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which he is incapacitated to lie. When - Moses is - speaking of the envious feelings which Joseph's bretii. ren exercised towards him, he says, “ They hated him and could not speak peaceably unto himn." “ Could not," is the same as to be unable, or to labor under an inability. Jesus Christ said to the Jews, “ How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another ?" Again he said, “ Ye cannot hear my words.” And again he said, “ No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him."* In all these cases, it is not a want of physical or natural strength of body or mind, which creates the difficulty. It is clearly a difficulty which arises from a wrong temper of heart : and yet is termed a cunnot; which is the same as au inability. But to distinguish it from a thing rendered difficult or impossible, through wanit of corporal or mental strength, we term it a moral inability. This use of the word cannot or inability, when applied to things rendered impossible by the periect opposition of the heart to those things, is not only sanctioned by the scriptures, but also by the present and common use of
* This last text is found in John, chap. vi. ver. 44. In chap. v. ver. 40, the same unerring teacher, in an address to heapers of the same character, said ; “ And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” In this last text he manifestly makes the sinner's incapacity to become a true believer, to consist in the wicked and inexcusable disinclination of the will, which is what we term a moral inability. And ought we to suppose, that the other text teaches some other kind of inability, which is of ad excusable nature ? Such a thought cannot for a moment be indulged. The text in the 6th chapter, by a cannot, brings the same kind of incapacity into view, which the other text does by a will not. Do you ask, Why then is the mode of expression changed? We answer ; The declaration, “ Ye will not come," taught their present indisposition, yet did not explicitly teach that this was their fixed character : But the declaration, “ No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him;" teaches that this indisposition, this “ will not," is the fixed character of sinners, even of all the sinners in the world, so that there is no man who is an exception to it. It also teaches, that this indisposition of heart, this moral inability, will never of itself be removed ; but that it must be removed by an immediate interposition of divine power and grace. "Which were born, not of the will of the flesh, but of God."
language. It is common to say, that we cannot de things, which nothing hinders us from doing, except an indisposition of mind. We say of a drunken sot, that he cannot leave his cups, and of a niggard, that he is incapable of a generous action. But in these cases, we do not think of inventing an excuse for drunkenness, or for viggardness.
Where now is Mr. B's difficulty of reconciling these two things together; a natural ability to do that which there is a moral inability to do? He says, “ To say that men have power naturally to love God, while they have a moral inability, is a manifest contradiction." How is the contradiction manifest ? If there be no distinction between a natural and a moral inabilliy, we ac: knowledge there is a manifest contradiction. To say, that a man is able, and unable, in the same sense, to do the same thing, would be contradictory, Thus, to say, that a man is able as it respects his bodily strength to labor, and that in the same sense he is not able to labor, would be absurd. But to say, that a man is, in one sense, able to labor, and that in another seyse, he is uitable, would not necessarily be absurd ; for he might be able to labor, as his strength and health are respected, and be unable to labor, as it respects the disposition of his mind. In other words, a strong able-bodied mun may be prevented from labor only by an indolent mind. If it should be said, that indolence is no inability ; let it be remembered, it is what we mean by moral inabili. ty :-and it is just such a kind of inability as Joseph's . brethren labored under when ," they could not speak peaceably to him.” Now, if this incolent man were indolent to perfection, so that he would starve sooner than he would work, still it would not change the nature of his inability from moral to natural. And if this indolent spirit were born with him, (which is apt to be the case with such characters, yet it would not change its nature-It would still be a moral incapacity, tho'a mo. yal incapacity which was entirely natural to him. It would still be speaking correctly, to say, that the man was naturally very capable of hard labor, but that he was under a dreadful inability of the inoral kind, 10 perform the labor of a single day.
If there be no foundation for the distinction which we have made between an inability to love God, which arises from a want of the natural powers and faculties of a moral agent, and the inability which arises from the want of an upright frame of heart, then there is à Want of consistency in our telling sinners, that they have a natural ability to obey, while they are totally de• praved, and, in a spiritual sense, “ without strength."
But we are persuaded, that no theologian can get along without making the distinction which we have made, whether he makes use of the same terms to note this distinction or not. And if this distinction is founded in truth, then we are not guilty of the inconsistency with which Mr. B. has charged us. He says, “ Inability supposes a want of power : and therefore to say that a man has power to do a thing, and at the same time contend that there is an inability to do that thing, is saying that a man has power, and yet has not power.” To this difficulty I reply; An inability, if it be of the moral kind, does not by any means suppose the want of natus ral power. It supposes the want of no other power, except what belongs to that particular kind of irability. Thus, when we speak of the inability of the indolent man to work, it does not necessarily suppose any deficiency of natural power. His moral inability to labor', may be complete, and his natural ability for the same thing, as complete. In like manner, we may labor under a total moral" inability to love our Creator, allowing our natural powers and faculties, which constitute our natural ability to love, be not at all impaired.
