« PreviousContinue »
endearing and engaging circumstances that can possibly be conceived of : His obedience and submission to Cod, his humility, meekness, patience, charity, selfdenial, &c. being exercised and expressed in a work of infinite grace, love, condescension, and beneficence to us; and had all their highest expressions in his laying down his life for us, and meekly, patiently, and cheerfully undergoing such extreme and unut"erable suffering, for our eternal salvation. Men are peculiarly apt to follow the example of such as they have great benefits from ; But it is utterly impossible to conceive of greater benefits, that we could have by the virtues of any person, than we have by the virtuous acts of Christ; who depend upon being thereby saved from eternal destruction, and brought to inconceivable, immortal glory at God's right hand. Surely if it were not for an extreme corruption of the heart of men, such an example would have that strong influence on the heart, that would as it were swallow up the power of all the evil and hateful examples of a generation of vipers. 3. The influence of bad example, without corruption of nature, will not account for children's universally committing sin as soon as capable of it; which, I think, is a fact that has been made evident by the scripture. It will not account for this, in the children of eminently pious parents; the first examples that are set in their view, being very good; which, as has been observed, was especially the case of many children in Christian families in the apostles' days, when the Apostle John supposes that every individual person had sin to repent of, and confess to God. 4. What Dr. Taylor supposes to have been fact, with tespect to a great part of mankind, cannot consistently be accounted for from the influence of bad example, viz. the state of the heathen world, which he supposes, considered as a collective body, was helpless, dead in sin, and unable to recover itself. Not evil example alone, no, nor as united with evil instruction, can be supposed a sufficient reason why every new generation that arose among them, should not be able to emerge from the idolatry and wickedness of their ancestors, in any consistence with his scheme. The ill example of ancestors could have no power to oblige them to sin, any other way than as a strong temptation. But Dr. Taylor himself says, p. 72. S. “To suppose men's temptations to be superior to their powers, will impeach the goodness and justice of God, who appoints every man’s trial.” And as to bad instructions, as was observed before, he supposes that they all, yea every individual person, had light sufficient to know God, and do their whole duty. And if each one could do this for himself, then surely they might all be agreed in it through the power of free will, as well as the whole world be agreed in corruption by the same power.
Evasion 4. Some modern opposers of the doctrine of Original Sin, do thus account for the general prevalence of wickedness, viz. that in a course of nature our senses grow up first, and the animal passions get the start of reason. So Dr. Turnbull says,” “Sensitive objects first affect us, and inasmuch as reason is a principle, which, in the nature of things, must be advanced to strength and vigor, by gradual cultivation, and these objects are continually assailing and soliciting us; so, unless a very happy education prevents, our sensitive appetites must have become very strong, before reason can have force enough to call them to an account, and assume authority over them.” From hence Dr. Turnbull supposes it comes to pass,f “That though some few may, through the influence of virtuous example, be said to be sanctified from the womb, so liberal, so generous, so virtuous, so truly noble is their cast of mind; yet, generally speaking, the whole world lieth in such wickedness, that, with respect to the far greater part of mankind, the study of virtue is beginning to reform, and is a severe struggle against bad habits, early contracted, and deeply rooted; it is therefore putting off an old, inveterate, corrupt nature, and putting on a new form and temper; it is moulding ourselves anew ; it is a being born again, and becoming as children. And how few are there in the world who escape its pollutions, so as not to be early in that class, or to be among the righteous that need no repentance 2”
*S* Moral Philosophy, p. 279, and Christian Philosophy, p. 274.
Dr. Taylor, though he is not so explicit, seems to hint at the same thing, p. 192. “It is by slow degrees (says he) that children come to the use of understanding ; the animal passions being for some years the governing part of their constitution. And therefore, though they may be froward and apt to displease us, yet how far this is sin in them, we are not capable of judging. But it may suffice to say, that it is the will of God that children should have appetites and passions to regulate and restrain, that he hath given parents instructions and commands to discipline and inform their minds, that if parents first learned true wisdom for themselves, and then endeavored to bring up their children in the way of virtue, there would be less wickedness in the world.”
