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would it be for that religious society, to which we professedly belong, if it could plead an exemption from this wide-spread calamity, but it is in vain to dissemble or deny that even at the present moment, when angry nations have sheathed the sword of war, yet spiritual peace is far from our borders. A discussion of some of the leading points in controversy between those two great parties, into which the members of our establishment are now fairly divisible, provided it be conducted with candour and moderation, will be so far from necessarily aggravating the evils which we have all so much reason to lament, that, the more those opinions are sifted and canvassed, the greater probability is there of discovering which side is really in possession of the truth. Such an investigation will be still farther desirable for the important purpose of restoring concord and amity, if the result of it has a tendency to shew that even in the doctrines, which are at present the subject of the warmest debate between us, each side has juore principles in common than are easily perceived, or willingly allowed by either, in the heat and rapidity of argument. It is in the humble hope of doing something towards producing a conviction of this kind, that we propose, in our present discourse and those which will succeed it, to consider the principal articles of faith, respecting which a difference of opinion either exists, or is supposed to exist, between ourselves and those who lay an exclusive claim to the title of Ministers of the Gospel ; but perhaps it may appear in the end that they have encamped at a distance from us without a sufficient cause that they have often combated only with imaginary enemies and that they disagree with us, not so much as to the nature of the doctrines in question, as in the extent to which they carry them, the terms in which they state them, and the practical use which they make of them.
The words of the text may serve to introduce to our notice one of those contested doctrines, and one also of primary importance. “Remember,” (said one of Job's reprovers, in a discourse designed to vindicate the ways of God to man,) “ remember that thou magnify his work.” This admonition conveys a precept, which, as it is of universal obligation, so neither is it hard to be understood, or difficult to be practised; on a mind capable of the least reflection or observation the subject here referred to must sometimes irresistibly force itself ; the magnificence of nature in its general relations, and the superb luxuriance of its particular details, will frequently fix and rivet the attention, and fill the heart with sublime conceptions, and loosen the tongue to a song of piors thanksgiving ; for on each and all of the works of nature arc engraved, in characters universally intelligible, the power aud goodness of their Almighty Creator. Some, however, there are who appear to themselves to have discovered a most singular exception to the general excellence of the works of Goda striking anomaly in creation--a perfect contrast between the qualities and characteristicts of beings derived from one common origin, the fiat of the Author of the universe. What is still more remarkable, they have detected this strong contrariety where we should least of all have expected to find it, for while they admit tha other creatures, both animate and inanimate, continue to be, what they were at first pronounced to be, “very good,"'* entirely adapted to answer the end of their existence, and indeed actually and actively promoting that end,--they contend that man, the lord of this lower world, to whom all things beside were put in subjection,t is himself so completely subjected to the power of innate corruption, that he is not only indisposed to do the will of his Maker, but that he has an absolute aversion to all that is spiritually good, and is wholly inclined to all manner of evil; nay farther, that, in his natural state, his very perceptions and notions of religion are not only inadequate, but altogether fallacious; that he is under a strong delusion, involved in mental blindness, and totally incapable even of
* Gen. 1. xxxi. + The dominion over all the inferior beings, originally granted to man at the Creation, was not only confirmed but extended after the Deluge. Compare Gen. 1. xxvi. with 9. ii, iii.
conceiving a religious thought, either agreeable to the nature of things, or acceptable in the sight of God.*
The doctrine of Original Sin, when pushed to such an extremity as this, we believe to be highly erroneous, and fraught with consequences lamentably pernicious ; but, before we proceed to give our reasons for thinking so, it may be advisable to state the true and only sense, in which we apprehend that doctrine can be understoul, in conformity with the evidence both of Scripture and of fact.
