Page images
PDF
EPUB

every thing within him, is conspiring to increase his guilt, and aggravate his condemnation. And you will now ask, is there no religion in this? None. Does vital religion

agent is a being that is capable of actions, that can be compared with law. To be capable of nothing that can be com. pared with a “rule of action, commanding what is right and prohibiting what is wrong, is to be reduced to the level of che brutes that perish. To be oupable of this, is to possess understanding, conscience, will, and affections. These facul. ties of the mind constitute a moral agent, and make any be. ing capable of choosing or refusing, acting right or wrong as he pleases. Destitute of these, he would not be capable of moral action. He could be neither holy nor sinful. His character and conduct could be neither worthy of praise nor blame. But possessing these, he possesses all that is necessary to the exercise of holy and unholy affections. He possesses the power to perceive the objects of love and hatredto feel the obligation of loving that which is right, and hating that which is wrong--and to love or to hate in conformity with the dictates of his conscience and understanding, or in defiance to the dictates of both.

This is what we mean by natural ability to become holy. Take away these faculties, and there is a natural inability. Take away these, and it is absolutely impossible that any thing in the form of inerit or demerit, should be attached to human character. This is the ability which we claim for the sinner. Strip him of those faculties which are necesga ry to the exercise of volition, and you convert him to a mere animal. Invest the animal with thesc faculties, and you convert him into a moral agent; you make him the subject of moral government, and accountable for his conduct. There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty hus given him understanding. The sinner's claim must be acknowledged. He has all the natural faculties that are necessary to holiness; and if he were disposed to use them aright, be would be holy. You say a man has power to see and hear, if he has the faculties that are necessary to seeing and hearing. So has he power to be holy, if he has the faculties that are necessary to holiness.

But while we say that the sinner is under no natural in. ability to become holy, we also say that he is under a moru? inability to become koly,

consist in the apprehension of danger, or in the fear that we shall never escape it? Where is the holiness of being afraid of hell? What Christlike affection is there either in the

When we speak of the moral inability of the sinner, we do not mean to deny that his inability is original, innaté. We know it is. We use the word moral in contradistince tion from natural, to denote that which is comparable with a rule of moral action. Thus we speak of moral and natural good, moral and natural evil. There is much natural good in a seasonable shower of rain, but there is no moral good. There is much natural evil in an earthquake, but there is no moral evil. Natural good and evit cannot be compared with a rule of action; they bear no relation to praise or blame. With morać good and evil, it is otherwise. I hope to be understood therefore when I use the phrase moralinability.

Moral inability is comparable with a rule of action; it is not that which bear's no relation to praise or blame. It consists in the total depravity of the carval heart. It consists in an insuperable aversion to holiness. You can conceive of a man's possessing a given degree of aver. sion to holiness. You can see that the difficulty of his becoming holy will rise in proportion to his aversion to holi.

If his aversion to holiness be in considerable, the ditficulty of becoming holy will be in considerable. If his aversion to holiness be great, the difficulty of becoming holy will be great. Now the aversion of the natural man to hoe liness is not inconsiderable; it is not merely great; it is coinplete and entire; it pervades every thought, every affection, every design. By the arm of flesh it is invincible. It is open to no successful attack. Light, motives, means of whatever character, are in themselves of no avail to remove it.

Here is an inability; here is a serious inability. It is an inability which belongs to every man that is dead in tres. passes and sins But it is a moral and not a natural inabile ity. It is an inability that is capable of being compared with law; and therefore bear's relation to praise and blame. It consists wholly in a tleeply rooled aversion to all that is gond. Take away this, and where is the obstacle in the way of the sinner's becoming holy? What becomes of his Utural inability? Let those who affirin that there is an ins

ness.

horror of a guilty conscience, or the anticipation of the wrath to come? “These are fcelings, which," as the learned Dr. Owen well remarks, belong not to the precept of the

bility in the sinner to become holy, aside from this mere moral inability, go into their closets and ask themselves these two questions:

What other inability is there in the sinner to become holy, than his invincible aversion to holiness?

What is the point of difference between the natural powers of the saint and the sin ner?

When they have given fair, logical answers to these qnestions, they need not be disappointed, if they find themselves. driven to the result, that the inability of the sinner to be. come holy, is no other than a moral inability. By the work of regeneration, the saint receives no new natural faculty. The passing from death unto àfe is a moral, and not a physical change. The only point of difference between the power of the saint and the sinner is, that the saint bas moral abi lity to be holy; the singer has not. The sinner cherishes a moral inability to become holy; the saint does not.

