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Tappan Pres. Assoen. Libe.
SERIES OF DIALOGUES.
Walk upon the Terrace-Depravity of human nature laid open and proved from experience-Uses of its doctrine, and its subserviency to the grand point.
THE morning had been wet. At noon the rain ceased; but the heavens still continued gloomy. Towards evening, a gentle eastern gale sprung up, which dissipated the dead calm, and cleared the face of the sky. The sun, which had been muffled in clouds, dropped the veil. Disengaged from the dusky shroud, he shone forth with peculiar splendour: his beams, endeared by their late suspension, were doubly welcome, and produced unusual gaiety.
At this juncture, Theron and Aspasio walked abroad. They walked alternately on the terraces, one of which was opposite to the country, the other contiguous to the parterre; where the gales, impregnated with the freshest exhalations of nature, breathed the smell of meads, and heaths, and groves; or else, shaking the clusters of roses, and sweeping the beds of fragrance, they flung balm and odours through the air.
At a distance were heard the bleatings of the flock, mingled with the lowings of the milky mothers; while more melodious music warbled from the neighbouring boughs, and spoke aloud the joy of their feathered inhabitants: and not only spoke their joy, but spread an additional charm over all the landscape; for, amidst such strains of native harmony, the breathing perfumes smell more sweet, the streaming rills shine more clear, and the universal prospect looks more gay.
Then was experienced what Milton so delicately describes:
If chance the radiant sun with farewell sweet
With wonder and delight our friends observed both the exquisite beauty and the immense magnificence of things they were struck with the most profound veneration of that Almighty Majesty, who hung the sun in vaults of azure, and clothed his orb with robes of lustre; whose right hand spanneth the heavens, and stretcheth them out as a tent,' for innumerable creatures, worlds, systems, to dwell in.'t Charmed they were at the consideration of the Creator's boundless beneficence, who lifts up the light of his countenance, and joy is shed; who opens his munificent hand, and plenty is poured throughout all the regions of the universe, insomuch that even inanimate beings seem to smile under a sense of the blessings; and though they find not a tongue to praise, yet speak their acclamations by their gladdened looks.
Ther. How very different, Aspasio, is this delightful appearance of things, from your ill-favoured doctrine of original guilt and original depravity! Your doctrine is a contradiction to the language of nature. Nature says, through all her works, that God is good, and men are made to be happy; whereas your opinion would turn the whole world into a vast hospital, and make every individual person a leper or a Lazarus.
Asp. I join my with Theron, and with universal nature, in bearing witness to the goodness of our God: and nothing, I am persuaded, displays it more, nothing manifests it so much as the doctrine of our fall in Adam connected with our recovery in Christ; only in one particular I am obliged to dissent: it is not my opinion that would make, but the sin of our forefather which has made, the whole world an infirmary, and every individual person a leper.
Ther. At this rate you would crowd into that single act of disobedience, evils more numerous and more
Isa. xlviii. 13.
+ Isa. xl. 22.
fatal than the plagues which were lodged in Pandora's box, or the troops which were stowed in the Trojan horse.
Asp. Far more numerous, and infinitely more perni. cious. The fable of Pandora's box seems to have been a shred of the doctrine picked up by the heathen wits, and fashioned according to their sportive fancy. This would, if there was any occasion for such weak assistance, bring in the Pagan theology as a subsidiary evi. dence to our cause. The Trojan horse poured ruin upon a single city; but the primitive transgression entailed misery upon all generations.
Ther. You have advanced this heavy charge pretty strenuously I must confess, but without descending to facts, or appealing to experience; all the invectives are general and declamatory, none pointing and parti cular.
Asp. It is easy, my dear friend, too easy to draw up a particular bill of indictment; and not only to specify the facts, but to demonstrate the charge. Experience, sad experience will furnish us with a cloud of witnesses, and prove my remonstrances to be more than invectives.
Were we to dissect human nature, as in our last conference you treated the animal system, we should find the leprosy of corruption spreading itself through our whole frame: for which reason it is styled by an inspired writer, the old man."* Old, because in its commencement it was early as the fall, and in its communication to individuals is coeval with their being; man, because it has tainted the body, infected the soul, and disordered the whole person.
