« PreviousContinue »
7. The moral exercises of a moral agent, constitute his moral character, according to which God will punish or reward him through eternity. The unrenewed sinner's character is perfectly bad, because he has no love; the believer's character is a mixed character, because sometimes he obeys and sometimes disobeys the law; while the character of the saints in glory and of the holy angels is perfectly good.
7. Bad men have none but perfectly sinful exercises. The character of the Christian in this life is imperfect, because of the inconstancy of his perfectly holy volitions, and because every intermission between good exercises is filled with perfectly sinful volitions. In heaven, the saints will love constantly, and thus be constantly perfect in holiness.
Emmons' 18 and 19 Sermons, and a Sermon on the Syst. Part 2. ch. 4. sec. 13 death of Mr. Lewis, by the Rev.. and 14. Holland Weeks.
promote the progression of believers in holiness. B. 2. ch. 7. sec. 14. According to the Hopkinsian System, the law is of use: 1, As a motive in view of which God produces the selfish choice of escaping punishment, and thus restrains the wicked, who are not restrained by a principle o fear, because there is no such thing: 2, As a rule of duty, to show men how much they have ability, but no disposition to do, and how much wilful rebellion will be pardoned in them, if God ever forgives their sins: 3, As a standard of right according to which God creates in his people here, interchangeably, a perfect conformity and a perfect opposition, according to the nature of their volitions. But God cannot make men willing to be saved by any convictions of guilt or danger. See the 10th chapter of this Contrast, on Effectual Calling.
OF THE ORIGIN OF LAW.
LAW, says J. H. Tooke, (Diversions of Purley, Vol. 2. p. 6) is merely the past tense, and past participle of a Gothic and AngloSaxon verb, which signifies any thing laid down, as a rule of conduct. In the same manner, the English word just, is the past participle, JUST-um; from jubere to command. Right, it has already been proved, signifies, something ruled, or ordered. Hence," to have right and law on one's side is, to have in one's favour that which is ordered or laid down. A right and just action is, such a one as is ordered and commanded. A just man is, such as he is commanded to be, who observes and obeys the things laid down and commanded." "If right and just mean ordered and commanded, we must at once refer to the order and command; and to the authority which ordered and commanded;" for before there can be any thing right; there must be one to rule, or order,
Diversions of Purley, h. 1. to 13. Vol. 2.
When we anglicize the Latin words just-um and rect-um, by omitting the termination um, the very etymology of our language proves the incorrectness of the position, that "the difference between right and wrong is independent of the divine will." Had God given no commands to men, there would have been nothing right or wrong in our conduct, so far as it relates to him. Now, any thing laid down for a rule of conduct, may be right in our own eyes, but it is wrong, in the view of Heaven, if not divinely ordered. To this view of the subject, it may be objected, that just and right are applied to the character and conduct of Jehovah, who has no superior to command him. It is answered, that God commands his creatures to render to every one what is due; and because God does the same, when speaking of himself to men, he declares that he is just. He orders us to be holy, merciful and kind, and because all his ways are holiness, mercy and kindness, it is said that his way is right. Right and just, like many other expressions, are figuratively applied to that God, who commands all, and is commanded by none. Jesus Christ is
called the Just One, (Acts iii. 14. and vii. 52. and xxii. 14.) and the "Just God, and Saviour,” (Isa. xlv. 21.) because he fulfilled all righteousness, and actually obeyed the law, conforming to all which was ordered concerning him.
Let Christians, then, speak of the law of the Lord, and leave it for heathens to argue from the nature and fitness of things. It better becomes them, than a minister of Jesus, to say, that virtue and vice are not dependent upon the will of Jehovah.
OF NATURAL AND MORAL ABILITY.
