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It follows from the proposition proved in the foregoing section, that all mankind are under the influence of a prevailing effectual tendency in their nature, to that sin and wickedness, which implies their utter and eternal ruin.
The proposition laid down being proved, the consequence of it remains to be made out, viz. That the mind of man has a natural tendency or propensity to that event, which has been show universally and infallibly to take place; and that this is a corrupt or depraved propensity.—I shall here consider the former part of this consequence, namely, Whether such an universal, constant, infallible event is truly a proof of any tendency or propensity to that event; leaving the evil and corrupt nature of such a propensity to be considered afterwards.
If any should say, they do not think that its being a thing universal and infallible in event, that mankind commit some sin, is a proof of a prevailing tendency to sin; because they do good, and perhaps more good than evil: Let them remember, that the question at present is not, How much sin there is a tendency to; but whether there be a prevailing propensity to that issue, which it is allowed all men do actually come to—that all fail of keeping the law perfectly—whether there be not a tendency to such imperfection of obedience, as always without fail comes to pass; to that degree of sinfulness, at least, which all fall into; and so to that utter ruin, which that sinfulness implies and infers. Whether an effectual propensity to this be worth the name of depravity, because the good that may be supposed to balance it, shall be considered by and by. If all mankind in all nations and ages, were at least one day in their lives deprived of the use of their reason, and raving mad; or that all, even every individual person, once cut their own throats, or put out their own eyes; it might be an evidence of some tendency in the nature or natural state of mankind to such an event; though they might exercise reason many more days than they were distracted, and were kind to and tender of themselves oftener than they mortally and cruelly wounded themselves.
To determine whether the unfailing constancy of the above-named event be an evidence of tendency, let it be considered, What can be meant by tendency, but a prevailing liableness or exposedness to such or such an event? Wherein consists the notion of any such thing, but some stated prevalence or preponderation in the nature or state of causes or occasions, that is followed by, and so proves to be effectual to, a stated prevalence or commonness of any particular kind of effect? Or something in the permanent 150 state of things, concerned in bringing a certain sort of event to pass, which is a foundation for the constancy, or strongly prevailing probability, of such an event? If we mean this by tendency, (and I know not what else can be meant by it, but this, or something like), then it is manifest, that where we see a stated prevalence of any effect there is a tendency to that effect in the nature and state of its causes. A common and steady effect shows, that there is somewhere a preponderation, a prevailing exposedness or liableness in the state of things, to what comes so steadily to pass. The natural dictate of reason shows, that where there is an effect, there is a cause, and a cause sufficient for the effect; because, if it were not sufficient, it would not be effectual; and that therefore, where there is a stated prevalence of the effect, there is a stated prevalence in the cause. A steady effect argues a steady cause. We obtain a notion of tendency, no other way than by observation: and we can observe nothing but events: and it is the commonness or constancy of events, that gives us a notion of tendency in all cases. Thus we judge of tendencies in the natural world. Thus we judge of the tendencies or propensities of nature in minerals, vegetables, animals, rational and irrational creatures. A notion of a stated tendency, or fixed propensity, is not obtained by observing only a single event. A stated preponderation in the cause or occasion, is argued only by a stated prevalence of the effect. If a die be once thrown, and it falls on a particular side, we do not argue from hence, that that side is the heaviest; but if it be thrown without skill or care, many thousands or millions of times, and it constantly falls on the same side, we have not the least doubt in our minds, but that there is something of propensity in the case, by superior weight of that side, or in some other respect. How ridiculous would he make himself, who should earnestly dispute against any tendency in the state of things to cold in the winter, or heat in the summer; or should stand to it, that although it often happened that water quenched fire, yet there was no tendency in it to such an effect!
In the case we are upon, human nature, as existing in such an immense diversity of persons and circumstances, and never failing in any one instance of coming to that issue—that sinfulness, which implies extreme misery and eternal ruin—is as the die often cast. For it alters not the case in the least, as to the evidence of tendency, whether the subject of the constant event be an individual, or a nature and kind. Thus, if there be a succession of trees of the same sort, proceeding one from another, from the beginning of the world, growing in all countries, soils, and climates, all bearing ill fruit; it as much proves the nature and tendency of the kind, as if it were only one individual tree, that had remained from the beginning of the world, often transplanted into different soils, and had continued to bear only bad fruit. So, if there were a particular family, which, from generation to generation, and through every remove to innumerable different countries, and places of abode, all died of a consumption, or all run distracted, or all murdered themselves, it would be as much an evidence of the tendency of something in the nature or constitution of that race, as it would be of the tendency of something in the nature or state of an individual, if some one person had lived all that time, and some remarkable event had often appeared in him, which he had been the agent or subject of from year to year, and from age to age, continually and without fail. 237237 Here may be observed the weakness of that objection, made against the validity of the argument for a fixed propensity to sin, from the constancy and universality of the event, that Adam sinned in one instance, without a fixed propensity. Without doubt a single event is an evidence, that there was some cause or occasion of that event. But the thing we are speaking of, is a fixed cause: propensity is a stated continued thing. We justly agree, that a stated effect must have a stated cause, and truly observe, that we obtain the notion of tendency, or stated preponderation in causes, no other way than by observing a stated prevalence of a particular kind of effect. But who ever argues a fixed propensity from a single event? And is it not strange arguing, that because an event which once comes to pass, does not prove any stated tendency, therefore the unfailing constancy of an event is an evidence of no such thing? But because Dr. T. makes so much of this objection from Adam sinning without a propensity, I shall hereafter consider it more particularly, in the beginning of the 9th section of this chapter; where will also be considered what is objected from the fall of the angels.
