|« Prev||SECTION IX. Several evasions considered.||Next »|
Several evasions of the arguments for the depravity of nature, from trial and events considered.
Evasion I. Dr. T. says, (p. 231, 232.) ”Adam’s nature, it is allowed, was very far from being sinful; yet he sinned. And therefore, the common doctrine of Original Sin, is no more necessary to account for the sin that has been or is in the world, than it is to account for Adam’s sin. 247247 Belsham. Again (p. 52—54 S. &c.) “If we allow mankind to be as wicked as R. R. has represented them to be; and suppose that there is not one upon earth that is truly righteous, and without sin, and that some are very enormous sinners, yet it will not thence follow, that they are naturally corrupt.—For, if sinful action infers a nature originally corrupt, then, whereas Adam (according to them that hold the doctrine of Original Sin) committed the most heinous and aggravated sin, that ever was committed in the world; for, according to them, he had greater light than any other man in the world, to know his duty, and greater power than any other man to fulfill it, and was under greater obligations than any other man to obedience; he sinned, when he knew he was the representative of millions, and that the happy or miserable state of all mankind, depended on his conduct; which never was, nor can be, the case of any other man in the world:—then, I say, it will follow, that his nature was originally corrupt, &c.—Thus their argument from the wickedness of mankind, to prove a sinful and corrupt nature, must inevitably and irrecoverably fall to the ground.—Which will appear more abundantly, if we take in the case of the angels, who in numbers sinned, and kept not their first estate, though created with a nature superior to Adam’s.“ Again (p. 145. S.) “When it is inquired, how it comes to pass that our appetites and passions are now so irregular and strong, as that not one person has resisted them, so as to keep himself pure and innocent? If this be the case, if such as make the inquiry will tell the world, how it came to pass that Adam’s appetites and passions were so irregular and strong, that he did not resist them, so as to keep himself pure and innocent, when upon their principles he was far more able to have resisted them; I also will tell them how it comes to pass, that his posterity does not resist them. 248248 See p. 81, note. Sin doth not alter its nature, by its being general; and therefore how far soever it spreads, it must come upon all just as it came upon Adam.“
These things are delivered with much assurance. But is there any reason in such a way of talking? One thing implied in it, and the main thing, if any at all to the purpose, is, that because an effect being general, does not alter the nature of the effect, therefore nothing more can be argued concerning the cause, from its happening constantly, and in the most steady manner, than from its happening but once. But how contrary is this to reason! Suppose a person, through the deceitful persuasions of a pretended friend, once takes a poisonous draught of a liquor to which he had before no inclination; but after he has once taken of it, he is observed to act as one that has an insatiable, incurable thirst after more of the same, in his constant practice, obstinately continued in as long as he lives, against all possible arguments and endeavors used to dissuade him from it. And suppose we should from hence argue a fixed inclination, and begin to suspect that this is the nature and operation of the poison, to produce such an inclination, or that this strong propensity is some way the consequence of the first draught. In such a case, could it be said with good reason, that a fixed propensity can no more be argued from his consequent constant practice, than from his first draught? Or, suppose a young man, soberly inclined, enticed by wicked companions, should drink to excess, until he had got a habit of excessive drinking, and should come under the power of a greedy appetite after strong drink, so that drunkenness should become a common and constant practice with him: and suppose an observer, arguing from this general practice, should say, “It must needs be that this young man has a fixed inclination to that sin; otherwise, how should it come to pass that he should make such a trade of it?” And another, ridiculing the weakness of his arguing, should reply, “Do you tell me how it came to pass, that he was guilty of that sin the first time, without a fixed inclination, and I will tell you how he is guilty of it so generally without a fixed inclination. Sin does not alter its nature by being general: and therefore, how common soever it becomes, it must come at all times by the same means that it came at first.” I leave it to every one to judge, who would be chargeable with weak arguing in such a case.
