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Concerning original righteousness; and whether our first parents were created with righteousness, or moral rectitude of heart?
The doctrine of Original Righteousness, or the creation of our first parents with holy principles and dispositions, has a close connexion, in several respects, with the doctrine of original sin. Dr. T. was sensible of this; and accordingly he strenuously opposes this doctrine, in his book against original sin. And therefore in handling the subject, I would in the first place remove this author’s main objection against this doctrine, and then show how it may be inferred from the account which Moses gives us, in the three first chapters of Genesis.
Dr. T.‘s grand objection against this doctrine, which he abundantly insists on, is this: that it is utterly inconsistent with the nature of virtue, that it should be concreated with any person; because, if so, it must be by an act of God’s absolute power, without our knowledge or concurrence; and that moral virtue, in its very nature, implieth the choice and consent of the moral agent, without which it cannot be virtue and holiness: that a necessary holiness is no holiness. So p. 180. where he observes, “That Adam must exist, he must be created, yea he must exercise thought and reflection, before he was righteous.” (See also p. 250, 251.) In p. 161. S. he says, “To say, that God not only endowed Adam with a capacity of being righteous, but moreover that righteousness and true holiness were created with him, or wrought into his nature, at the same time he was made, is to affirm a contradiction, or what is inconsistent with the very nature of righteousness.” And in like manner Dr. Turnbull in many places insists upon it, that it is necessary to the very being of virtue, that it be owing to our own choice, and diligent culture.
With respect to this, I would observe, that it consists in a notion of virtue quite inconsistent with the nature of things, and the common notions of mankind; and also inconsistent with Dr. T.‘s own notions of virtue. Therefore, if to affirm that to be virtue or holiness, which is not the fruit of preceding thought, reflection, and choice, is to affirm a contradiction, I shall show plainly, that for him to affirm otherwise, is a contradiction to himself.
In the first place, I think it a contradiction to the nature of things, as judged of by the common sense of mankind. It is agreeable to the sense of men, in all nations and ages, not only that the fruit or effect of a good choice is virtuous, but that the good choice itself, from whence that effect proceeds, is so; yea, also the antecedent good disposition, temper, or affection of mind, from whence proceeds that good choice, is virtuous. This is the general notion—not that principles derive their goodness from actions, but—that actions derive their goodness from the principles whence they proceed; so that the act of choosing what is good, is no further virtuous, than it proceeds from a good principle, or virtuous disposition of mind. Which supposes, that a virtuous disposition of mind may be before a virtuous act of choice; and that, therefore, it is not necessary there should first be thought, reflection, and choice, before there can be any virtuous disposition. If the choice be first, before the existence of a good disposition of heart, what is the character of that choice? There can, according to our natural notions, be no virtue in a choice which proceeds from no virtuous principle, but from mere self-love, ambition, or some animal appetites; therefore, a virtuous temper of mind may be before a good act of choice, as a tree may be before the fruit, and the fountain before the stream which proceeds from it.
The following things, in Mr. Hutcheson’s inquiry concerning moral good and evil, are evidently agreeable to the nature of things, and the voice of human sense and reason. (Sect. II. p. 132, 133.) ” Every action which we apprehend as either morally good or evil, is always supposed to flow from some affections towards sensitive natures. And whatever we call virtue or vice, is either some such affection, or some action consequent upon it.—All the actions counted religious in any country, are supposed by those who count them so, to flow from some affections towards the Deity: and whatever we call social virtue, we still suppose to flow from affections towards our fellow-creatures.—Prudence, if it is only employed in promoting private interest, is never imagined to be a virtue.” In these things Dr. Turnbull expressly agrees with Mr. Hutcheson, his admired author. 263263 Mor. Phil. p. 112-115. p. 142 et alibi passim.
If a virtuous disposition or affection is before its acts, then they are before those virtuous acts of choice which proceed from it. Therefore, there is no necessity that all virtuous dispositions or affections should be the effect of choice : and so, no such supposed necessity can be a good objection against such a disposition being natural, or from a kind of instinct, implanted in the mind in its creation. Agreeably to this Mr. Hutcheson says, (Ibid. sect. III. p. 196, 197.) “I know not for what reason some will not allow that to be virtue, which flows from instinct or passions. But how do they help themselves? They say, virtue arises from reason. What is reason, but the sagacity we have in prosecuting any end? The ultimate end proposed by common moralists, is the happiness of the agent himself. And this certainly he is determined to pursue from instinct. Now may not another instinct towards the public, or the good of others, be as proper a principle of virtue as the instinct towards private happiness? If it be said, that actions from instinct are not the effect of prudence and choice, this objection will hold full as strongly against the actions which flow from self-love.”