Thus a propensity, attending the present nature or natural state of mankind, eternally to ruin themselves by sin, may certainly be inferred from apparent and acknowledged fact.—And I would now observe further, that not only does this follow from facts acknowledged by Dr. T. but the things he asserts, and the expressions which he uses, plainly imply that all mankind have such a propensity; yea, one of the highest kind, a propensity that is invincible, or a tendency which really amounts to a fixed, constant, unfailing necessity. There is a plain confession of a propensity or proneness to sin, p. 143.—“Man, who drinketh in iniquity like water; who is attended with so many sensual appetites, and so APT to indulge them.”—And again, p. 228. “we are very apt, in a world full of temptation, to be deceived, and drawn into sin by bodily appetites.” If we are very apt or prone to be drawn into sin by bodily appetites, and sinfully to indulge them, and very apt or prone to yield to temptation to sin, then we are prone to sin; for to yield to temptation to sin is sinful.—In the same page he shows, that on this account, and its consequences, the case of those who are under a law, threatening death for every sin, must be quite deplorable, if they have no relief from the mercy of the lawgiver. Which implies, that their case is hopeless, as to an escape from death, the punishment of sin, by any other means than God’s mercy. And that implies such an aptness to yield to temptation, as renders it hopeless that any of mankind should wholly avoid it. But he speaks of it elsewhere, over and over, as truly impossible, or what cannot be; as in the words before cited in the last section, from his note on Rom. v. 20. where he repeatedly speaks of the law, which subjects us to death for every transgression, as what cannot give life; and states, that if God offered us no other way of salvation, no man from the beginning of the world could be saved. In the same place he cites with approbation Mr. Locke’s words, in which, speaking of the Israelites, he says, “All endeavors after righteousness was lost labour, since any one slip forfeited life, and it was impossible for them to expect ought but death.” Our author speaks of it as impossible for the law requiring sinless obedience to give life, not that the law was weak in itself, but through the weakness of our flesh. Therefore he says, he conceives the law not to be a dispensation suitable to the infirmity of the human nature in its present state. These things amount to a full confession, that the proneness in men to sin, and to a demerit of and just exposedness to eternal ruin, is universally invincible; or, which is the same thing, amounts to invincible necessity; which surely is the highest kind of tendency, or propensity: and that not the less, for his laying this propensity to our infirmity or weakness, which may seem to intimate some defect, rather than any thing positive: and it is agreeable to the sentiments of the best divines, that all sin originally comes from a defective or privative cause. But sin does not cease to be sin, justly exposing to eternal ruin (as implied in Dr. T.’s own words), for arising from infirmity or defect; nor does an invincible propensity to sin cease to be a propensity to such demerit of eternal ruin, because the proneness arises from such a cause.
It is manifest, that this tendency, which has been proved, does not consist in any particular external circumstances that persons are in, peculiarly influencing their minds; but is inherent, and is seated in that nature which is common to all mankind, which they carry with them wherever they go, and still remains the same, however circumstances may differ. For it is implied in what has been proved, and shown to be confessed, that the same event comes to pass in all circumstances. In God’s sight no man living can be justified; but all are sinners, and exposed to condemnation. This is true of persons of all constitutions, capacities, conditions, manners, opinions, and educations; in all countries, climates, nations, and ages; and through all the mighty changes and revolutions, which have come to pass in the habitable world.
We have the same evidence, that the propensity in this case lies in the nature of the subject—and does not arise from any particular circumstances—as we have in any case whatsoever; which is only by the effects appearing to be the same in all changes of time and place, and under all varieties of circumstances. It is in this way only we judge, that any propensities, which we observe in mankind 151 , are seated in their nature, in all other cases. It is thus we judge of the mutual propensity betwixt the sexes, or of the dispositions which are exercised in any of the natural passions or appetites, that they truly belong to the nature of man; because they are observed in mankind in general, through all countries, nations, and ages, and in all conditions.
