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speculative opinions may be, just so soon as he looks into his own heart, and forms any just conceptions of his own depravity, he will be sensible that without the help of divine grace, he can do nothing ; and he will look to God, not to the power of his own will, for the sanctification of his affections. Why is it that some ministers of the gospel use language in prayer so different from what they use in metaphysical discourse ?-that while in such discourse they speak much and strongly of the sufficient power or the complete ability of all men to do all that is required of them in the law and in the gospel, as soon as they engage in prayer, they acknowledge their weakness, acknowledge that without Christ they can do nothing, that they are not sufficient of themselves for any duty, that their strength is in God, and that all their help must come from him ? Why this difference? It may be, because their language and their thoughts in metaphysical discourse are not adapted to serious religion and devotion. And if they find this to be the case, let them remember it. But I apprehend the reason to be more exactly this; that, in prayer, Christians are likely to think soberly and justly,—likely to discern the truth, and to use the language of truth. And if you would know what is the language of truth, search the Scripture which is the word of the God of truth. Keep close to that, and you will not err. That holy book abounds in such representations as these :-that the preparation of the heart is from the Lord; that sinners are sanctified not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; that holy love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost; and that all right affections and desires are the fruits of the Spirit. Accordingly, when a Christian prays he does not say to God: I thank thee that I have full power to do all my duty without thy assistance; that I am sufficient of myself to work out my own salvation. This is not the truth now. But when he prays, he must speak the words of truth. My help cometh from the Lord. Without thee I can do nothing. All holy desires come from thee. Work in me all the good pleasure of thy goodness. Subdue every sinful affection. Make my heart pure. Strengthen me with thy strength in my soul. What Christian does not pray in this manner? And is not the language which sincere piety prompts us to use in prayer, the language of truth?
In my remarks, I had advanced the following sentiment:that holy affections arise spontaneously in the saint, and unholy affections in the sinner, from the presence or the contemplation of moral objects. Inquirer undertakes to show what consequences would result from this sentiment. But our first question should be, whether the sentiment is true. Neither I nor my correspondent can be held responsible for the consequences which may follow from the truth, or from the declaration of the truth. Is then my representation conformed to fact? When a holy angel or a holy man turns his thoughts to God, and contemplates his moral excellence, is he not at once pleased with it? Does he not love it spontaneously? That is, does he not love it freely, of his own accord, or from the disposition of his own heart? Is he not pleased with it as soon as he sees it? If, when the object is present to his view, he puts forth any other mental act before he loves, what is that act? Is it an act of reasoning, by which he endeavors to persuade himself to love ? But what need of reasoning to excite a holy being to love, when he already sees the loveliness of the object ? Even if he should attempt by reasoning to excite his own love, what would he do, but to urge upon his own mind the supreme beauty and excellence of the object before him ? Or, is the act, which
precedes his affection to God, an act of self-love? When he beholds the divine character, does his heart lie still within him, till he has time to think that loving God will make him happy? And is it in reality a regard to his own happiness, which excites his love to God? Or, is the act which precedes his love an act of his will ? That is, when a holy being has a distinct idea of God in his mind, is it true that, instead of instantly loving him, and in order to bring himself to love, he first wills to love ? And is it true that his love is excited by such a previous volition ? I am persuaded that good men will never be led, by their own experience, to view the subject in this light. That which renders God worthy of love, and which is the objective ground of love, is his moral excellence. As soon as holy beings see this they love. Is it their cordial, free, unconstrained act? And what is more just and reasonable, than that they should love God because he is infinitely lovely? The subjective reason is their own holy disposition. In this view they love God because they have a holy, spiritual nature, a heart in unison with divine excellence.
Ånd is not the opposite of all this true of the unholy? I ask, then, are not the facts in the case as I have represented them to be? If So,
it follows, that the difficulty of which Inquirer speaks, and which we are all apt to feel, arises, not from any misstatement of
for the pres
mine, but either from the very nature of the facts in the case, or from something faulty in the habit or state of our minds.
Inquirer says, if it be so, as I have represented, “ then what tendency can the divine law have upon the mind of a sinner, except to increase his hatred of all that is holy, and thrust him further and further from salvation ?” Here let ent, pass by the word tendency, which may be somewhat ambiguous, and inquire what is matter of fact. Take the unrenewed sinner, whose carnal mind is enmity against God. Take him just as he is in himself, exclusive of the agency of the Holy Spirit. Is it not a fact that the law and the gospel, when brought before his unsanctified mind, do excite and increase his hatred of all that is good, and so thrust him further and further from salvation ? Is not any result contrary to this owing to the grace of God? If the sinner is left to himself, is not the law, and the gospel too, a savor of death unto death ? Has he not such a deceitful, wicked heart, and does he not so act -out his depravity in view of divine things, that he is continually -waxing worse and worse? And so far as he is given up to his own alienated heart, without the grace of the Holy Spirit, is not this the case uniformly and always ?" We see then what is the invariable fact.