And if we consider what Dr. T. declares, as his own notion of the essence of virtue, and which he so confidently and often affirms, that it should follow choice, and proceed from it, we shall find it is no less repugnant to that sentiment, than it is to the nature of things, and the general notions of mankind. For it is his notion, as well as Mr. Hutcheson’s, that the essence of virtue lies in good affection, and particularly in benevolence or love: as he very fully declares in these words in his Key, 264264 Marginal Note, annexed to § 356. “That the word that signifies goodness and mercy should also signify moral rectitude in general, will not seem strange, if we consider that love is the fulfilling of the law. Goodness, according to the sense of Scripture, and the nature of things, includes all moral rectitude; which, I reckon, 178 may every part of it, where it true and genuine, be resolved into this single principle.” If it be so indeed, then certainly no act whatsoever can have moral rectitude, but what proceeds from this principle. And consequently no act of volition or choice can have any moral rectitude, that takes place before this principle exists. And yet he most confidently affirms, that thought, reflection, and choice must go before virtue, and that all virtue or righteousness must be the fruit of preceding choice. This brings his scheme to an evident contradiction. For no act of choice can be virtuous but what proceeds from a principle of benevolence, or love; for he insists that all genuine moral rectitude, in every part of it, is resolved into this single principle. And yet the principle of benevolence itself cannot be virtuous, unless it proceeds from choice; for he affirms, that nothing can have the nature of virtue but what comes from choice. So that virtuous love as the principle of all virtue, must go before virtuous choice, and be the principle or spring of it; and yet virtuous choice must go before virtuous benevolence, and be the spring of that. If a virtuous act of choice goes before a principle of benevolence, and produces it, then this virtuous act is something distinct from that principle which follows it, and is its effect. So that here is at least one part of virtue, yea the spring and source of all virtue, viz. a virtuous choice, that cannot be resolved into that single principle of love.
Here also it is worthy to be observed, that Dr. T. (p. 128.) says, the cause of every effect is alone chargeable with the effect it produceth or which proceedeth from it, and so he argues, that if the effect be bad, the cause alone is sinful. According to which reasoning, when the effect is good, the cause alone is righteous or virtuous. To the cause is to be ascribed all the praise of the good effect it produceth. And by the same reasoning it will follow, that if, as Dr. Taylor says, Adam must choose to be righteous, before he was righteous, and if it be essential to the nature of righteousness, or moral rectitude, that it be the effect of choice, and hence a principle of benevolence cannot have moral rectitude, unless it proceeds from choice; then not the principle of benevolence, which is the effect, but to the foregoing choice alone is to be ascribed all the virtue or righteousness that is in the case. And so, instead of all moral rectitude, in every part of it, being resolved into that single principle of benevolence, no moral rectitude, in any part of it, is to be resolved into that principle; but all is to be resolved into the foregoing choice, which is the cause.
But yet it follows from these inconsistent principles, that there is no moral rectitude or virtue in that first act of choice, that is the cause of all consequent virtue. This follows two ways; 1. Because every part of virtue lies in the benevolent principle, which is the effect; and therefore no part of it can lie in the cause. 2. The choice of virtue, as to the first act at least, can have no virtue or righteousness at all; because it does not proceed from any foregoing choice. For Dr. T. insists, that a man must first have reflection and choice, before he can have righteousness; and that it is essential to holiness that it proceed from choice. So that the first choice from which holiness proceeds, can have no virtue at all, because, by the supposition, it does not proceed from choice, being the first choice. Hence, if it be essential to holiness that it proceeds from choice, it must proceed from an unholy choice; unless the first holy choice can be before itself.
