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Meaning and Origin of Corrupt Nature. As I am reasoning with brethren who believe in the erercise system, I do not intend to embarrass my argument by connecting it with the taste scheme. And to remove prejudices on account of any leaning I may be supposed to have to that plan, as well as to explain my meaning when I refer, as I shall have occasion to do, to the necessity of a new temper or new affections, (without determining which,) before the sinner will be persuaded by divine truth; I will, in the outset, state what I mean by a moral nature or temper; what I mean also by the corrupt nature common to the race, and in what sense it has been derived from Adam. What I shall say on these subjects, and on the origin of sin, will not, I think, be denied by any who believe that God efficiently produces holiness but not sin.
Self-love consists in the desire of happiness and aversion to misery, or in loving to gratify our personal tastes and feelings. This is essential to a rational and even to a sensitive nature. This had Adam before the fall; but divine efficiency wrought in him supreme love to God, which kept self-love in due subjection. As soon as God withdrew his sanctifying influence, (and that he did sovereignly and not as a punishment,) Adam's self-love became supreme, (there can be no rivals for supreme affection but God and self,) and of course turned to selfishness, and, as soon as God was presented in his law, to “enmity against God." For all this no positive act was necessary on the part of God but to uphold Adam's rational existence. If Adam does not love his Maker supremely, he must with supreme desire seek the means of his own personal gratification, or cease to have a rational soul. Now that proneness to gratify himself, growing out of the absence of love to God and the presence of self-love turned to selfishness; or perhaps I may more properly say, that combination of inward circumstances out of which will infallibly arise the exercises of selfishness and enmity against God, constitutes the corrupt nature or temper of which I speak. While his rational existence is continued, and while he does not love God, it must be his nature to be selfish, and to hate God when God sets himself against him in his law, as much as it is the nature of the serpent to bite and of the lion to be carnivorous. The difference between the two cases is this. The nature of the serpent and lion depends on their physical formation; the nature of Adam, on the absence of love to God which he ought to exercise. He is to blame for that state of things,-for that nature or aptitude, -and therefore it is a moral nature.* If one must love his own happiness in case he is even sentient, then a man who does not love God, must, anterior in the order of nature to his selfishness, have an infallible aptitude to selfishness. If
* I know that the word nature, etymologically considered, belongs exclusively to physics ; but for want of another term, and prompted by a strong analogy, men have applied it to our moral constitution. And while it means this, to say that a change of nature must be a physical change, is only a play upon words which involves a serious errour.
the soul must have desires after something or cease to be, and must be influenced by the greatest apparent good, then a man who loves himself supremely and God not at all, must have a preparation within him, (consisting perhaps in the mere relation of things,) to hate God when God comes to be seen arrayed against him in his law.
When God re-produced supreme and habitual love to himself in Adam's heart, that nature or aptitude was changed. It was not the new nature of Adam to seek his own interest supremely and to hate God. Whether God re-produced any thing but exercises, I will not say. If not, the new nature was not a new existence, but a new relation between the feelings towards self and towards God. That is, self-love no longer ruled, and the feelings towards God were no longer hatred but supreme love. It is the common feeling of mankind, until philosophy calls the thing in question, that there is a temper which is the foundation of exercises. I see a man, in a revival of religion, dissolved in tears and tenderness. I tell you, Go to that man six months hence and contradict him, and he will affront you. Why? you ask; he has no such feelings in exercise now. No, I say, but such is his nature. We account for the feelings and passions of men by charging them to a mild or an irascible temper. No one attempts to tell what it is, any more than he attempts to account for the mental diversities of different animals, (mere organized matter cannot think or desire,) or for the preparation in the sleeping child to love its parent rather than a stranger. I know not that a man actually loves himself all the time; and yet, sleeping or waking, it may constantly be said of him, that self-lové
is inseparable from his nature. The thing, whatever it is, presents itself to us in different aspects; sometimes as a proneness or propensity, sometimes as that facility of action, founded on association of ideas, which we call habit, sometimes as a mental appetite to which motives are to be addressed, as an invitation to a feast is addressed to a bodily taste. In the last case I know not but the motives are presented to the mind predisposed by habitual affections. One feeling certainly hurries a man into another. Anger or envy will cause him to hate. Offer one who loves gold, a bag of guineas to cross the street, and if no stronger motive urges the other way he will certainly come. A man who loves honour, will be induced to desire, to be grateful, to love, to resent, to be angry, to be sorry, to be glad, according to the relation of events to his ruling passion. A man who loves the world supremely, will flee from a religious meeting to wordly business. Experience shows that the affections and volitions do move in such an order, and hold on in an unbroken course, and we are not conscious of any thing behind them. Pres. Edwards* calls the thing in question a principle. “If grace be—an entirely new kind of principle, then the exercises of it are also entirely a new kind of exercises.This new spiritual sense, and the new dispositions that attend it, are no new faculties, but are new principles of nature. I use the word principles for want of a word of a more determinate signification. By a principle of nature in this place I mean that foundation which is laid in nature,
*Quoted in a Tract entitled, The Renewal of Sinners the Work • of Divine Power; p. 9.