It is true, there is no effect without some cause, ground, or reason of that effect, and some cause answerable to the effect. But certainly it will not follow, that a transient effect requires a permanent cause, or a fixed propensity. An effect happening once, though great, yea, though it may come to pass on the same occasion in many subjects at the same time, will not prove any fixed propensity, or permanent influence. It is true, it proves an influence great and extensive, answerable to the effect, once exerted, or once effectual; but it proves nothing in the cause fixed or constant. If a particular tree, or a great number of trees standing together, have blasted fruit on their branches at a particular season—or if the fruit be very much blasted, and entirely spoiled—it is evident that something was the occasion of such an effect at that time; but this alone does not prove the nature of the tree to be bad. But if it be observed, that those trees, and all other trees of the kind, wherever planted, and in all soils, countries, climates, and seasons, and however cultivated and managed, still bear ill fruit, from year to year, and in all ages, it is a good evidence of the evil nature of the tree. And if the fruit, at all these times, and in all these cases, be very bad, it proves the nature of the tree to be very bad. If we argue, in like manner, from what appears among men, it is easy to determine, whether the universal sinfulness of mankind—all sinning immediately, as soon as capable of it, and continually and generally being of a wicked character, at all times, in all ages, in all places, and under all possible circumstances, against means and motives inexpressibly manifold 169 and great, and in the utmost conceivable variety—be from a permanent internal great cause.
If the voice of common sense were heard, there would be no occasion for labour in multiplying arguments to show, that one act does not prove a fixed inclination; but that constant pursuit does. We see that, in fact, it is agreeable to the reason of all mankind, to argue fixed principles tempers, and prevailing inclinations, from repeated and continued actions—though the actions are voluntary, and performed of choice—and thus to judge of the tempers and inclinations of persons, ages, sexes, tribes, and nations. But is it the manner of men to conclude, that whatever they see others once do, they have a fixed abiding inclination to do? Yea, there may be several acts seen, and yet not be taken as good evidence of an established propensity; even though that one act, or those several acts, are followed by such constant practice, as afterwards evidences fixed disposition. As for example; there may be several instances of a man drinking some spirituous liquor, and those instances be no sign of a fixed inclination to that liquor: but these acts may be introductory to a settled habit or propensity, which may be made very manifest afterwards by constant practice.
From these things it is plain, that what is alleged concerning the first sin of Adam, and of the angels, without a previous fixed disposition to sin, cannot in the least weaken the arguments brought to prove fixed propensity to sin in mankind, in their present state. From the permanence of the cause has been argued, the permanence of the effect. And that the permanent cause consists in an internal fixed propensity, and not in any particular external circumstances, has been argued from the effects being the same, through a vast variety and change of circumstances. But the first acts of sin in Adam or the angels, considered in themselves, were no permanent, continued effects. And though a great number of the angels sinned, and the effect on that account was the greater, and more extensive; yet this extent of the effect is a very different thing from that permanence, or settled continuance of effect, which is supposed to show a permanent cause, or fixed propensity. Neither was there any trial of a vast variety of circumstances attending a permanent effect, to show the fixed cause to be internal, consisting in a settled disposition of nature, in the instances objected. And however great the sin of Adam, or of the angels, was, and however great the means, motives, and obligations were against which they sinned—and whatever may be thence argued concerning the transient cause, occasion, or temptation, as being very subtle, remarkably tending to deceive and seduce, &c.—yet it argues nothing of any settled disposition, or fixed cause, either great or small; the effect both in the angels and our first parents, being in itself transient, and, for ought appears, happening in each of them under one system or coincidence of influential circumstances. 249249 See p. 81, note.
The general continued wickedness of mankind, against such means and motives, proves each of these things, viz. that the cause is fixed, and that the fixed cause is internal in man’s nature, and also that it is very powerful. It proves, that the cause is fixed, because the effect is so abiding, through so many changes. It proves that the fixed cause is internal, because the circumstances are so various—including a variety of means and motives—and they are such circumstances as cannot possibly cause the effect, being most opposite to it in their tendency. And it proves the greatness of the internal cause; or that the propensity is powerful; because the means which have opposed its influence, have been so great, and yet have been statedly overcome.
But here I may observe, by the way, that with regard to the motives and obligations against which our first father sinned, it is not reasonably alleged, that he sinned when he knew his sin would have destructive consequences to all his posterity, and might in process of time, pave the whole globe with skulls, &c. It is evident, by the plain account the scripture gives us of the temptation which prevailed with our first parents to commit that sin, that it was so contrived by the subtlety of the tempter, as first to blind and deceive them as to that matter, and to make them believe that their disobedience should be followed with no destruction or calamity at all to themselves (and therefore not to their posterity,) but on the contrary, with a great increase and advancement of dignity and happiness.