Mr. B's representation of our sentiments on the subject of the sinner's having a natural ability to do what he has no moral ability to do, is calculated to puzzle the mind of that reader, whu is not in the habit of weighing what he reads. The words which are used, as making a true representation of our sentiments, seem to have such a strange clashing with each other, that the inattentive reader would be led to imagine, that none but men more fit for a mad-house, than to be christian 1cachers, could ever believe and propagate such self.contradictory doctrines. Mr. B. makes our doc
trine to say, " A man has power, and yet has not proever." It is devoutly to be wished that none may be misled by the mere sounds of words. Let il now be understood, that we do not hold to a sentiment so self.contradictory as this ; That in the same sense, in which men have power, they bave not power, to do their duty. But ihis sentiment we hold and seek to inculcate ; that while by the fall we have lost the holy image of God, and have no heart to return to him, we have not lost the faculties necessary for moral agency, and are therefore under perfect obligation to make a proper use of these fuculties, wbich would certainly imply a return to him from whom we have rerolted. If by the fall we had been changed into brutes, instead of sinners, the Saviour would not say, " Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” And if by the fall we had not become so totally depraved, as to have no heart to accept this gracious invitation, the Son of God would not have said, " No man can come to me, except the Father which bath sent me, draw him :" nor would he have taught the necessity of the power of the Holy Ghost to change our hearts, as preparatory to our accepting of gospel offers, and becoming interested in the benefits of his death. Here then is a natural ability to return to God, and a moral inability to return. In other words ; Here is a rational creature, who has power to perform moral actions, who is at the same time perfectly wicked, and therefore morally or spiritually disabled from doing right. Should this creature be made the subject of a moral change, he will frankly say, “ By the grace of God I am what I am.” I should never, without the special power of the Spirit, have got rid of this moral inability, and found it in my heart to submit to tlie righteousness of God. And yet, every tear of repentance which he sheds, is proof that he is fully convinced that he was possessed of a natural ability to do this, and that his moral inability was " no cloke for his sin ;'' but that it was a wicked heart, holding fasi deceit und refusing to return. The penitent feels ashamed of his past life. He is convinced that he has acted a most impious and foolish part, in so long living without God in the world. This necessarily implies a conviction, that he was always possessed of natural ability to live a life of piety towards God, as well as a life of uprightness towards men. At the same time he has a conviction, which is equally clear, that nothing short of the conqueriny power of the king of saints, would ever have made him submit. Is not then this alleg. ed contradiction harmonized in the experiences of every true penitent? That it may be thus harmonized in every mind, should be the prayer of the writer, and of all his readers.
CONCLUDING REMARKS. •
IN my reply to Mr. Bangs' objections against Calvinistic doctrines, I have not taken notice of every thing which threw itself in my way: yet I have detained my reader longer than I intended when I first took up my pen. The controversial part of my buok will now be concluded, by a few brief remarks.
1. It is of great importance, that we should all seek to obtain the most clear and definite ideus, which we possibly can, concerning the leading doctrines of the gospel. It is not enough, that we believe there is a God; we ought to obtain just views of his character. We cannot fully comprehend his natural or moral perfections ; but we can obtain consistent and correct views of them. If we do not entertain sentiments about the Divine Being, which are essentially correct, our religion will be no better than that of the men of Atheas, who erected an altar to the enknown God. It is not enough, that we adost the belief of human depravity; we ought to study to form a de. finite idea of the nature, and extent of this depravity. It is, not enough, that we believe that there is such a thing as holi- , ness : We ought to form a distinct idea of holiness, and know what is the specific difference between holiness and sin. These remarks will apply with force to the law of God, the ground of obligation in .creatures to obey, the doctrine of aronement, res: generation, &c. On none of these fundamental points, ought we to content ourselves with vague, indistinct notions. It is by knowing the truth that we are to be made free. Ser jobs. viii. 32. The Sasitur prayt i for his disciples, that they migbt be sanctified through the truih. But surely we are not sanctis. fied, merely by having the word of truth lie by us in our.