« PreviousContinue »
is totally depraved, and all the actions which proceed from it; but they deny the total depravity of reason, conscience and natural affections, and therefore deny that the actions which proceed from these innocent principles are totally sinful. They say, sinners sometimes act only from their heart, sometimes only from their conscience, and sometimes only from their natural affections. And when they act only from the heart
, which is totally corrupt, then their actions are entirely sinful. But when they act from the harmless principles of reason, conscience and natural affections, then their actions are altogether innocent and acceptable to God. Now when they say this, they say something of which others are as capable of judging as themselves.
I now appeal to every person, whether he is conscious of ever acting from mere reason, or from mere conscience, or from mere natural affections, without the heart. I presume no person can say that he is conscious of ever acting from any
of these natural principles, without the heart. I appeal to every person again, whether he is conscious of ever acting from these natural principles, contrary to the heart. I presume no person can say that he is conscious of ever acting from these natural principles, contrary to the heart. I appeal to every person once more, whether he is not conscious of often acting contrary to rea, son, contrary to conscience, and contrary to natural affections. I presume every person can say that he is conscious of often acting contrary to all these natural principles. But how can these be principles of action, if we never act from them, and often act against them? The heart is a principle of action, and therefore we cannot act against it. And were reason, conscience, and natural affections, principles of action, we could no more act against these, than against the heart. Hence it evidently follows, that reason, conscience, and natural affections are no prin. ciples of action, but only motives of action. It is acknowledged that they often operate as motives which influence the heart, the only proper principle of action. If reason dictate to a man that it is best to be temperate, his reason is not the principle of action, but his heart, which acts agreeably to the motive sug. gested by reason.
If conscience dictate to a man that it is his duty to observe the Sabbath, his conscience is not the principle of action, but his heart, which acts agreeably to the motive sugo gested by conscience. Or if natural affection dictate to a man to give a beloved child the largest portion of his inheritance, his natural affection is not the principle of action, but his heart, which acts agreeably to his natural affection. Now if reason, conscience, and natural affection be not principles of action, then no action can flow from them, but every action must flow from the heart. And if all actions flow from the heart, then either all the actions of sinners are totally corrupt, or none of them. But all who acknowledge the total depravity of sinners, allow that those actions which flow from the heart are totally corrupt. Since then all the actions of sinners do in fact flow from the heart, and can flow from no other principle, all who admit the doctrine of total depravity, must, in order to be consistent, acknowledge that all the actions of sinners are totally depraved. If they admit the apostle's premises, they must adopt his conclusion, that they that are in the flesh, and act entirely from a carnal heart, cannot please God.
2. If it be a truth that sinners are totally depraved, then it is a very important truth. The doctrine of total depravity holds a distinguished place among the doctrines of the gospel. It lies at the foundation of some of the principal articles of Christianity. And were christians agreed in this great truth, they would soon put an end to many of their religious disputes. They would no longer contend about the character and conduct of sinners. They would no longer contend about the nature and necessity of regeneration. They would no longer contend about common and special grace. They would no longer contend about the terms of justification. They would no longer contend about the proper qualifications for communion at the table of the Lord. Nor would they any longer contend about universal salvation. For divine sovereignty in the dispensations of grace naturally results from the doctrine of total depravity. So that total depravity is not an unmeaning phrase, but a most solemn and important truth, which is inseparably connected with the leading and fundamental doctrines of the christian religion.
3. We learn from what has been said, that the total depravity of sinners does not destroy nor diminish their obligation to obey the divine commands. It appears that their total depravity consists wholly in the corruption of their hearts.
Their intellectual faculties remain uncorrupt. Their perception, reason, and conscience, are in their full strength and vigor. And these are the sole ground of moral obligation. To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin. Satan knows to do good, notwithstanding the total corruption of his heart, and therefore he is under the same obligation that he ever was, to love and obey his Maker. And since the total depravity of sinners does not destroy their knowledge of duty, it does not destroy their obligation to perform it. Moral obligation does not depend in the least degree upon the disposition of the heart. Whether men have good or bad hearts, they are equally obliged to love and serve their Creator. Accordingly God never makes the least allowance for the corruption of their hearts, in any of his precepts and prohibitions. Though he knew that the Israelites in general were totally depraved when he gave the law at Mount Sinai, yet he required them to love him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength, upon pain of eternal destruction. And though Christ knew that the Jews were of their father the devil, and totally depraved, yet he required them to be perfect even as their Father in heaven is perfect. The divine commands fall with all their weight and authority upon the consciences of sinners. Their depravity of heart lessens not their obligation to obedience. They have as much to do as other men. They have to obey all the commands in the Bible. They have to read and pray, and do every thing that good men have to do. The total corruption of their hearts will not afford them the least excuse for the least disafsection to God, nor for the least disobedience to any of his commands.