Evasion II. Let the wickedness of the world be ever so general and great, there is no necessity of supposing any depravity of nature to be the cause: man’s own free will is cause sufficient. Let mankind be more or less corrupt, they make themselves corrupt by their own free choice. This Dr. T. abundantly insists upon, in many parts of his book . 250250 Page 257, 258, 52, 53. S. and many other places.
But I would ask, how it comes to pass that mankind so universally agree in this evil exercise of their free will? If their wills are in the first place as free to good as to evil, what is it to be ascribed to, that the world of mankind, consisting of so many millions, in so many successive generations, without consultation, all agree to exercise their freedom in favour of evil? If there be no natural tendency or preponderation in the case, then there is as good a chance for the will being determined to good as to evil. If the cause be indifferent, why is not the effect in some measure indifferent? If the balance be no heavier at one end than the other, why does it perpetually preponderate one way? How comes it to pass, that the free will of mankind has been determined to evil, in like manner before the flood and after the flood; under the law and under the gospel; among both Jews and Gentiles, under the Old Testament, and since then, among Christians, Jews, Mahometans; among papists and protestants; in those nations where civility, politeness, arts, and learning most prevail, and among the Negroes and Hottentots in Africa, the Tartars in Asia, and Indians in America, towards both the poles, and on every side of the globe; in greatest cities and obscurest villages; in palaces and in huts, wigwams, and cells under ground? Is it enough to reply, It happens so, that men every where, and in all times, choose thus to determine their own wills, and so to make themselves sinful, as soon as ever they are capable of it, and to sin constantly as long as they live, and universally to choose never to come up half way to their duty?
A steady effect requires a steady cause; but free will, without any previous propensity to influence its determinations, is no permanent cause; nothing can be conceived of, farther from it: for the very notion of freedom of will, consisting in self-determining power, implies contingence; and if the will is perfectly free from any government of previous inclination, its freedom must imply the most absolute and perfect contingence: and surely nothing can be conceived of, more unfixed than that. The notion of liberty of will, in this sense, implies perfect freedom from every thing that should previously fix, bind, or determine it; that it may be left to be fixed and determined wholly by itself: therefore its determinations must be previously altogether unfixed. And can that which is so unfixed, so contingent, be a cause sufficient to account for an effect, in such a manner, and to such a degree, permanent, fixed, and constant?
When we see any person going on in a certain course with great constancy, against all manner of means to dissuade him, do we judge this to be no argument of a fixed disposition of mind, because, being free, he may determine to do so, if he will, without any such disposition? Or if we see a nation, or people, that differ greatly from other nations, in such and such instances of their constant conduct—as though their tempers and inclinations were very diverse—and any should say, We cannot judge at all of the temper or disposition of people, by any thing observable in their constant practice or behaviour, because they have all free will, and therefore may all choose to act so, if they please, without anything in their temper or inclination to bias them. Would such an account of such effects be satisfying to the reason of mankind? But infinitely further would it be from satisfying a considerate mind, to account for the constant and universal sinfulness of mankind, by saying, that their will is free, and therefore all may, if they please, make themselves wicked: they are free when they first begin to act as moral agents, and therefore all may, if they please, begin to sin as soon as they begin to act: they are 170 free as long as they continue to act in the world, and therefore they may all commit sin continually, if they will: men of all nations are free, and therefore all nations may act alike in these respects, if they please, though some do not know how other nations do act. Men of high and low condition, learned and ignorant, are free, and therefore they may agree in acting wickedly, if they please, though they do not consult together. Men in all ages are free, and therefore men in one age may all agree with men in every other age in wickedness, if they please, though they do not know how men in other ages have acted, &c. Let every one judge whether such an account of things can satisfy reason.
Evasion III. It is said by many opposers of the doctrine of original sin, that the corruption of mankind may be owing not to a depraved nature, but to bad example. And I think we must understand Dr. T. as having respect to the powerful influence of bad instruction and example, when he says, (p. 118.) “The Gentiles in their heathen state, when incorporated into the body of the gentile world, were without strength, unable to help or recover themselves.” And in several other places to the like purpose. If there was no depravity of nature, what else could there be but bad instruction and example, to hinder the heathen world, as a collective body, (for as such Dr. T. speaks of them, as may be seen p. 117, 118.) from emerging out of their corruption, on the rise of each new generation? As to their bad instruction, our author insists upon it, that the heathen, notwithstanding all their disadvantages, had sufficient light to know God, and do their whole duty. Therefore it must be chiefly bad example, according to him, that rendered their case helpless.
