Page images
PDF
EPUB

are yebastards, and not sons.” But this is directly and fully asserted in some places; as in that forementioned, Eccles. vii. 20. “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Which is as much as to say, there is no man on earth, that is so just, as to have attained to such a degree of righteousness, as not to commit any sin. Yea, the Apostle James speaks of all Christians as often sinning, or committing many sins; even in that primitive age of the Christian church, an age distinguished from all others by eminent attainments in holiness; James iii. 2. “In many things we all offend.” And that there is pollution in the hearts of all, as the remainder of moral filth that was there antecedent te all attempts or means for purification, is very plainly declared, in Prov. xx. 9. “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin "

According to Dr. Taylor men come into the world wholly free from sinful propensities. And if so, it appears from what has been already said, there would be nothing to hinder, but that many, without being better than they are by nature, might perfectly avoid the commission of sin. But much more might this be the case with men after they had, by care, diligence, and good practice, attained those positive habits of virtue, whereby they are at a much greater distance from sin, than they were naturally ; which this writer supposes to be the case with many good men. But since the scripture teaches us, that the best men in the world do often commit sin, and have remaining pollution of heart, this makes it abundantly evident, that men, when they are no otherwise than they were by nature, without any of those virtuous attainments, have a sinful depravity; yea, must have great corruption of nature.

SECTION V.

ZŽe defravity of Nature affears, in that the general Conse. Quence of the State and Tendency of Man's Wature is a much greater Degree of Sin, than Righteousness; not only with resfiert to Value and Demerit, but Matter and Quantity.

I HAVE before shewn, that there is a propensity in man's aature to that sin, which in heinousness and ill desert immensely outweighs all the value and merit of any supposed good, that may be in him, or that he can do. I now proceed to say further, that such is man's nature, in his present state, that it tends to this lamentable effect ; that there should at all times, through the course of his life, be at least much more sin than righteousness, not only as to weight and value, but as to matter and measure ; more disagreement of heart and practice from the law of God, and from the law of nature and reason, than agreement and conformity. The law of God is the rule of right, as Dr. Taylor often calls it: It is the measure of virtue and sin: So much agreement as there is with this rule, so much is there of rectitude, righteousness, or true virtue, and no more ; and so much disagreement as there is with this rule, so much sin is there. Having premised this, the following things may be here observed. I. The degree of disagreement from this rule of right is to be determined, not only by the degree of distance from it in excese, but also in defect ; or in other words, not only in positive transgression, or doing what is forbidden, but also in withholding what is required. The Divine Lawgiver does as much prohibit the one as the other, and does as much charge the latter as a sinful breach of his law, exposing to his eternal wrath and curse, as the former. Thus at the day of judgment, as described Matth. xxv. The wicked are condemned

as cursed to everlasting fire, for their sin in defect and omission : I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat, &c. And the case is thus, not only when the defect is in word or behavior, but in the inward temper and exercise of the mind. 1 Cor. xvi. 22. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” Dr. Taylor, speaking of the sentence and punishment of the wicked, (Matth. xxv. 41, 46) says, p. 159, “It was manifestly for want of benevolence, love, and compassion to their fellow creatures, that they were condemned.” And elsewhere, as was observed before, he says, that the law of God extends to the latent firinciples of sin to forbid them, and to condemn to eternal destruction for them. And if so, it doubtless also extends to the inward principles of holiness, to require them, and in like manner to condemn for the want of them. II. The sum of our duty to God, required in his law, is tove to God; taking love in a large sense, for the true regard of our hearts to God, implying esteem, honor, benevolence, gratitude, complacence, &c. This is not only very plain by the scripture, but it is evident in itself. The sum of what the law of God requires, is doubtless obedience to that law : No law can require more than that it be obeyed. But it is manifest, that obedience to God is nothing, any otherwise than as a testimony of the respect of our hearts to God : Without the heart, man's external acts are no more than the motions of the limbs of a wooden image, have no more of the nature of either sin or righteousness. It must therefore needs be so, that love to God, or the respect of the heart, must be the sum of the duty required towards God in his law. III. It therefore appears from the premises, that whosoever withholds more of that love or respect of heart from God, which his law requires, than he affords, has more sin than righteousness. Not only he that has less divine love, than passions and affections which are opposite; but also he that does not love God half so much as he ought, or has reason to do, has justly more wrong than right imputed to him, according to the law of God, and the law of reason, he has

more irregularity than rectitude, with regard to the law of love. The sinful disrespect or unrespectfulness of his heart to God, is greater than his respect to him. But what considerate person is there, even among the more virtuous part of mankind, but what would be ashamed to say, and profess before God or men, that he loves God half so much as he ought to do ; or that he exercises one half of that esteem, honor and gratitude towards God, which would be altogether becoming him ; considering what God is, and what great manifestations he has made of his transcendent excellency and goodness, and what benefits he receives from him 2 And if few or none of the best of men can with reason and truth make even such a profession, how far from it must the generality of mankind be 2 The chief and most fundamental of all the commands of the moral law, requires us “to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and with all our souls, with all our strength, and all our mind;” that is plainly, with all that is within us, or to the utmost capacity of our nature; all that belongs to, or is comprehended within the utmost extent or capacity of our heart and soul, and mind and strength, is required. God is in himself worthy of infinitely greater love, than any creature can exercise towards him : He is worthy of love equal to his perfections, which are infinite : God loves himself with no greater love than he is worthy of, when he loves himself infinitely ; but we can give God no more than we have. Therefore, if we give him so much, if we love him to the utmost extent of the faculties of our nature, we are excused ; but when what is proposed, is only that we should love him as much as our capacity will allow, this excuse of want of capacity ceases, and obligation takes hold of us; and we are doubtless obliged to love God to the utmost of what is possible for us, with such faculties, and such opportunities and advantages to know God, as we have. And it is evidently implied in this great commandment of the law, that our love to God should be so great, as to have the most absolute possession of all the soul, and the perfect government of all thc principles and springs of action that are in our nature.

Though it is not easy, precisely to fix the limits of man's capacity, as to love to God ; yet in general we may determine, that his capacity of love is coextended with his capacity of knowledge ; the exercise of the understanding opens the way for the exercise of the other faculty. Now, though we cannot have any proper positive understanding of God’s infinite excellency ; yet the capacity of the human understanding is very great, and may be extended far. It is needless to dispute, how far man's knowledge may be said to be strictly comprehensive of things that are very great, as of the extent of the expanse of the heavens, or of the dimensions of the globe of the earth, and of such a great number, as of the many millions of its inhabitants. The word comfirehensive seems to be ambiguous. But doubtless we are capable of some proper positive understanding of the greatness of these things, in comparison of other things that we know, as unspeakably exceeding them. We are capable of some clear understanding of the greatness or considerableness of a whole nation; or of the whole world of mankind, as vastly exceeding that of a particular person or family. We can positively understand that the whole globe of the earth is vastly greater than a particular hill or mountain. And can have some good 'positive apprehension of the starry heavens, as so greatly exceeding the globe of the earth, than the latter is as it were nothing to it. So the human faculties are capable of a real and clear understanding of the greatness, glory and goodness of God, and of our dependence upon him, from the manifestations which God has made of himself to mankind, as being beyond all expression above that of the most excellent human friend, or earthly object. And so we are capable of an esteem and love to God, which shall be proportionable, and as much exceeding that which we have to any creature. These things may help us to form some judgment, how vastly the generality of mankind fall below their duty, with respect to love to God; yea, how far they are from coming half way to that height of love, which is agreeable to the rule of right. Surely if our esteem of God, desires after him, and delight in him, were such as become us, considering the

« PreviousContinue »