itself was right and commendable: but the application shews that his self-satisfaction did not simply and entirely arise from well doing.

'Man did not become by the fall an unmixed 'incorrigible mass of pollution and depravity, ab'solutely incapable of amendment, or of knowing

*or discharging, by his natural powers, any part

*of the duty of a dependent rational being.'1 'The 'earnest exhortations to reform, which we so fre'quently meet with in the Old Testament, plainly 'shew, that the incorrigible depravity of human 'nature was not a doctrine inculcated under the 'Mosaic dispensation.'2

The exhortations of the New Testament are at least as energetic as those of the Old; and both prove that it is the duty of man " to repent, and "turn to God, and do works meet for repentance:" but they do not prove that he has both the natural and moral ability to do what God by the gospel requires from him; except as "God worketh in "him both to will and to do of his good pleasure." 'We have no power to do works pleasant and ac'ceptable to God, without the grace of God pre'venting us, that we may have a good will, and 'working with us when we have that good will.'3 The depravity of human nature is taught throughout the scriptures, and this is incorrigible except by divine grace: but no Calvinist thinks it incorrigible by divine grace.

'The clergy therefore cannot caution their pa'rishioners too strongly against listening to those 'preachers, who arc continually describing man 'as irrecoverably sunk in sin and wickedness; 'they should impress upon their minds the duty 'and necessity of exertion; and teach them, that 'the frailty and corruption derived from our first 'parent will not be admitted as an excuse for cri'minal indulgences, since we are assured that we 'shall always be assisted by divine grace in our 'struggles to withstand the evil propensities of our 'nature.'1

1 Ref. 3. 'Ref. 8. 3 Art. x.

Do any preach this doctrine of desperation r Do any say, that' man is irrecoverably sunk in sin and 'wickedness?' that he is irrecoverable even by the grace of the gospel ?—' It is acknowledged, that 'man has not the disposition, and consequently 'not the ability, to do what in the sight of God is 'good, till he is influenced by the Spirit.'2 Is there then any Calvinist, or evangelical clergyman, who denies that, when thus influenced, man can do 'what in the sight of God is good r' And should Christian ministers soothe men into the persuasion, that their malady is not so deeply rooted and dreadful, but that they may heal themselves without the special influence of divine grace?

'The apostle testifies, that we are all condemned 'by the judgment of the law; that " every mouth 'may be stopped, and all the world may become 'guilty before God." He teaches the same thing 'elsewhere, that " God hath shut up all under 'unbelief," not that he may destroy all, or suffer 'all to perish, but " that he may have mercy on 'all:" namely, that, leaving the foolish opinion

1 Ref. 77. * Ref. 61.

« IndietroContinua »