Page images
PDF
EPUB

P. asserts that in respect of the impurity of our na. ture, we are under a natural inability of avoiding it; which therefore must be innocent. (65.) But to call such an inability as this natural, is, I apprehend, to apply the term in such a manner as tends to produce a confusion of ideas. Whatever defect attends any man which is simply natural, it must belong to some constituent part of his nature, or of that which constitutes him a man. If the definition which I have heretofore given of natural ability be just, (and this P. has fully acknowledged, p. 64.) it must be either a defect in rational faculties, or bodily powers, or opportunity to put those faculties or powers in exer. cise.' But neither purity nor impurity, come by them how we may, are any constituent parts of human nature; a defect therefore in that matter cannot with propriety be called a natural defect. The depravity of our hearts is not owing to natural weakness, either of body or mind, nor yet to the want of opportunity to know and glorify God. When we speak of it as being the sin of our nature, we use the term in a very different sense from what we do when speaking of națural inability. By the sin of our nature, we mean not any thing which belongs to our nature as human; but what is by the fall so interwoven with it, as if it were, though in fact it is not, a part of it; and so deeply rooted in our souls as to become natural, as it were, to us.

But it will be said “ It must be a natural inability, for is not at our option whether we will be born pure or impure; it is therefore what we cannot

avoid in any sense whatever.” To this it is replied, as before, there is no justice or fairness in considering mankind as united to Adam, or disunited, just as it may serve a purpose. If they are not to be considered as one, why speak of inheriting impure propensities? If they are, why speak of them in a separate capacity? To admit of a union between Adam and his posterity, and at the same time keep exclaiming, we could not avoid being sinners--we are not to blame, and ought not to suffer, is as unreasonable as if a criminal should complain at the hour of execution, that he was hanged by the neck for what he had stolen with his hands. Whatever difficulty may attend us in this part, it is a difficulty that belongs not to the doctrine of natural and moral inability, but to that of original sin; a difficulty therefore, which affects us no more than it does those who differ from us.

II. The next thing which P. considers as contributing to render even a moral inability blameless, is its being so great in degree as to become insupera. ble. According to my principles, he says, our moral inability is invincible, and insists upon it that if so, it is excusable. “No man,” says he, “blames a lion because he has not the disposition of a lamb; and if a lion had the understanding of a man, yet if he could not alter his native ferocity, he would certainly be as unblameable as he is without understanding.” The same reasoning holds good in all other instances. (68.) To all which it is replied, If he mean that they cannot but sin thouglt they would do otherwise never so fain, it is granted all this reasoning is fair and just.

It would then be a natural inability, and therefore excusable. But if this were all he meant, it would amount to nothing. If he mean any thing to the

purpose, any thing different from that which he opposes, it must be this, that if their hearts are so set in them to do evil, that though they could do otherwise if they would, yet they will not, but will be sure, in every instance, to choose the wrong path; THEN they must of course be excusable. And if this be what be maintains, his reasoning appears to me not only inconsistent, but extravagant.

P. must know, surely, that when the terms cannot, inability, &c. are used in these connections, they are used not in a proper, but in a figurative sensem

e that they do not express the state of a person hindered by something extraneous to his own will, but denote what we usually mean by the phrase cannot

find in his heartthat depravity is not natural to us in the same sense as ferocity is to a lion—that it is rather the ruin and disgrace of our nature than any part of itand that therefore such comparisons are but ill adapted to illustrate the subject.

We suppose the propensities of mankind to evil are so strong as to become invincible by every thing but omnipotent grace; but whether that is allowed or not, it must be allowed, I think, they are such as to render spiritual exercises very difficult; at least they have some tendency that way. Now if the above reasoning be just, it will follow, that in proportion to the degree of that difficulty, the subjects thereof ought to be excused in the omission of spiritual exercises.

P. suppeses in this case there is no difference between natural and moral inability; and his argument proceeds all along upon this supposition. Now we know that in all cases where impediments are simply natural, it is not at all more evident that an entire inability amounts to a full excuse; than that a great difficulty excuses in a great degree. If therefore such reasoning be just, it must follow that men are excusable in exact proportion to the strength of their evil propensities; that is, they are excusable in just the same proportion as, according to the common sense of mankind, they are internally wicked, or culpable!

If we suppose a man, for example, in his younger years to have had but very little aversion to Christ, and his way of salvation; he is then exceedingly wicked for not coming to him. As he advances in years,

, his evil propensities increase, and his aversion becomes stronger and stronger; by this time his cuilt is greatly diminished. And if it were possible for him to become so much of a devil as for his prejudices to be utterly invincible, he would then, according to P. be altogether innocent.*

P. thinks this matter so plain, it seems, that he even tells his correspondent, “ neither he, nor his friend (meaning me) could imagine that a command given, and not obeyed, renders the subjects of such command criminal, unless these subjects have power,

* See president Edwards on the IVill. Part. III. Sect. III.

or might have power to obey such command.” (43) If by power he had meant natural ability, I should certainly have accorded with the sentiment; but it is very plain he means to apply it to moral as well as natural ability; and then he is certainly mistaken. For I not only can imagine that to be the case, but do verily believe it. Yea, I can scarcely think that P. himself can believe the contrary; at least he will not, he cannot abide by its just and necessary consequences. If what he says is true, it is either possible that no 6 sences should come, or else no woe is due to those by whom they come. * It must likewise follow, that every inan has, or might have power to live intirely blameless through life, both towards God and towards man; for be it so that some degree of imperfection will continue to attend him, yet that imperfection being supposed to be a “necessary effect” of the fall, it cannot be blame-worthy: (67) and so it is possible for a fallen son of Adarn to live and die blameless, and consequently to appear in his own righteousness without fault before the throne of God. These consequences, however anti-scriptural and absurd, are no more than must inevitably follow from the position of Philanthropos.

“ According to my principles, I am told, men's moral inability is invincible.(68) If I have used that term in the former treatise or the present, it is for want of a better. It is easy to see that my princi

* Luke xyii. 1.

1

« PreviousContinue »