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seek my neighbor's salvation from endless misery, so it requires me to seek my own. My eternal, as well as my temporal interests are put more immediately un<ier my care, tlun are those of my neighbor; and I am under pressing obligation to attend to them. God has required it at my hands. He has said to the wicked, Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die? While every one ought to feel that he deserves the damnation of hell, lie ought also to feel that he is under perfect obligation, in obedience to the gospel, to flee from this wrath to come, and lay hold on the hope *et before him. In neglecting to do this, he not only sinncth against the Messed Redeemer, but he also wrongel/i his uivn soul. To submit to punishment, as the due,reward of our tleedu, is noble : but to plunge into eternal miser)-, through a stupid inattention to the worth of the soul, and a neglect of the great salvation, is wicked and foolish beyond our conception.
How importrurt is the subject to which the reader's attention has now been culled. Let him not view it as a matter of mere speculation. That love which goes out of self, and centres in God, is the fulfilling of the law. It is this, which makes the righteous more excellent than his neighbor. It is this, which makes the convert differ from what he was in his unconverted state. Mis repentance and his faith, his prayers and his zeal in religion, wouid not make him essentially to differ from his '"Tinier self, if his chief end were the same ;—if all. this apparent regard to his Maker, terminated in supreme regard to himself.
"Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Disinterested love is the ground work cf that holiness, which is necessary to prepare men for heaven. This is the only love which tends, in its own nature, to union. All who possess this holy affection are made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. And without this love, it is impossible that we should be admitted, into the society of the blessed.
THOUGHTS OK THE NATURAL ABILITY, ANB MORAL INABILITY 07 SIMMERS, SUGGESTED BY READING WHAT IS FOUND IN MR. BANGS' LETTERS ON THIS SUBJECT.
THE subject relative to the sinner's natural ability t« do that to which his heart is wholly disinclined, was not very particularly brought into view in the Sermons, against which Mr. Bangs has written : but as he has taken considerable notice of this matter in his Letters, I shall make some concise remarks on what he has offered. He thus writes, (pp. 283, £84 :) "To say that men hav« power, naturally to love God, while they have a " moral inability," is a manifest contradiction. Inability supposes a want of fwwer; and therefore to say that a man has power to do a thing, and at the same lime contend that there is an inability to do that thing, is saying that a man Aat ficwer, and yet has net poiver. Let the inability be natural or moral; it is certain that, so long as that inability remains, the sinner has not power to comply with the requirements of the divine law." When we have examined these two. things apart, viz. the sinners natural ability and moral inability, to do what God requires of him. we-shall then see if we cannot bring them together, and mike them harmonize.
I. Let us examine into the sinner's natural ability to do what God requires of him. God requires of the totally depraved sinner, to love him, to repent of his sifts, believe in Christ, and obey his holy precepts. Nowne say, that the sinner is under no natural inability to comply with these requirements. Here we use the word natural, as opposed to moral, and not in contrast with unnatural. We grant, that in a moral or spiritual sense, it is natural for the sinner to refuse compliance. When we are speaking of the sinner's heart, we say, it is as natural for him to sin as for the sparks to fly upward. But still it is proper to say, that he is cafiable of doing better; he is capable of doing his duty. This is the came as to w\y, that he is able to do what God requires of him. And if he is able, then it is proper to say, he has an ability. But as by this ability, we do not design at all to bring into view the present disposition of hl$ heart, or to say any thing about his willingness to love and serve God, we distinguish it from that holy ability or willingness of mind, by calling it a natural ability. By this we mean, that he has powers and faculties, Which belong to his nature as a rational mo-al agent, which are sufficient to enable him to do all that which he is commanded. He has natural ability to do all which he is great enough to do, whether he is good enough to do it or not. He has natural ability to love God with all his understanding and strength, when his heart is full of enmity, but he has not ability of any kind, to love with more than all bis understanding and strength.
