« PreviousContinue »
ples do not so much maintain that the moral inabili. ty of men is such as to render all their attempts to overcome it vain, as that sin hath such a dominion in their heart as to prevent any real attempts of that nature being made. If a whole country were possessed by a foreign enemy, and all its posts and avenues occupied by his forces, and all the inhabitants dead that so much as wished to oppose him; in that case to say his power was become invincible by any opposition from that country would hardly be proper, seeing all opposition there is subdued, and all the country are of one side. Invincible is a relative term, and supposes an opposition made, though made in vain. But moral inability is of such a nature where it totally prevails, as to prevent all real and direct opposition being made. It is the same thing as for the hearts of the sons of men to be fully set in them to do evil, to be full of evil while they live, for every imagination of the heart to be only evil, and that continually. Now if we say this moral indisposition is invincible, it is for the want of a better terin. What we affirin is this rather, that suppose it were conquerable, there is nothing of real good in the sinner's heart to conquer it. If sin is conquered by any efforts of ours, it must be by such as are voluntary. It is not enough that we be “ rational beings," and that conscience suggests to us what ought to be; (66) we must choose to go about it, and that in good earnest, or we shall
* Eccl. viii. 11. xix. 9. Gen. vi. 5.
never effect it. But where the thoughts of the heart are only evil, and that continually, it is supposing a plain contradiction to suppose ourselves the subjects of any such volition or desire.
III. But it will be said, though moral inability is total, yet it is conquerable BY THE GRACE OF GOD; and this grace is given to every man in the world, or would be given, were he to ask it; and this it is which renders men inexcusable. (66). Without this, ,P. avows, that“ any man, be his practices as vile as they may, may excuse himself from blame; and all real good whatever may be denied to be the duty of an unprincipled mind.” (59) This seems to be his last and grand resort, and what he often dwells upon. The discussion of this subject will finish the present section.
I bless God that moral inability is indeed conquerable by the grace of God, though I question whether it is or ever was conquered by what P. calls by that name. But suppose, for argument's sake, we grant him his hypothesis, I question if it will answer his
end. This grace is either actually given to all man· kind, or would be given upon their application. If ac
tually given, I should be glad to know what it is. Is it light in the understanding, or love in the heart? Is it any thing, or productive of any thing that is truly good? If so, how does this accord with the description given of men, that their minds are darkness, their hearts enmity, and that there is none of them that doth good, no not one?* Or is it something for which
* Eph. v. 8. Rom. viii. 7. ii. 12.
there is no name, a sort of seed sown in the heart, which if neglected will perish, but if watered by human industry will be productive? If so, the difficulty is not at all removed, for then, the question is, whe. ther a mind so depraved as to be totally unable to do any thing spiritually good, will ever be inclined to improve that grace, to water the seed so as that it may bring forth fruit?
If the last member of the position be adopted, viz. that all mankind might have grace sufficient to overcome their moral inability if they would apply for it, still the question returns, will a mind totally destitute of any thing spiritually good, and fully set upon doing evil, apply to God for grace to such an end? Is it not inconsistent for a tree that is wholly evil to bring forth good fruit? Or are we to imagine after all, that satan will rise up against himself? To apply to God in any right manner for grace for the cure of an evil propensity, must suppose a desire to have that propensity cured; but to suppose a person totally under the dominion of a propensity, and at the same time properly and directly desiring to have such propensity removed, is what some people would call by the hard name of self-contradiction.*
Farther, I query if the hypothesis of P. instead of answering his end, will not be found subversive of itself, and destructive of his main design. Making this supposed grace the only thing which constitutes
* See president Edwards on the Will, part III. sect. V. on sin, cere endeavours.
men accountable beings, is making it DEBT surely, rather than GRACE, I have too good an opinion of the humility and integrity of P. to imagine he intends merely to compliment the Almighty in calling it grace; but I think it becomes him to examine his scheme, and see whether it amounts to any thing less. Grace is free favour towards the unworthy. It supposes the subject destitute of all claim whatever, and the author to be free to give or to with-hold. But all that this supposed grace amounts to, is not to prove that God has done any thing more than he was bound to do; but barely that he has done what we had a right to expect, or else to be at liberty to throw off his yoke with impunity. It does not, therefore, at all prove Jehovah to be gracious; if it serves for any thing, it can be only to justify his character from the imputation of injustice and cruelty, or from being what P. calls “ a merciless tyrant.” (88)
But farther, I question if even this end will be answered by it. I question if it will not be found, upon the principles and reasonings of P. that this supposed grace, instead of being any real favour towards mankind, is the greatest curse that could ever befal them. If Christ had never come, and no grace had been given in him, then, according to the reasoning of P. men had never been responsible for any part of their conduct. They would, 'tis true, have been born depraved, and lived depraved; but having no power to avoid it, or to free themselves from it, “ where,” he asks,“ would have been their criminality?" (44, 57.) He does not scruple to acknowledge, that if no
grace were provided, “ any man, be his practices as vile as they might, might excuse himself from blame; and all real good whatever might be denied to be the duty of an unprincipled mind.” (59)Now if things are so, that men, without the bestowment of grace, would have been free from criminality; surely the righteousness of God could never have suffered them to be sent to hell, and the goodness of God we may suppose would have raised them to eternal life; and so they might have been innocent and happy if Jesus had never died: but now, alas! in consequence of his coming, and of grace being given them to deliver them from something wherein they were never blameworthy; now they lie all exposed to inexcusable blame and everlasting ruin!!! *
P. speaks of the “ Almighty and all gracious God being represented as contriving to make poor sinners miserable under the colour of invitations; &c.” (45)
* When I consider the above positions, I am entirely at a loss to understand the following passage, “ It is granted, Sir, that God might justly have left man in the state he was born in, and brought into by Adam's sin, whatever state that be.” (57) What such a state would have been, P. does not determine; he seems here to consider it, however, as deserving some sort of punishment, otherwise there is no meaning in that comparitive mode of speaking which he so frequently uses of being punished more severely. But does P. really mean what he writes? Compare this passage with what he hath asserted in pages 44, 57, 59, and it amounts to nothing less than this, that it would have been just in Goil to have punished the human race by acquitting their of all blame, and bringing them in guiltless!