Now concerning this way of accounting for the corruption of the world, by the influence of bad example, I would observe,
1. It is accounting for the thing by the thing itself. It is accounting for the corruption of the world by the corruption of the world. For, that bad examples are general all over the world to be followed by others, and have been so from the beginning, is only an instance, or rather a description, of that corruption of the world which is to be accounted for. If mankind are naturally no more inclined to evil than good, then how come there to be so many more bad examples than good ones, in all ages? And if there are not, how come to bad examples that are set, to be so much more followed than the good? If the propensity of man’s nature be not to evil, how comes the current of general example, every where, and at all times, to be so much to evil? And when opposition has been made by good examples, how comes it to pass that it has had so little effect to stem the stream of general wicked practice?
I think from the brief account the Scripture gives us of the behaviour of our first parents, and of the expressions of their faith and hope in God’s revealed mercy, we have reason to suppose, that before ever they had any children, they repented, were pardoned, and became truly pious. So that God planted the world at first with a noble vine; and at the beginning of their generations, he set the stream of example the right way. And we see, that children are more apt to follow the example of their parents, than of any others; especially in early youth, their forming time, when those habits are generally contracted, which abide by them all their days. Besides, Adam’s children had no other examples to follow, but those of their parents. How therefore came the stream so soon to turn, and to proceed the contrary way, with so violent a current? When mankind became so universally and desperately corrupt, as not to be fit to live on earth any longer, and the world was every where full of bad examples, God destroyed them all at once—except righteous Noah and his family—in order to remove those bad examples, and that the world might be planted again with good example, and the stream again turned the right way. How therefore came it to pass, that Noah’s posterity did not follow his good example, especially when they had such extraordinary things to enforce it, but so generally, even in his life-time, became exceeding corrupt? One would think, the first generations at least, while all lived together as one family, under Noah, their venerable father, might have followed his good example. And if they had done so, then, when the earth came to be divided in Peleg’s time, the heads of the several families would have set out their particular colonies with good examples, and the stream would have been turned the right way in all the various divisions, colonies, and nations of the world. But we see, in fact, that in about fifty years after Noah’s death, the world in general was overrun with dreadful corruption; so that all virtue and goodness was like soon to perish from among mankind, unless something extraordinary should be done to prevent it.
Then, for a remedy, God separated Abraham and his family from all the rest of the world, that they might be delivered from the influence of bad example, and that in his posterity he might have an holy seed. Thus God again planted a noble vine; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob being eminently pious. But how soon did their posterity degenerate, till true religion was like to be swallowed up! We see how desperately and almost universally corrupt they were, when God brought them out of Egypt, and led them in the wilderness.
Then God was pleased, before he planted his people in Canaan, to destroy that perverse generation in the wilderness, that he might plant them there a noble vine, wholly a right seed, and set them out with good example, in the land where they were to have their settled abode. Jer. ii. 21. It is evident, that the generation which came with Joshua into Canaan was an excellent generation, by innumerable things said of them. 251251 See Jer. ii. 2, 3. Psal. lxviii. 14.Josh. xxii. 2.andJosh xxiii. 8. Deut. iv. 3, 4.Hos. xi. 1. and Hos. ix. 10. Judg. ii. 7,Judg. ii. 17, Judg. ii. 22. and many other places. But how soon did that people, nevertheless, become the degenerate plant of a strange vine!
And when the nation had a long time proved desperately and incurable corrupt, God destroyed them, and sent them into captivity—till the old rebels were dead and purged out, in order to deliver their children from their evil example. And when the following generation was purified as in a furnace, God planted them again in the land of Israel, a noble vine, and set them out with good example; which yet was not followed by their posterity.
When again the corruption was become inveterate, the christian church was planted; and a glorious out-pouring of the Spirit of God caused true virtue and piety to be exemplified far beyond whatever had been on earth before; and thus the christian church was planted a noble vine. But that primitive good example has not prevailed, to cause virtue to be generally and stedfastly maintained in the christian world. To how great a degree it has been otherwise, has already been observed.