4. We learn from what has been said, why God condemns the best, as well as the worst actions of sinners. Every one can see a reason why God should condemn their open vices and immoralities; but many can see no reason why he should condemn their apparent love, obedience, and devotion. But we find he does, for some reason or other, condemn their best, as well as their worst actions, in the plainest and strongest terms. “ The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.” " He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.”
“ To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord. I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of hegoats.” “I hate, I despise, your feast-days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burntofferings and your meat-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts." Such sacrifices, prayers, and religious devotions of sinners, may be considered as their best performances; but these God expressly says he abhors and condemns. And the reason is plain and obvious. The best performances of sinners proceed from the same totally corrupt heart from which their open vices and immoralities proceed, and therefore are equally corrupt and sinful. When sinners come before God with a corrupt heart, they come at their peril; for God tells them that he never required them to come in such a manner. " When
ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand to tread my courts?” Yea, he forbids them to come and worship him with an unfriendly heart. “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and
your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to beat them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear.” God looketh not on the outward appearance, but upon the heart. He views the best actions of sinners as flowing from a totally corrupt heart, and therefore abhors and condemns them as altogether criminal.
5. We learn from what has been said, why none of the works of sinners will be accepted at the last day.
Our Saviour, who will be the final Judge, has absolutely declared that he will condemn all sinners and all their works without distinction, in the great day of account. And though they may plead that they have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick, and done many deeds of apparent humanity and benevolence, yet he will reject and punish them for that criminal selfishness which was the source of all their actions. And this will be a sufficient reason for their everlasting perdition. If the hearts of all sinners are totally depraved, and if all their actions proceed from their totally corrupt hearts, then Christ may, with the greatest propriety, place them all at his left hand, and condemn all their actions when he comes to judge the world in righteousness. When the secrets of all hearts shall be made manifest, it will appear that the finally impenitent never had one right affection, nor one good intention, in the whole course of their lives. And when this appears, the whole universe must approve of Christ, in dooming them all to endless destruction.
6. We learn from what has been said, why the divine law, when it comes to the conscience, revives the guilt and destroys the hope of every sinner. Many sinners are so strict in their external conduct, and so serious and devout in their religious services, that they not only pacify their consciences, but even entertain high hopes of the favor of God and the enjoyment of heaven. But this is owing to their ignorance of the nature and extent of the divine law, and of the total corruption of their hearts. Whenever, therefore, the divine law is set home upon their consciences, it discovers the enmity of their hearts, and destroys all their hopes of heaven. This Paul found to be the case by his own experience. “I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin taking occasion by the commandment deceived me, and by it, slew me.” Paul, before his conversion, was a man of a fair moral character, and zealous in the religion of his sect. His hopes of heaven were high, and he had no doubt of being a sincere friend to God. But when the commandment came, it discovered his heart, and
destroyed his hopes of the divine favor. He felt himself to be a poor, miserable, guilty sinner. He found that in him, that is, in his carnal mind, there dwelt no good thing. He was fully convinced that he had always acted from a carnal, selfish heart, which was unfriendly to God, and which justly deserved his everlasting displeasure. And if it be true that sinners always act from a carnal heart, which the law of God forbids, then the law of God, when it comes home to the conscience, must necessarily condemn them for all their thoughts, words and actions. And when they feel this conviction, there is nothing which can keep them from complete despair, but a belief that a holy, gracious and sovereign God can subdue their enmity, and save them in spite of their hearts.
7. We learn from what has been said, that it is the immediate duty of sinners to become reconciled to God. This is their first and most important duty. Their reading and praying, their seeking and striving, and every thing they do, will be displeasing to God, until they become heartily reconciled to his holy and amiable character. God is not only supremely glorious and excellent in his own nature, but he has always treated sinners with the greatest kindness and tenderness. He has never said any thing in his word, nor done any thing in his providence, which has ever given them any just ground for their disaffection. And, therefore, he solemnly calls upon them to impeach him for a single instance of his conduct, if they can. “ Hear ye now what the Lord saith: Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me.” Since sinners have always hated God without a cause, it is their immediate duty to renounce their groundless enmity, and become reconciled to their kind and gracious Creator. Hence the sacred teachers unitedly exhort them to immediate holiness and reconciliation of heart to God. Isaiah says, “ Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return into the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Ezekiel says, “Cast away from you all your transgressions whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die?” And the apostle Paul calls upon the enemies of God in the most solemn and endearing manner, to become immediately friendly to him.
“ Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God." Amen.