This same writer says, p. 183, that "as there is a wide difference between natural good and moral good, and between natural evil and moral; so there is a wide difference between natural ability and moral ability. And if we do not carefully mark the distinction between them, we shall blend and confound things which differ, and grope in the dark, instead of communicating light. Then; what is natural ability? Natural ability is the intellectual, and bodily strength of man to perform every action which God requires of him. Ability relates to action: and all men according to this acceptation of the word, are able to perform what God requires. For, God is infinitely reasonable in his requirements. It is as much impossible for God to require more of us than we have intellectual and corporeal strength to perform, as it is for him to be unjust. There is a perfect correspondence between the commands of God, and the natural ability of the subjects of his command." On page 9, he says "though the heart of man be wholly depraved, it does not follow that his intellectual and animal exercises are depraved any more than his finger nails: for they are not of a moral kind." And hence he infers, that neither bodily action, nor the exercises of reason, judgment and conscience are holy or sinful. His whole controversy with Dr. Tappan is designed to show, that God requires nothing but holy moral action, and in no case demands, without this, intellectual or bodily exercise. Yet it is intellectual and bodily strength
which affords man such natural ability as renders him a morat agent, and binds him to obedience by moral obligation.
To such reasoning the Calvinists reply; what have intellectual and bodily strength to do with moral action? There is something illogical. in your sweeping the cords, back and forth, from natural ability to moral action, and from moral ability to natural action. You may thus charm, with the music of words, but will not convince the man of sound mind. We agree with you, that "ability relates to action ;" and that there must be a correspondence between the commands of God and man's ability; and also, between the nature of the ability and the nature of the action; to render the sinner, according to your system, a subject of moral government. The ability must not only relate to the action, but be adapted to it: for the trunk of a tree, its bark and buds, may have some relation to pears, but no one would say that the trunk, bark and buds of the oak, constituted a capacity for bearing either pears or peaches. Moral fruits as well as natural require an appropriate capacity. Intellectual action requires intellectual ability: mechanical action, mechanical ability: muscular action, muscular ability; and MORAL ACTION, MORAL ABILITY. You would call the man an idiot, who should talk of his intellectual ability of mechanically keeping time; or who should say, that he had the corporal ability of thought, without the intervention of mental power. What then shall we call those persons, who tell us, " sinners have a natural ability, or intellectual and bodily strength, for moral action," while they with the same breath tell us, that there is nothing moral in bodily action or capacity; nothing moral in intellectual exercise? To love God, you say is a moral action, and men are bound to love God, because they have ability to think and to walk, while they have not ability to love. Is this logic? Is this the way to silence cavillers, and justify the impeached rectitude of Jehovah, in requiring fallen man to be holy?
"What is moral ability? As moral ability belongs to the heart of man only, and not to his natural faculties; it is obvious, that moral ability to obey God consists in a man's loving his commandments. Accordingly, when we say that a good man is the subject of moral ability to love God, the import is this, that he actu
ally loves him." p. 184 and 185. It seems then, that moral ability is not the POWER of loving, but the ACT of loving.* Man therefore, never has any power to love God, except the power of thinking and of muscular motion, until he loves God; and this intellectual and bodily ability is nothing which appertains to moral ability, or action! Logic upon logic!
Again it is said, page 54, that "the heart of man is the only source of moral exercise;" and again, p. 42. " the heart of man, which is the sum or aggregate of his moral exercises, is totally evil." Where there has been but one holy exercise, that is a man's good heart. This is his first exercise: but the heart is a source of moral exercise, and this heart being an exercise, it follows, that one exercise is the source of another exercise; and therefore there must have been one holy exercise before the first holy exercise. This is the logic of that pre-eminently rational system, called, in distinction from those who maintain the doctrine of the communication of a holy taste, bias, or principle, THE EXERCISE Scheme."
* “A principle or power of action in distinction from action, lies quite beyond the reach of description or conception."
Spring's Disquisitions, p. 205.
"What is the description of that ability which neither consists in bodily
and intellectual strength, nor in voluntary exercise ?”
Ibid. p. 185.