Theological writers have fur a'long time made a distinction between the natural and moral attributes of God. By the natural, they have meant those attributes which exhibit him as an intelligent being, infinite in greatness, without directly bringing into view his holiness; and by the moral attributes, they have meant those holy affections, which make a being who is infinitely great, to be also infinitely lovely. According to this distinction, which divines have been accustomed to make, it is properto say, while we look only at the natural attributes, that the Divine Being has infinite natural ability, to exercise holy affection, and do good. And since his heart is as holy, as his understanding is great, his natural ability to be, and do good, is resisted by no moral inability, or indisposition of mind. This use of the words, natural and moral, when applicd to the attributes of the Creator, will serve to show how they are used in application to the ability of his rational creatures.
When we speak of the natural ability of a creature, we do not include the idea of independence in ihe least degree, for such ability is to be found only in the great First Cause of all things. But we speak of men, as being able to do things which irrational creatures cannot do; and of some men, as being able to do things which others cannot. And we speak of the existence of these different degrees of ability, without taking into the account the disposition of the mind to exert this power, whether in this or that manner. Therefore it must be a natural, and not a moral ability, which we have in our view. *
Let us for the present drop the name, and look at the thing. Who is there that does not hold to such a thing as we intend by a natural ability to obey divine requirements? What believer in divine revelation can there be, who does not hold, that all men, to whom trfe gospel is sent, are, in some sense or other, capable of receiving it? There is something in men, wherein they differ from stones, vegetables and bruies ; which mukes it proper that their Creator should make known his will to them, and require their hearty consent and obedience, let their present character be what it may. Therefore while the Most High addresses no commands to stones, and trees, and brutes, " he comniandeth all men every where to repent." He does not command the literal vipers to cease to be venomous; but he calls on sinful men, who are very aptly termed " a gener?tion of vipers," to repent, and bring forth traits meet for repentance. Now if men were, in every sense, as incapable of the exercise of repentance, as stones, or as the serpents which crawl on the earth, would-the Lord require repentance of them? and would he say, Except ye repent ye shall all perish? And would he blame them for impenitence, as he manifestly does?
II. Let us now, for a moment, attend to the sinner's inability tn comply with divine requirements. By this it is not meant, that the powers of moral agency in sinful men are so weak and enfeebled, that they have n» power to put forth actions of a moral nature. Mo, depraved men are wise to do evil, and they are capable of sinning with a high hand. Moral inability, in application to the sinner," is wholly a wicked thing. It is an unholy, unreasonable incapacity to obey holy and reasonable requirements. It is a heart "fully set to do evil j" " dead in trespasses and sins." Mora! inability relates wholly to the temper and disposition of the heart. We are morally unable to do that which we do not choose to do, tho' the thing itself is at the same time within the compass of our natural powers and faculties. As those attributes in God, whiih serve to bring his character into view, are called his mofal attributes, so here ; the inability of the sinner which exhibits his xharacter, is termed a moral inability.
When we say, that sinners labor under a moral inability to do their duty, or to accept of gospel invitations, it is the same as to say, their hearts are wholly opposed to duty, and altogether unwilling to take Christ's easy 7*e upon their necks. But why, it will be asked, do you call this unwillingness by the name of inability? Why not *ay, that men ore, in every sense, able to do their duty? Why do you say, that they labor under a moral inability to do their duty? To this we reply, th,at the /ihrciiv, " moral inability," is not the great thing or which we contend. The great thing for which we contend, is; that men, in their unrenewed state, do possess such a temper and disposition of heart, as serves effectually to prevent them from heartily complying with divine requirements: Or in other words, that unrenewed men are, as it respects their hearts, totally depraved. For proof on the subject cf total depravity, the reader is referred to the second section in this work, and to the .second sermon in the volume of sermons, to which reference has so often been had.
Tho' I have said, that the phrase is not the great thing for which we contend, yet 1 view it as a proper phrase, and one which is justified by the language of the sciiptures, and by the language now in use among men. The scriptures say, " it is i?r.possibie for God to lie," when it is manifest, that they refer to an impossibi:iiy which aihes fioni his moral perfection, and not thiongh ary dcfiuci.cy in his. njiural attiibutcs, by