“But after all, an inability is an inability, whether it be moral or natural! You deny the sinner a self-determining power. Yon grant that he has no ability that can produce holiness, by an act of the will that is apiecedent to the exercise of holiness.” Neither can saints. “You grant that he cannot become holy without the special operations of the holy Spirit.” Neither would saints ever have another holy feeling without the special operations of the Holy Spirit. "Still, an inability is an inability; and what profit is there in your boasted distinction?” Much every way: Chiefly, because without it, we cannot have just views of the character of God, and the guilt of the sioner.

Of ihe character of God: God invites sinners to be holy. He expostulates with them-he entreats them he communds them to be holy. He threatens them with eternal death, and executes the threatening to the uttermost, if they persist in the refusal to yield to his requisitions. Now if they are naturally unabie to yield, they must lie down in everlasting sorrow for not doing that which in its own na. ture cunnot be done. But, is this the God that reigns in heaven! Has He commanded men to perform impossibilities. and does he damn them because they cannot obeg! Does He

law, but to its curse; they are no part of what it requires, but of what it inflicts."

In the mind of a convinced sinner, the sense of personal sinfulness is also connected, for ever abandon them to darkness a'd despair, for not tecoming holy, while he has withheld the faculties that are necessary to the exercise of holiness! No, IT CANNOT BE. Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? What if God had suspended the eternal destiny of your immortal soul upon your going from New-York to Rome in a day? What if he had commanded you to create a world? You would not hesitate to say, it is unjust. But he has required you to become holy. And you say, that you have no more, and no other power to become holy, than you have to go from New-York to Rome in a day, or to create a world. What then should make the one unjust and not the other? But such is not the character of the Holy God. The doctrine of man's natural inability is a libel on his righteousness. On the other hand, if all the inability of the sinner consists in his aversion to holiness; if he is under no natural inability; if he has as much power to become holy as saints; and all fois inability arises from invincible perverseness; then God will be glorious in sending bim to hell. He ought to go there; and all heaven will say, Amen! Alleluia! while the smoke of his tormenta is ascending for ever and ever. Come now, and let us reason tog-ther, saith the Lord. Are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? There would be no ground for these expostulations, upon the principle of mani's natural inability.

Ne ther can we have just views of the guilt of the sinner, without recognizing the distinction between natural and moral inability. It is one thing to feel wretched, another to feel guilty, one thing to feel that you are lost and ruined, another to feel that you have destroyed yourself; one thing to claim pity, another to deserve blame. Mere calamity is one thing, and moral turpitude is another. Speak of man's inability without making it his crime, and his conscience will love the opiate. Speak of it as consisting in the free, voluntary exercises of his corrupt heart, and you leave him without excuse. He will feel that if he dies eternally, he is the voluntary author of his own destruction. He will never feel to blame for not performing impossibilities.

with the sense of ill desert. When a man bas a clear view of his own sinfulness, hic not only sees that he is exposed to the wrath of God, but that he is justly exposed to the wrath of God. He sees that he deserves the displeasure of the Almighty throughout interminable ages. He is stripped of all his thin excuses, and is sensible that his sins are wholly unjustifiable. As he has before been constrained to acknowledge the reasonableness of the precept of the Divine Law, now he is constrained to admit the justice of its penalty. He has voluntarily and perseveringly disobey. ed a law that is perfectly holy in itself, and clothed with the authority of the Holy God; and he knows that it would be just, if the penalty should be executed upon him to the uttermost. He knows that the Holy God, whose character he regards with enmity; whose law he transgresses with impenitence; whose Gospel he rejects with disdain; can be under no obligation to save a wretch like him. And you will ask again, is there no religion in this? Again I answer, and the reply is bottomed upon the word of Eternal Truth-NOT A WHIT. Is this no evidence that I have passed from death unto life? I answer, it is not conclusive evidence; and if

Bring this question then before the Judgment seat of Christ. Annihilate the natural ability of the sinner to repent and believe the Gospel; and if you make God glorious in banishing the impenitent to hell, and the impenitent deserving of their doom; the controversy is at an end. Until then, we must be suffered to speak on God's behalf; we must ascribe righteousness to our Maker.

« PreviousContinue »