Concerning these things I would observe, that such a scheme is attended with the very same difficulties, which they that advance it would avoid; liable to the same objections, which they make against God's ordering it so that men should be brought into being with a prevailing propensity to sin. For this scheme supposes, the author of nature has so ordered things, that men should come into being as moral agents, that is, should first have existence in a state and capacity of moral agency, under a prevailing propensity to sin. For that strength, which sensitive appetites and animal passions come to by their habitual exercise, before persons come to the exercise of their rational powers, amounts to a strong propensity to sin, when they first come to the exercise of those rational powers, by the supposition; because this is given as a reason why the scale is turned for sin among mankind, and why, generally sheaking, the whole world lies in wickedness, and the study of virtue is a severe struggle against bad habits, early contracted, and deeply rooted. These deeply rooted habits must imply a tendency to sin; otherwise they could not account for that which they are brought to account for, namely, prevailing wickedness in the world; for that cause cannot account for an effect, which is supposed to have no tendency to that effect. And this tendency which is supposed, is altogether equivalent to a natural tendency : It is as necessary to the subject. For it is supposed to be brought on the person who is the subject of it,
when he has no power to withstand or oppose it: The habit, as Dr. Turnbull says, becoming very strong, before reason can have force enough to call the passions to account, or assume authority over them. And it is supposed, that this necessity, by which men become subject to this propensity to sin, is from the ordering and disposal of the author of nature ; and therefore must be as much from his hand, and as much without the hand of the person himself, as if he were first brought into being with such a propensity. Moreover, it is supposed that the effect, which the tendency is to, is truly wickedness. For it is alleged as a cause or reason why the whole world lies in wickedness, and why all but a very few are first in the class of the wicked, and not among the righteous, that need no repentance. If they need repentance, what they are guilty of is truly and properly wickedness, or moral evil; for certainly men need no repentance for that which is no sin, or blamable evil. If it be so, that, as a consequence of this propensity, the world lies in wickedness, and the far greater part are of a wicked character, without doubt, the far greater part go to eternal perdition; for death does not pick and choose for men of a righteous character only. And certainly that is an evil, corrupt state of things, which naturally tends to, and issues in that consequence, that as it were the whole world lies and lives in wickedness, and dies in wickedness, and perishes eternally. And this, by the supposition, is a state of things, wholly of the ordering of the author of nature, before mankind are capable of having any hand in the affair. And is this any relief to the disficulties, which these writers object against the doctrine of natural depravity? And I might here also observe, that this way of accounting for the wickedness of the world, amounts to just the same thing with that solution of man's depravity, which was mentioned before, that Dr. Taylor cries out of as too gross to be admitted (p. 188, 189.) viz. God’s creating the soul pure, and putting it into such a body, as naturally tends to pollute it. For this scheme supposes, that God creates the soul pure, and puts it into a body, and into such a state in that body, that the natural consequence is a strong propensity to sin, as soon as the soul is capable of sinning.
Dr. Turnbull seems to suppose, that the matter could not have been ordered otherwise, consistent with the nature of things, than that animal passions should be so aforehand with reason, as that the consequence should be that which has been mentioned; because reason is a faculty of such a nature, that it can have strength and vigor no otherwise than by exercise and culture.” But can there be any force in this 2 Is there any thing in nature, to make it impossible, but that the superior principles of man's nature should be so proportioned to the inferior, as to prevent such a dreadful consequence, as the moral and natural ruin, and eternal perdition of the far greater part of mankind Could not those superior principles be in vastly greater strength at first, and yet be capable of endless improvement & And what should hinder its being so ordered by the Creator, that they should improve by vastly swifter degrees than they do? If we are Christians we must be forced to allow it to be possible in the nature of things, that the principles of human nature should be so balanced, that the consequence should be no propensity to sin, in the first beginning of a capacity of moral agency ; because we must own, that it was so in fact in Adam, when first created, and also in the man Christ Jesus; though the faculties of the latter were such as grew by culture and improvement, so that he increased in wisdom as he grew in stature.
Evasion 5. Seeing men in this world are in a state of trial, it is fit that their virtue should meet with trials, and consequently that it should have opposition and temptation to overcome ; not only from without, but from within, in the animal passions and appetites we have to struggle with ; that by the conflict and victory our virtue may be refined and established. Agreeably to this, Dr. Taylor (p. 253) says, “Without a right use and application of our powers, were they naturally ever so perfect, we could not be judged fit to enter into the kingdom of God. This gives a good reason why we are now in a state of trial and temptation, viz. to prove and discipline our minds, to season our virtue, and to fit us
* Mor, Phil, p. 311.