If any should say, Though it be evident that there is a tendency in the state of things to this general event—that all mankind should fail of perfect obedience, and should sin, and incur a demerit of eternal ruin; and also that this tendency does not lie in any distinguishing circumstances of any particular people, person, or age—yet it may not lie in man’s nature, but in the general constitution and frame of this world. Though the nature of man may be good, without any evil propensity inherent in it; yet the nature and universal state of this world may be full of so many and strong temptations, and of such powerful influence on such a creature as man, dwelling in so infirm a body, &c. that the result of the whole may be a strong and infallible tendency in such a state of things, to the sin and eternal ruin of every one of mankind.
To this I would reply, that such an evasion will not at all avail to the purpose of those whom I oppose in this controversy. It alters not the case as to this question, Whether man, in his present state, is depraved and ruined by propensities to sin. If any creature be of such a nature that it proves evil in its proper place, or in the situation which God has assigned it in the universe, it is of any evil nature. That part of the system is not good, which is not good in its place in the system; and those inherent qualities of that part of the system, which are not good, but corrupt, in that place, are justly looked upon as evil inherent qualities. That propensity is truly esteemed to belong to the nature of any being, or to be inherent in it, that is the necessary consequence of its nature, considered together with its proper situation in the universal system of existence, whether that propensity be good or bad. It is the nature of a stone to be heavy; but yet, if it were placed, as it might be, at a distance from this world, it would have no such quality. But being a stone, is of such a nature, that it will have this quality or tendency, in its proper place, in this world, where God has made it, it is properly looked upon as a propensity belonging to its nature. And if it be a good propensity here, in its proper place, then it is a good quality of its nature; but if it be contrariwise, it is an evil natural quality. So, if mankind are of such a nature, that they have an universal effectual tendency to sin and ruin in this world, where God has made and placed them, this is to be looked upon as a pernicious tendency belonging to their nature. There is, perhaps, scarce any such thing, in beings not independent and self-existent, as any power or tendency, but what has some dependence on other beings, with which they stand connected in the universal system of existence. Propensities are no propensities, any otherwise, than as taken with their objects. Thus it is with the tendencies observed in natural bodies, such as gravity, magnetism, electricity, &c. And thus it is with the propensities observed in the various kinds of animals; and thus it is with most of the propensities in created spirits.
It may further be observed, that it is exactly the same thing, as to the controversy concerning an agreeableness with God’s moral perfections of such a disposal of things—that man should come into the world in a depraved and ruined state, by a propensity to sin and ruin—whether God has so ordered it, that this propensity should lie in his nature considered alone, or with relation to its situation in the universe, and its connexion with other parts of the system to which the Creator has united it; which is as much of God’s ordering, as man’s nature itself, most simply considered.
Dr. T. (p. 188, 189.) speaking of the attempt of some to solve the difficulty of God being the author of our nature, and yet that our nature is polluted, by supposing that God makes the soul pure, but unites it to a polluted body, (or a body so made, as tends to pollute the soul,) he cries out of it as weak and insufficient, and too gross to be admitted: For, says he, who infused the soul into the body? And if it is polluted by being infused into the body, who is the author and cause of its pollution? And who created the body? &c.—But is not the case just the same, as to those who suppose that God made the soul pure, and places it in a polluted world, or a world tending, by its natural state in which it is made, to pollute the soul, or to have such an influence upon it, that it shall without fail be polluted with sin, and eternally ruined? Here may not I also cry out, on as good grounds as Dr. T.—Who placed the soul here in this world? And if the world be polluted, or so constituted as naturally and infallibly to pollute the soul with sin, who is the cause of this pollution? And, who created the world?
Though in the place now cited, Dr. T. so insists upon it, that God must be answerable for the pollution of the soul, if he has infused or put the soul into a body that tends to pollute it; yet this is the very thing which he himself supposes to be fact, with respect to the soul being created by God, in such a body, and in such a world; where he says, “We are apt, in a world full of temptation, to be drawn into sin by bodily appetites.” And if so, according to his way of reasoning, God must be the author and cause of this aptness to be drawn into sin. Again, p. 143. we have these words, ”Who drinketh in iniquity like water? Who is attended with so many sensual appetites, and so apt to indulge them?” In these words our author in effect says the individual things that he exclaims against as so gross, viz. The tendency of the body, as God has made it, to pollute the soul, which he has infused into it. These sensual appetites, which incline the soul, or make it apt, to a sinful indulgence, are either from the body which God hath made, or otherwise a proneness to sinful indulgence is immediately and originally seated in the soul itself, which will not mend the matter.
I would lastly observe, that our author insists upon it, p. 42. S. That this lower world, in its present state, “Is as it was, when, upon a review, God pronounced it, and all its furniture, very good.—And that the present form and furniture of the earth is full of God’s riches, mercy, and goodness, and of the most evident tokens of his love and bounty to the inhabitants.” If so, there can be no room for evading the evidences from fact, of the universal infallible tendency of man’s nature to sin and eternal perdition; since, on the supposition, the tendency to this issue does not lie in the general constitution and frame of this world, which God hath made to be the habitation of mankind.
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