St. Paul, describing a profligate conversation, speaks in this remarkable manner: fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.'+ By the desires of the flesh he means those irregular inclinations which correspond with the animal part of our constitution; by the desires of the mind he denotes those evil propensities which are more immediately seated in the intellectual faculties; and by both he very strongly expresses the total depravation of our nature.
+ Eph. ii. 3.
* Rom. vi. 6. VOL. II.
Ther. What you call evil propensities I am apt to think are not really sinful, but appointed for the trial of our virtue; nay, since they are confessedly natural, they cannot be in themselves evil; because upon this supposition, God, who is the author of our nature, would be the author also of our sin.
Asp. Then you imagine that propensities to evil are void of guilt: this is the popish notion, but neither the Mosaic nor the apostolic doctrine. In the law of Moses it is written, 'Thou shalt not covet.'* The divine Legislator prohibits, not only the iniquitous practice, but the evil desire. The apostle gives it in charge to the Colossians,' mortify your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, and' which is the source of all, evil concupiscence.'+ Now, can that be free from guilt which we are commanded to mortify, which, if not mortified, denominates us children of disobedience, and subjects us to the wrath of God?
Though these propensities are confessedly natural, they may be evil notwithstanding. The sacred writers oppose what is natural to what is spiritual. Instead of commending it as innocent, they condemn it as foolish, base, and criminal. Neither does this make the Author of our nature the author of our sin: but it proves that our nature has sustained a deplorable loss; that it is quite different from its original state; that what is spoken of the Israelitish people is applicable to the hu. man race; 'I planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine ?'**
However, let us observe your proposal: dwell no longer on general hints, but descend to a particular examination. As our examination will chiefly respect the soul, let me inquire, What are her principal fa culties?
Ther. The understanding, the will, and the affections. These are the most distinguishing powers which that queen of the human economy retains in her service: these, like the several distributions of some ample
Exod. xx. 17. § 1 Cor. ii. 14.
1 Col. iii. 6. T Eph. ii. 3. ** Jer. 1i, 21.
+ Col. iii. 5. || 2 Pet. ii. 12.
river, run through the whole man, to quicken, fertilize, and enrich all his conversation; but you represent them bitter as the waters of Marah, unwholesome as the streams of Jericho, noxious as the pottage prepared for the sons of the prophets.
Asp. Nor is this a misrepresentation: for such they really are, till divine grace, like Moses's wood, like Elisha's salt, or the meal cast in by that holy man of God, sweeten them, heal them, and render their operations salutary.
The understanding claims our first regard. This, however qualified to serve the purposes of civil life, is unable to discover the truths in which wisdom consists, or to form the tempers from which happiness flows.
Let us take our specimen, not from the uncultivated savages of Afric, but from the politest nation in Europe. The Grecians piqued themselves on their intellectual accomplishments; they termed all the rest of mankind barbarians: yet even these sons of science, 'professing themselves wise, were,' in fact, egregious fools.' Not to enumerate the shocking immoralities which the poets ascribed to their deities, not to insist upon the gross idolatries which the common people practised in their worship; even their philosophers, the most improved and penetrating geniuses, were unacquainted with the very first principle of true religion, even they could not pronounce, with an unfaultering tongue, 'that God is One.'
Exod. xv. 25. 12 Kings iv. 41.
+ 2 Kings ii. 21, 22. § Rom. 1. 22.
The first of all the commandments is, hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord,' &c. Mark xii. 29. From which it appears, that the unity of the Godhead is the foundation of all the divine commandments, and of all human worship.
Unfaultering. For though in Plato's book of laws, we meet with ο Θεος του Θεού-τον Θεον again and again ; yet he soon departs from this sound speech, and relapses into the language of idolatry.
A learned and ingenious friend, would fain have Socrates exempted from this charge; I wish I could gratify his benevolent temper, and spare that amiable philosopher. But however justly be may express himself on some occasions, at other times he wavers; he evidently revolts; and is most pitiably inconsistent with himself. Even in his excellent conference with Aristodemus, where he argues admirably well for the existence, he cannot