After many ages of general and dreadful apostasy, God was pleased to erect the protestant church, as separated from the more corrupt part of christendom; and true piety flourished in it very much at first; God planted it a noble vine: but notwithstanding the good examples of the first reformers, what a melancholy pass is the protestant world come to at this day!
When England grew very corrupt, God brought over a number of pious persons, and planted them in New England, and this land was planted a noble vine. But how is the gold become dim! How greatly have we forsaken the pious examples of our fathers!
So prone have mankind always proved themselves to degeneracy and backsliding, that it shows plainly their natural propensity. And when good has revived, and been promoted among men, it has been by some divine interposition, opposing the natural current; the fruit of some extraordinary means. And the efficacy of such means has soon been overcome by constant natural bias, the effect of good example presently lost, and evil has regained the dominion. Like a heavy body, which may by some great power be caused to ascend, against its nature, a little while, but soon goes back again towards the centre, to which it naturally and constantly tends.
So that evil example will in no wise account for the corruption of mankind, without supposing a natural proneness to sin. The tendency of example alone will not account for general wicked practice, as consequent on good example. And if the influence of bad example is a reason of some of the wickedness, that alone will not account for 171 men becoming worse than the example set, degenerating more and more, and growing worse and worse, which has been their manner.
2. There has been given to the world an example of virtue, which, were it not for a dreadful depravity of nature, would have influence on them who live under the gospel, far beyond all other examples; that is, the example of Jesus Christ.
God, who knew the human nature, and how apt men are to be influenced by example, had made answerable provision. His infinite wisdom has contrived that we should have set before us the most amiable and perfect example, in such circumstances, as should have the greatest tendency to influence all the principles of man’s nature, but his corruption. Men are apt to be moved by the example of others like themselves, or in their own nature: therefore this example was given in our nature. Men are ready to follow the example of the great and honourable; and this—though that of one in our nature, yet—was the example of one infinitely higher and more honourable than kings or angels. A people are apt to follow the example of their prince. This is the example of that glorious person, who stands in a peculiar relation to Christians as their Lord and King, the supreme head of the church; and not only so, but the King of kings, supreme head of the universe, and head over all things to the church. Children are apt to follow the example of their parents; this is the example of the Author of our being, and of our holy and happy being; the Creator of the world, and everlasting Father of the universe. Men are very apt to follow the example of their friends: the example of Christ is that of one who is infinitely our greatest friend, standing in the most endearing relations of brother, redeemer, spiritual head and husband; whose grace and love expressed to us, transcends all other love and friendship, as much as heaven is higher than the earth. The virtues and acts of his example were exhibited to us in the most endearing and engaging circumstances that can possibly be conceived of.—His obedience and submission to God, his humility, meekness, patience, charity, self-denial, &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, and meekly, patiently, and cheerfully undergoing unutterable suffering for our eternal salvation. Men are peculiarly apt to follow the example of those from whom they have great benefits: 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; we, 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 human heart, such an example would have that strong influence on it, which 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 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 it in the children of eminently pious parents; the first example set in their view being very good; which was especially the case of many children in christian families in the apostolic days, when the apostle John supposes that every individual person had sin to repent of, and confess to God.
4. What Dr. T. supposes to have been fact, with respect to a great part of mankind—the state of the heathen world, which he supposes, considered as a collective body, was helpless, dead in sin, and unable to recover itself—cannot consistently be accounted for from the influence of bad example. 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. T. 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 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 IV. Some modern opposers of the doctrine of original sin, thus account for the general prevalence of wickedness, viz. that in the course of nature our senses grow up first, and the animal passions get the start of reason. So Dr. Turnbull, 252252 See Mor. Phil. p. 279 and Chris. Phil. p. 274. “Sensitive objects first affect us, and inasmuch as reason is a principle, which, in the nature of things, must be advanced to strength and vigour, 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, 253253 Chris. Phil. p. 282, 283. “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 new form and temper; it is molding 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!”