Whoever takes even a transient view of the condition of the world around him, or listens to the suggestions of his own heart, must be constrained to acknowledge that, if man was created in Original Righteousness, with a disposition, that is, to devote all his powers both of body and mind to the service of God, he is, as our Church expresses it, “ very far gone" from that state, and now possesses, and has possessed imme. morially, propensities, which either are in themselves, or may easily become, the fruitful occasions of sin. Now, though the Scriptures no where inform us in direct and positive terms, that our nature is corrupted in consequence of Adam's transgression, yet, from the history of the Fall, which is given by the sacred historian, combined with the knowledge we have of our own nature, it is plain that we must really ascribe to that cause some, at least, of the propensities to sin, which are actually inherent in us. For, in the first place, such is our moral constitution that every wilful act of transgression disposes the mind, and thus facilitates and prepares the way, for the future commission of sin, and not only sin of a like kind, but sin universally and of every description; and, as there is no reason for supposing that Adam's nature was in this respect different from our own, we must infer that sin produced a similar effect in him: that when lie deliberately violated the law of his Maker by the indulgence of appetite in opposition to the
* Su was the representation given by Mr. Simeon in his late course of sermons before the University.
dictates of reason and conscience, he thereby destroyed that due equilibrium and accurate adjustment, between the moral and sensual affections, with which, no doubt, he was at first created. And farther-experience abundantly testifies that, according to the physical laws by wbich mankind increase and jnultiply, they transmit to their posterity, not only a corporeal but also a mental and moral likeness of themselves, the latter indeed much more frequently than the former; and hence Adam too would convey to his descendants a mind frail and defective in the same manner as his own, that is to say, a mind, in which passion had acquired an unjust ascendancy
We allow then that the mind of man is so far corrupted, (and partly too in consequence of the first transgression,) that it is not by nature subject to the law of God; that its affections are continually inciting to actions contrary to that law; that those affections, when approved by the will, become then, and then only, truly and properly sin; and that such an acquiescence and approval justly subject the guilty offender to the wrath and indignation of God; or, to express the same sentiment in the words of an apostle, “ every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own “ Just and enticed; that, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth “ forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth “ death.”+ In this sense, and to this extent, we willingly
* The degree of original corruption here admitted is quite sufficient to account for the wickedness which really prevails in the world; for considering, on the one hand, that the sensual appetite in map is the strongest part of his nature, and that his first impulse is to gratify it, whether right or wrong, and remembering, on the other, that he is continually conversant with objects calculated to excite his passions, it is plain that we need look no farther for a reason why so many are to be found in the last stage of deprarity, and why the generality are so much more attentive to the things of this life than of the next.
+ James 1. xiv.o-Xy.
admit, for we firmly believe, tbat man is a fallen creature ; but we strenuously deny that he has fallen, like Lucifer, from the beights of heaven, to the very lowest pit of moral degradation, and darkness, and depravity,
They, however, who maintain that extravagant extension of the doctrine of original corruption, which represents man to be, (what some of the carlier advocates of this doctrine have not scrupled to call bim,) the very counterpart of Satan himself,* were probably induced to frame such an hypothesis with a view of magnifying the grace and mercy of God; not considering that such an unfounded theory, so far from exalting the character of the Almighty, actually robs hin of some of the principal and essential attributes of divinity, : For first, this doctrine is utterly at variance with the supposition that God is a God of justice. To be convineed of the truth of this proposition, it necd only be reinembered that, according to the system against which we are now contending, man is born into the world in a state of such total and radical corruption, that he is not only incapable of performing bis duty, but even of comprehending wherein that duty consists; that he is under the curse of cternal damnation, and yet unable to do any thing whatever to flee from the wrath to come; he cannot pray to God for assistance, nor even if the Holy Spirit should put into his mind good desires, bas he the smallest power of assenting to or entertaining them; for such petition or such acquiescence would be of the nature of virtuous actions, and virtuous actions, both one and all, the least as well as the greatest, are, by the very supposition, completely beyond his ability to perform. Hence therefore if a human being be ever rescued from such a perilous condition, it must
* Verba Hildershami sunt læc: “ Adamus sibi ac posteris suis accepit imaginem Satanæ, in eamque mutatus est. Hinc que factum, quòd omnes naturâ, (horribile quidem auditu, sed tamen verum est,) quàm maximè diabolo similes simus.”—Sed verò ejusmodi corruptio nec cum S. Scripturâ, nec cum rectâ ratione conciliari potest.
Limborch Theolog. Christ. lib. 3. cap. 4. sect. 3.