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Inability, natural and moral.
" To what purpose would this advice be given,' (“ Take heed therefore how ye hear,”) “if men ' had not the power of resisting the wiles of the
devil, of supporting the trials of persecution, and of withstanding the temptations of the riches ' and pleasures of this world ? the three causes to which our Lord ascribes the failure of religious instruction.'1
If men have not by nature, and cannot have by grace, the power here spoken of, advice must be in vain. But the apostle's direction, on the first of these causes, gives us a widely different view of the subject, from that which the quotation suggests : "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power “ of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, “ that ye may be able to stand against the wiles “ of the devil.” 2 St. John also clearly shows how another of these causes must be obviated. “That « which is born of God overcometh the world : “and this is the victory which overcometh the “ world, even our faith. Who is he that over“ cometh the world, but he that believeth that “Jesus is the Son of God?" 3 “ Ye are of God “ little children, and have overcome them: be๕
cause greater is he that is in you, than he that “ is in the world." 4 It might be shown at large,
· Ref. 15.
Eph. vi. 9, 10.–See also 1 Pet. v.8, 9. : 1 John v. 4,5. . * 1 John iv. 4, 5.
that the same is implied in all such exhortations. “ Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, “ according to the power of God.” “Thou there“fore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in “ Christ Jesus." I “ Watch and pray, that ye “ enter not into temptation.” 2 Such of our opponents as maintain, that fallen man hath, in every sense, the power to gain these victories, without the grace of God, would do well to prove their ability by their own conduct; and by showing themselves superior to all the temptations of the devil, all the terrors and allurements of the world, and all the love of honour, riches, power, and pleasure; and in short as wholly devoted to God as the Lord Jesus was : or at least equal in holiness to him who said, “ By the grace of God I am “ what I am.” If, however, by power be here meant natural capacity, independent of the dispositions and inclinations of the heart: while we must think, that even the natural powers of man are greatly impaired and enfeebled by the fall; yet the difference between our views, and those of our opponents, does not appear so important or so tangible as to require discussion. They allow that, when willing and desirous, we need assistance from God; though they often seem to forget themselves on this head : and we maintain that, if there be a willing mind, man may, by the continued help of God, do great things, in overcoming the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Even fallen man in himself possesses great energy of mind and resolution, for
1 2 Tim. i. 8. ii. 1.
? Matt. xxvi. 41.
such things as his heart is fully set upon : and, if his heart were fully set upon obtaining these spiritual victories, his efforts would be vigorous, self-denying, and pertinacious ; though still inadequate and unsuccessful, without constant supplies of strength from the grace of Christ. “ Without
me ye can do nothing.” The meaning of the apostle's words, “To will is present with me, but “how to perform that which is good, I find not;"! is probably best understood by those who have most earnestly and resolutely made, and still continue to make, the arduous attempt.
We cannot exactly ascertain how far this arises from imperfection in volition, and in what 'degree from natural weakness: and the endeavour to state it would plunge us in metaphysics beyond our depth. These hints therefore on this abstruse subject shall suffice.
This premised, it will readily be perceived that we deny entirely and absolutely all power in fallen man' to do what is good in the sight of God,' apart from his preventing and adjuvant grace: but this we deny exclusively in respect of moral power or ability, the total want of a willing mind; and his Lordship has conceded all that we contend for. But the difference between natural and moral inability, requires some further explanation or illustration. Natural inability renders a man wholly unable to do this or the other thing, even when most cordially willing to do it: He would, but he cannot. Moral inability, in many instances, incapacitates a man for doing what he otherwise is
well capable of doing : He could, if not unwilling. In the former sense, the lame man cannot run swiftly, and a very poor man cannot relieve the wants of the destitute: in the latter, a very slothful man cannot labour diligently; and the very covetous rich man cannot be liberal; he cannot find in his heart to be so. This hindrance is as real and insurmountable, except by a change of heart and disposition, in the latter as in the former case: but it forms no excuse for any one's misconduct. It is most evident that the scripture uses the word cannot in this sense in very many places, of which several have been, and more will be produced. Our Article also is very explicit in this respect: “ The condition of man, after the fall of Adam, is such that he cannot (non possit)
turn and prepare himself, by his own natural • strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon
God: wherefore we have no power (nihil valemus) to do good works, pleasant and accep* table to God, without the grace of God,' &c. So far is this moral inability to do what is good in the sight of God from excusing impenitence, unbelief, or disobedience; that, the more entirely it prevails, the deeper depravity, enmity, and wickedness are manifested, and the heavier condemnation will be awarded to those who continue under its influence. It is more absolute and determined in the devil and his angels, than in fallen man in this world : and is not their guilt more atrocious, their malignity more hateful in proportion? On the other hand, the more entirely rational agents have a moral inability to all evil, the more exactly do they reflect the image of God who, Omnipotent,
and Sovereign Lord of all, “ cannot lie," “ cannot “deny himself.”
It has been said, that as we represent even this moral inability as natural to us, we after all take away the difference, and state it to be a natural inability, only of another kind. But is this any thing more than a sophism? It is not natural inability in such a sense, that we cannot even were we willing : but, we cannot be willing. It is not natural to us as God created man'; but in consequence of our apostacy. It is not natural to us as the inability to fly is ;. but a propensity or disposition of our apostate nature; like that of Satan to love God and holiness, and not any more excůsable.
“What would be more unjust, than that those should be punished, who are not able to do what ought to be done? or that those should suffer, whose actions are not in their own power ???
Natural inability or incapacity to obey would certainly render punishment unjust: but does total disinclination form an obstacle of the same kind? • Our actions are in our own power :' that is, a man has it in his power to do, or not to do, this or the other action. He may choose whether he will labour for a maintenance, or have recourse to fraud or rapine : but the state of his heart will influence his choice. “ Idleness, matured into habit, prevents a man from choosing labour as effectually, but surely not so excusably, as sickness prevents a