As to “tendency,” I hold that the proper tendency of divine truth, the tendency which it ought to have upon a rational being, and which it would have, were it not for the counter-influence of sin,-is to excite holy affection, and lead to holy conduct. But the sinner has an evil heart of unbelief. He has an obstinate love of sin, and dislike of holiness. And this inexcusable wickedness of his heart opposes the proper tendency of the truth, prevents the effect which it should have on the mind of the sinner, and turns the law and the gospel into a means of perdition. Coming in contact with a hard, impenitent heart, it proves to be a savor of death unto death. But this is no disparagement to divine truth. Its being followed by such an effect is to be ascribed wholly to the fault of the *sinner.
Inquirer asks : “What then can the preaching of the law do, but to aggravate the awful doom of sinners ?"! And I put the question to him: What else can the preaching of the law or the gospel do, unless the sovereign grace of God interpose, and give sinners a new heart? If they are given over to their own unsubdued wickedness, as they justly may be, does not Inquirer
know the deplorable and dreadful fact, that, whatever may be their outward privileges, they will be continually treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath? This fact is so deplorable and dreadful, that it caused the Son of God to weep, and should cause us to weep, yes, to weep day and night. The evil of man's heart is too obvious to be denied ; and it is too deep and desperate to be remedied by human power. Can Inquirer think it a mistake of mine to say, that man's depraved will has no power to change his depraved heart ?--in other words, that he has no power to change his depraved heart by an act of his depraved will? Would he affirm the contrary? Would he tell sinners, that by an act of their unsanctified will --which is all the will they have,--they can sanctify their own hearts ?that by an unholy, selfish volition they can produce in themselves that holiness, which they neither love nor desire ?
The doctrine of man's depravity is mysterious and astounding. But all that is mysterious and astounding in the doctrine lies in its truth. Man is a sinner. He has destroyed himself; and he is indeed lost. He has no power, by the exercise of any of his intellectual or moral faculties, without divine grace to restore himself to holiness and happiness. His help is in God, and nowhere else.
Inquirer refers to the following remark of mine: “It is a common sentiment, that the sinfulness of men is great in proportion as their passions and desires are awakened suddenly and uncontrollably in view of forbidden objects.” I stated the case in which revenge, envy, covetousness and pride arise in the mind suddenly and uncontrollably in view of their appropriate objects. Now I ask Inquirer : Are not revenge, envy, covetousness and pride sinful ? Are they not really sin!ul in themselves, though not developed in outward action ? And is not the degree of sinfulness proportional to the strength and violence of the sinful passions and desires ?
Inquirer says, he could assent to all this, if I had “ conjoined some limitations or modifications.” But what modifications are called for? Would he have me say, that ill-will, revenge, envy, covetousness and pride are sinful in some circumstances, but not in others ? Does he wish me to point out the circumstances in which a man may have them in his heart for a time, and yet be guiltless? This I do not feel myself authorized to do ; and I think Inquirer would himself start back from such a modification as this. For if I may have in my heart the feeling of ill-will, envy and revenge once, without sin; why not twice?-and if for a short time, why not for a longer time? If the beginning of these affections is not wrong, why should we regard the continuance of them as wrong? Is it true that the divine law does not forbid the existence of these affections in our hearts, and that its only aim is to prevent their continuance? Or, to give the subject another shape, is it the intention of the law to keep these affections within certain limits, and to prevent them from going too far, particularly from coming out in visible action ? Are we to understand the law , as saying: you may have the emotion of ill-will or revenge towards man, or enmity against God, you may have the emotion rise in your heart, and if it is the first emotion of the kind, and if it rises spontaneously, and is not too strong, you are guiltless. But if you have a second and third emotion, especially if it becomes strong and violent, then you are culpable. Is this the meaning of the moral law? But suppose the second and third emotion of enmity against God or man is as spontaneous as the first, and of the same degree of strength. Why should it not be regarded in the same light?
In compliance with the suggestion of Inquirer, I am very ready to give “some modifications,” or rather to explain and distinguish.
There are then, as I conceive, emotions, affections and desires of different kinds. Some are in their own nature morally right, i. e. conformed to the divine law; some are sinful, i. e. contrary to the law; and some indifferent, i. e., in themselves neither holy nor sinful. As to those of the first kind,—the law requires and approves them. As to those of the second kind, the law forbids and condemns them. As to those which are indifferent, such as the natural appetite for food, the desire of property and of knowledge, the love of life, the love of offspring, and the affection existing between the sexes; what the law does in regard to these is to regulate them, to guard them against excess and perversion, and direct them to their proper end. God not only permits us to have these affections and desires, but, in the proper way, to indulge them, and act under their influence. We are as much justified in repeating as in beginning the exercise of them; in acting them out in our life, as in having them in our heart. We are only required to indulge and gratify them in proper measures, so as not to interfere with any higher duty and for a proper end, i. e. that the glory of