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cessity, is, a depraved temper of mind, which is all the cause of that necessity, is blameable in itself. If a wicked heart were not in itself sinful, none of the thoughts, or words, or deeds, which necessarily flow from that fountain, would be a man's own fault. Were not an ungovernable inclination to iniquity, criminal in its own nature, it would excuse whatever it necessarily occasions, as much as any other inno. cent cause does, its unavoidable effects. But if a depraved disposition be a moral evil--a culpable thing, then he who hath it, may justly be condemned for it, before he has time to act at all.
If any should say, We know nothing what either a good or a wicked heart is, before, or distinct from, all volitions and exercises ; and have therefore no reason to think there is, or can be, any such thing.
To this it may be answered ; We know as well what a good or bad disposition is, prior to virtuous or vicious exercises, as we do what reason is, prior to rational actions : as well as we know what a human soul is, prior to the operations of it; and as well as we know what God is, distinct from his works. No unseen cause, can be known from seen effects, any better than the disposition of a man may be known from his words and actions. We may just as well disbelieve that there is a spirit in man, or a God that governs the world, as that there is any such thing as a wicked or good heart. As well as the invisible things of God, can be learnt from the things which are made ; and as well as we know that God is good, because he does good ; just so well do we know that he who committeth sin, hath a sinful disposition. There may be good nature, or ill nature ; a holy or an unholy temper of mind, in a man when he is in the most profound sleep; and is as unknowing and inactive as an unborn infant. If it be otherwise ; if the good man loses all his virtues, and the bad man all his vices, whenever they fall asleep, why do they so constantly recover them again, and act in
character, as soon as they awake,? If there be no difference between a good and a wicked man, till they come actually to understand and choose, what is the reason that, with the same objective light and motives set before them, they constantly understand and choose so very differently? Whence is it that to the renewed, Christ is altogether lovely ; while to the unregenerate, he hath no form nor comeliness, and when they see him, there is no beauty that they can desire him ? Whence is it that, with equal natural capacities and speculative knowledge, the saint chooses the way of God's commandments, the sinner the way of transgression ? Certainly, there must be a difference in the men : a difference in their dispositions ; a difference previously to these different perceptions and volitions.
And if we know not what the dispositions of men are, or that they have any, till they have opportunity to act them out, the Judge of all the earth knows. He searcheth the heart and trieth the reins.
"The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed.” Weighed perfectly, because he fully sees all their principles, or want of principles.
By way of improvement ;
I. We may hence learn, in what sense repenting of original sin, is essential to true repentance.
Some serious persons are greatly troubled, because they cannot feel themselves to blame for Adam's first sin ; which they have been taught to believe is imputed to them, and is really their own sin. If such are convinced of the truth of what has now been said, they may hence be comforted in this particular, God requires no such impossibility of us, as blaming Ourselves for any one's faults but our own.
To fees guilty of Adam's eating the forbidden fruit, is naturally impossible. The renewed, I am confident, can no more have such repentance, than the unrenewed. To a good man, it may be matter of humiliation, that the father of his flesh, from whom he originally descended, was guilty of so great an offence. But a consciousness of having been to blame, or a sense of self-condemnation, for the disobedience of Adam, or of Eve, whatever some may have worked themselves up to an imagination of, I am persuaded is what no person, except our first parents themselves, ever really felt, or can possibly feel.
Yet, let us not think our repentance has been unto salvation, unless we have seen and felt that we deserve the wrath and curse of God, on account of the sinful. ness of our hearts, as well as the iniquities of our lives. Unless, for not loving God and our neighbor, and for all our ungodly and unrighteous propensities thence arising, we abhor and condemn ourselves. In this sense of original sin, repenting of it is essential to true repentance.
2. We may hence see that Adam was not so much more inexcusable than other sinners, as seems often to be imagined ; and that our sins are not so imputable to him, as to be of any avail to us.
Some, there is reason to fear, are fond of the doctrine of original sin, because, as they understand the matter, it gives them much ease and comfort. Adam, they think, was a great sinner indeed, because he was not in a fallen state, but sinned before he had any depravity of nature: before he had the least inclination to sin. Whereas, in consequence of his offence, they are now so depraved from the very birth, that they sin naturally and unavoidably : and therefore, are not much to be blamed for sinning. It seems to them as if it were a most abominable thing to sin with an honest and good heart ; but no evil at all, provided it be done with a wicked mind! But, surely such turning of things up side down, shall be esteemed as the potter's clay. Such reasonings to cover the nakedness of our criminality, are worse than the fig-leaves of our first parents. It is placing sin in innocence, and innocence in sin.
3. We may hence be convinced, that God was under no obligation to save lost men, because of the manner of their being brought into a state of sin and misery.
A late author in favor of the doctrine of universal salvation, makes much use of this argument, and labors hard to support it by scripture, as well as reason. He explains several texts in the New Testa. ment so as to make them say, that men were demned, before they deserved condemnation. Rom. v. 12, " By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sín; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,” he paraphrases thus : “ Death passed upon all men, whereupon ; in con, sequence of which, all have sinned." And indeed, if that were the case, they might all well be angry ; and they must be meeker than Moses, not to sin. Of the eighth chapter of Romans, 20th ver. “ The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,” he supposes the meaning to be ; “ That mankind were doomed to all the infelicities of this life, not for any fault of their own ; but in the sure and certain hope before given, in the sentence passed upon the serpent, that they should all, sooner or later, be delivered from the ruins of the apostacy, and be for ever happy.” Whence he in
Whence he infers, as well he might were the premises true, that, “ If any of mankind should not be saved, they would have reason to complain.”
And many others, who do not carry the matter quite so far, feel themselves obliged, in like manner, to bring in all the grace of the gospel, that the law may be made just, by which we stand condemned. But, according to what has now been said there was no need of such infinite grace, only to mend a bad law.
“ The ways
The original constitution, taken by itself, was holy and just : no man being doomed by it to death, or subjected to the infelicities of this life, but for his own fault. Consequently, all might justly have been left to perish, without a Saviour, and without a Sanctifier; and God may justly have mercy on whom he will have mercy
Let sinners, then, instead of saying, of the Lord are not equal,” look into themselves : and wherein their own ways have been unequal, or their hearts have not been good, let them abhor themselves, and repent in dust and ashes. And let saints, who have been recovered from the error of their ways to the wisdom of the just, ascribe the whole of their salvation to free and rich grace. Remember, my redeemed and renewed hearers; “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people ; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”