« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Gai. If our limits would allow us to survey the history of mankind, from their first apostacy to this day, the amount would go to prove what the Scriptures affirm that, "the whole world lieth in wickedness." The circumstances and changes amongst mankind have been various. They have greatly differed in their manners, custom, and religion; one age has established what another has demolished; in some ages they have been enveloped in ignorance, in others irradiated by science; but in all ages, and in all circumstances, they have. been alienated from the love of God.
Crisp. The history of the world, though it appears to favor the doctrine in question, yet seems to be too large and complicate an object to be viewed distinctly. Suppose you were to single out one nation as a specimen of the whole.
Gai. Very well; and suppose this one nation to have been attended, above all others, with mercies and judgments, Divine laws, Divine interpositions, and every thing that could have any tendency to meliorate the hearts of men.
Crisp. You seem to have in your eye the nation of Israel.
Gai. I have; and the rather, because I consider this nation as designed of God to afford a specimen of human nature. The Divine Being singled them out, erowned them with goodness, strengthened them with the tenderest encouragements, and awed them with the most tremendous threatenings, wrought his wonderful works before their eyes, and inspired his servants to give us a faithful history of their character-I need not repeat what this character is. Excepting the con
duct of a few godly people amongst them, which being the effect of Divine grace,argues nothing against the doc, trine in question, it is a series of rebellion and continued departures from the living God.
Crisp. What evidence do you draw in favor of this doctrine from observation?
Gai. In looking into the composition of the human mind, we observe various passions and propensities; and if we inspect their operations, we shall see in each a marked aversion to the true God, and to all true religion. For example: Man loves to think, and cannot live without thinking; but he does not love to think of God; "God is not in all his thoughts." Man delights in activity, is perpetually in motion; but hath no heart to act for God. Men take pleasure in conversation, and are never more cheerful than when engaged in it; but if God and religion are introduced, they are usually struck dumb, and discover a wish to drop the subject. Men greatly delight in hearing, and telling news; but if the glorious news of the gospel be sounded in their ears, it frequently proves as unwelcome as Paul's preaching at Athens. In fine, man feels the necessity of a God; but has no relish for the true God. There is a remarkable instance of this in the conduct of those nations planted by the king of Assyria in the cities of Samaria. They were consumed by wild beasts; and considered it as an expression of displeasure from the God of the land. They wished to become acquainted with him, that they might please him. An Israelitish priest is sent to teach them the manner of the God of the land. But when he taught them the fear of Jehovah, his character and worship do not seem to have suited their taste; for each VOL. III.
nation preferred the worship of its own gods, 2 Kings . xvii.
Crisp. What evidence do you draw in favor of this doctrine from experience?
Gai. The best of men, whose lives are recorded in Holy Scripture, have always confessed and lamented the depravity of their nature; and I never knew a character truly penitent but he was convinced of it. It is a strong presumption against the contrary doctrine, that the light minded and dissipated part of mankind are generally its advocates; while the humble, the serious, and the godly, as generally acknowledge, with the apostle, that, "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, they were by nature children of wrath, even as others."
Crisp. I have several more inquiries to make on this interesting subject, which I must defer till another opportunity.
DIALOGUE NINTH BETWEEN CRISPUS AND GAIUS.
ON THE TOTAL DEPRAVITY OF HUMAN NATURE.
I THINK you said, Crispus, at the close our last conversation, on the depravity of human nature, that you had several questions to ask upon the subject.
Crisp. I did so: I never thought of a subject more interesting, and more pregnant with important consequences. The doctrine of total depravity, according to your own explication of it, seems to imply that all that is called virtue in unregenerate men is not virtue in ré
ality, and contains nothing in it pleasing to God; no part of their duty towards him; but, on the contrary, is of the very nature of sin.
Gai. And what if these consequences were admitted? Crisp. I have not been used to consider things in so strong a light. I have generally thought that men are universally depraved, that is, that all their powers, thoughts, volitions, and actions, are tainted with sin; but it never struck me before, that this depravity was total; so total as that all their actions are of the very nature of sin.
Gai. You must admit that this was the doctrine embraced by the English reformers: they tell us, that "Works, done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasing to God; forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the school authors say) deserve grace of congruity; yea, rather for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin."*
Crisp. True; but I should have suspected that they had carried things rather to an extreme. There is something so awful in the thought of a human life being one unmixed course of evil; so contrary to what appears in numberless characters, whom we cannot but respect for many amiable qualities, though they do not appear to be the subjects of true religion; in a word, so discouraging to every effort for the attainment of any virtue short of real godliness, that my heart revolts at the idea.
* Art. XIII. of the Established Church.
Gai. I am willing to examine every difficulty you can advance, before you raise your objections; however, your first inquiry, methinks, ought to be, Is it true?
Crisp. Very well; proceed then to state your evidences.
Gai. The following are the principal evidences which strike me at present. 1. All those passages of Scripture, cited in the last Dialogue, most expressly teach it; declaring that "Every imagination, purpose, ro desire of man's heart is only evil continually, that there is none that seeketh after God, every one of them is gone back; they are altogether become filthy, there is none that doeth good, no not one." 2. Those Scriptures which declare the utter impossibility of carnal men doing any thing to please God; such as Heb. xi. 6. "Without faith it is impossible to please God," and Rom. viii. 6, 8. "To be carnally-minded is death; because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God.* If they that are in the flesh did any part of their duty towards God, or if what they did were good and virtuous in his sight so far as it goes, their minds would so far be subject to the law of God; and being such, they might and would please him; for God is not a capricious or hard master; but is pleased with righteousness whereever he sees it. 3. Those Scriptures which speak of the whole of goodness or virtue as comprehended in love; namely, the love of God and our neighbor. “Love
* See this passage clearly illustrated, and the truth contained in it fully enforced, in two pieces in the Evangelical Magazine for August and December 1793; pages 72 and 239.