Dr. Taylor, though not so explicit, seems to hint at the same thing, (p. 192.) “It is by slow degrees 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 who advance it would avoid by it; 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, and why, generally speaking, 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, being 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 oppose it; the habit, as Dr. Turnbull says, becoming very 172 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 is truly wickedness. For it is alleged as a cause 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. It, 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, only for men of a righteous character. And certainly that is an evil, corrupt state of things, which naturally tends to and issues in this consequence, that as it were the whole world lies and lives in wickedness, dies in wickedness, and perishes eternally. And this by the supposition, is a state of things, wholly ordered by the Author of nature, before mankind are capable of having any hand in the affair. And is this any relief to the difficulties, 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, mentioned before, against which Dr. T. cries out, as too gross to be admitted, (p. 188, 189.) viz. God 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 vigour no otherwise than by exercise and culture. 254254 Mor. Phil. p. 311. But can there be any force in this? 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 much 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 very beginning of a capacity for 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 V. 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; that by the conflict and victory our virtue may be refined and established. 255255 Belsham. Agreeably to this Dr. T. (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 for the kingdom of God; for which, in the judgment of infinite wisdom, we cannot be qualified, but by overcoming our present temptations.” And, (p. 78. S.) “We are upon trial, and it is the will of our Father that our constitution should be attended with various passions and appetites, as well as our outward condition with various temptations.” He says the like in several other places. To the same purpose very often Dr. Turnbull, particularly Chris. Phil. p. 310. “What merit (he says) except from combat? What virtue without the encounter of such enemies, such temptations, as arise both from within and from abroad? To be virtuous, is to prefer the pleasures of virtue to those which come into competition with it, and vice holds forth to tempt us; and to dare to adhere to truth and goodness, whatever pains and hardships it may cost. There must therefore, in order to the formation and trial, in order to the very being of virtue, be pleasures of a certain kind to make temptations to vice.”
In reply to these things I would say, either the state of temptation, which is supposed to be ordered for men’s trial, amounts on the whole to a prevailing tendency to that state of general wickedness and ruin, which has been proved to take place, or it does not. If it does not amount to a tendency to such an effect, then how does it account for it? When it is inquired, by what cause such an effect should come to pass, is it not absurd to allege a cause, which is owned at the same time to have no tendency to such an effect? Which is as much as to confess, that it will not account for it. I think it has been demonstrated, that this effect must be owing to some prevailing tendency.—But if the other part of the dilemma be taken, and it be said, that this state of things does imply a prevailing tendency to that effect, which has been proved, viz. that all mankind, without one exception, sin against God, to their own deserved eternal ruin—and not only so, but sin thus immediately, as soon as capable of it, and continually, have more sin than virtue, and have guilt that infinitely outweighs the value of all the goodness any ever have, and that the generality of the world in all ages are extremely stupid and foolish, of a wicked character, and actually perish for ever—then I say, if the state of temptation implies a natural tendency to such an effect as this, it is a very evil, corrupt, and dreadful state of things, as has been already largely shown.
Besides, such a state has a tendency to defeat its own supposed end, which is to refine, ripen, and perfect virtue, and so to fit men for the greater eternal happiness and glory: whereas, the effect it tends to, is the reverse of this, viz. general, eternal infamy and ruin, in all generations. It is supposed, that men’s virtue must have passions and appetites to struggle with, in order to have the glory and reward of victory: but the consequence is, a prevailing, continual, and generally effectual tendency—not to men’s victory over evil appetites and passions, and the glorious reward of that victory, but—to the victory of evil appetites and lusts over men, utterly and eternally destroying them. If a trial of virtue be requisite, yet the question is, Whence comes so general a failing in the trial, if there be no depravity of nature? If conflict and war be necessary, whence the necessity that there should be more cowards than good soldiers? and whence is it necessary that the whole world as it were should lie in wickedness, and die in cowardice?
I might also here observe, that Dr. Turnbull is not very consistent, in supposing, that combat with temptation is requisite to the very being of virtue. For I think it clearly follows from his own notion of virtue, that it must have a being prior to any virtuous or praiseworthy combat with temptation. For by his principles, all virtue lies in good affection, and no actions can be virtuous, but what proceed from good affection. 256256 Chris. Phil. p. 113, 114, 115. Therefore, surely the combat itself can have no virtue in it, unless it proceeds from virtuous affection: and therefore virtue must have an existence before the combat, and be the cause of it.
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