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is the fulfilling of the law." "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; and thy neighbor as thyself." If the love of God supremely, and the love of creatures subordinately, comprise the whole of virtue, where these are wanting, virtue can have no existence. And that these are wanting in all ungodly men is evident; for " they have not the love of God in them;" and where God is not loved supremely, creatures cannot be loved subordinately; that is, in subserviency to him; but must rather occupy the place of the Supreme: such love, therefore, has no virtue in it; but is of the nature of sin. 4. Those Scriptures which teach the necessity of regeneration to eternal life. “Ye must be born again. Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and all things are become new.” If there were any degree of virtue in the carnal heart, or any thing that was pleasing to God, it might be cultivated and increased; and, in this case, old things need not pass away, and all things become new: Regeneration would be unnecessary; a mere reformation, or an improvement of principles already inherent in man, would suffice. 5. Those Scriptures which promise the blessings of salvation and eternal life to every degree of righteousness or true virtue. "All things work together for good to them that love God. Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him. He that doth righteousness is righteous. They that have done good shall rise to the resurrection of life. He that giveth a cup of cold water to a disciple, in the name of a
disciple, or because he belongs to Christ, shall receive a disciple's reward." In these passages we must observe that God's gracious declarations and promises arè not made to this or that degree of goodness, but to every or any degree of it; or rather, it is not the degree, but the nature of it that is considered in the Divine promise. From hence we may certainly conclude that unregenerate men have not the least degree of real goodness in them, or of any thing that is pleasing to God.
Crisp. I must acknowledge there is much apparent force in these arguments, and I am not at present sufficiently prepared to encounter them; but I have some strong objections in my mind, which I wish to have thoroughly discussed.
Gai. With all my heart: consider, Crispus, the force of what has been already alleged; and let me have your objections in the strongest light in which you are capable of arranging them.
Crisp. I will endeavor to comply with your advice, and the result of it shall be the subject of a future conversation. Farewell.
TOTAL DEPRAVITY OF HUMAN NATURE.
[In a Letter from Crispus to Gaius.]
En, July 3, 1794.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
As Providence has lately, by removing my situation, deprived me of the pleasure of your company, I hope that defect may be in some measure supplied by writing. The subject of our two last interviews on the total de
pravity of human nature has much occupied my attention. I feel it to be a fundamental principle in religion; it is that, take it how we will, on which almost all other principles are founded. I have objections to your ideas of this doctrine, I confess; and you desired me, when we were last together, to place them in the strongest light I was able. The principal things which have hitherto occurred to me may be reduced to the following heads:
First, The Scriptures appear to speak with approbation of some actions performed by unregenerate men, and even God himself is represented as rewarding them. It appears to have been thus in the case of Ahab, when he humbled himself; and the Ninevites, when they repented at the preaching of Jonah; as also in the case of the young man in the gospel, whom our Lord is represented as having loved; and the discreet scribe whom he assured that he was not far from the kingdom of heaven. Now if all the actions of unregenerate men are of the nature of sin, these must have been so; but if these were so, how are we to account for the favorable manner in which they were treated?
Secondly, The common sense of mankind unites to attribute many excellencies, and amiable qualities, to persons whom, nevertheless, we are obliged, from other parts of their conduct, to consider as destitute of true religion. Is it not right and amiable, even in the sight of God, so far as it goes, that children are dutiful to their parents, and parents affectionate to their children; that men are obedient to the laws, benevolent to the poor, faithful in their connexions, and just in their dealings?
And is it not evident to universal observation that these are things which may be found in characters who, nevertheless, by other parts of their conduct, evince themselves to be strangers to true religion?
Thirdly, Every man is possessed of conscience, which bears witness to him in unnumbered instances of what is right and wrong; and this witness is known to have considerable influence even on wicked men, so as to impel them to the performance of many good actions, and to deter them from others which are evil.
Fourthly, If all the actions of unregenerate men be not only mixed with sin, but are in their own nature sinful, then whether they eat or drink, or whatever they do, they sin against God: But eating and drinking, in moderation, appear to be mere natural actions, and to have in them neither moral good, nor moral evil.
Lastly, If all the actions of unregenerate men be in their own nature sinful, surely there can be no ground for a ministerial address, no motive for them on which to be exhorted to cease from evil and do good; nor any encouragement afforded them to comply with any thing short of what is spiritually good. It has been very common for even the advocates of salvation by free grace to distinguish between moral virtue, and true religion; the former they have allowed to exist in a degree in unregenerate men, and have thought it their duty to encourage it, though at the same time they have insisted on the necessity of what is superior to it. But your ideas of total depravity would go to destroy this distinction, and render what has been usually called moral virtue, no virtue. "This (I remember an ingenious writer once observed) is not orthodoxy, but extravagance."
For my part, I would not speak so strong; yet I cannot but say, you seem to carry things to an extreme. I am free to own, however, that I feel the difficulty of answering what you advanced in the last dialogue. Every truth is doubtless consistent with other truths; happy should I be to obtain satisfying and consistent views on this important subject.
Some religious people hereabouts, to whom I have repeated the substance of our conversations, do not appear at all to be interested by them. They seem to me to be contented with a confused and superficial view of things. I wish I could transfer my feelings to them. Did they but know the worth of just sentiments in religion, they would think no labor too great to obtain them. They appear to me averse to the pain which accompanies a state of hesitation and suspense, and therefore decline to examine all those difficult subjects which would produce it: But then they are of course equally unacquainted with the pleasure which arises from the solution of these difficulties, and from obtaining clear and satisfactory views on Divine subjects. Surely it were criminal indolence in us, as well as meanness, if, rather than be at the trouble of drawing from a deep well, we are contented to sip muddy waters from any puddle that presents itself. Your answer to the above will much oblige,
Your affectionate friend,