And with respect to Adam, let us consider how upon Dr. T.‘s principles, it was possible he ever should have any such thing as righteousness, by any means at all. In the state wherein God created him, he could have no such thing as love to God, or any benevolence in his heart. For if so, there would have been original righteousness; there would have been genuine moral rectitude; nothing would have been wanting: for our author says, True, genuine moral rectitude, in every part of it, is to be resolved into this single principle. But if he were wholly without any such thing as love to God, or any virtuous love, how should he come by virtue? The answer doubtless will be, by act of choice: he must first choose to be virtuous. But what if he did choose to be virtuous? It could not be from love to God, or any virtuous principle, that he chose it; for, by the supposition, he has no such principle in his heart. And if he chooses it without such a principle, still, according to this author, there is no virtue in his choice; for all virtue, he says, is to be resolved into that single principle of love. Or will he say, there may be produced in the heart a virtuous benevolence by an act or acts of choice, that are not virtuous? But this does not consist with what he implicitly asserts, that to the cause alone is to be ascribed what is in the effect. So that there is no way that can possibly be devised, in consistence with Dr. T.‘s scheme, in which Adam ever could have any righteousness, or could ever either obtain any principle of virtue, or perform any one virtuous act.
These confused inconsistent assertions, concerning virtue and moral rectitude, arise from the absurd notions in vogue, concerning freedom of will, as if it consisted in the will’s self-determining power, supposed to be necessary to moral agency, virtue, and vice. The absurdities of which, with the grounds of these errors, and what the truth is respecting these matters, with its evidences, I have, according to my ability, fully and largely considered, in my ”Inquiry’’ on that subject; to which I must refer the reader, who desires further satisfaction, and is willing to give himself the trouble of reading that discourse.
Having considered this great argument, and pretended demonstration of Dr. T. against original righteousness; I proceed to the proofs of the doctrine. And, in the first place, I would consider, whether there be not evidence of it in the three first chapters of Genesis: or, whether the history there delivered does not lead us to suppose, that our first parents were created in a state of moral rectitude and holiness.
I. This history leads us to suppose, that Adam’s sin, with relation to the forbidden fruit, was the first sin he committed. Which could not have been, had he not always, till then, been perfectly righteous, righteous from the first moment of his existence; and consequently, created or brought into existence righteous. In a moral agent, subject to moral obligations, it is the same thing, to be perfectly innocent, as to be perfectly righteous. It must be the same, because there can no more be any medium between sin and righteousness, or between being right and being wrong, in a moral sense, than there can be a medium between straight and crooked, in a natural sense. Adam was brought into existence capable of acting immediately, as a moral agent; and therefore he was immediately under a rule of right action. He was obliged as soon as he existed to act aright. And if he was obliged to act aright as soon as he existed, he was obliged even then to be inclined to act right. Dr. T. says, (p. 166. S.) “Adam could not sin without a sinful inclination:” 265265 This is doubtless true: for although there was no natural sinful inclination in Adam, yet an inclination to that sin of eating the forbidden fruit, was begotten in him by the delusion and error he was led into; and this inclination to eat the forbidden fruit, must precede his actual eating. and, just for the same reason, he could not do aright, without an inclination to right action. And as he was obliged to act rightly from the first moment of his existence, and did so, till he sinned in reference to the forbidden fruit, he must have had a disposition of heart to do rightly the first moment of his existence; and that is the same as to be created, or brought into existence, with an inclination to right action, or, which is the same thing, a virtuous and holy disposition of heart.
Here it will be in vain to say, “It is true, that it was Adam’s duty to have a good disposition or inclination, as soon as it was possible to be obtained, in the nature of things; but as it could not be without time to establish such a habit, which requires antecedent thought, reflection, and repeated right action; therefore all that Adam could be obliged to, in the first place, was to reflect, and consider things in a right manner, and apply himself to right action, in order to obtain a right disposition:” for this supposes, that even the reflection and consideration to which he was obliged, was right action. Surely he was obliged to it no otherwise than as a thing that was right: and therefore he must have an inclination to this right action immediately, before he could perform those first right actions. And as the inclination to them should be right, the principle, or disposition from which he performed even those actions, must be good: otherwise the actions would 179 not be right in the sight of him who looks at the heart; nor would they answer his obligations, if he had done them for some sinister end, and not from a regard to God and his duty. Therefore there must have been a regard to God and his duty implanted in him at his first existence: otherwise it is certain, he would have done nothing from a regard to God and his duty; no, not so much as to reflect and consider, and try to obtain such a disposition. The very supposition of a disposition to right action being first obtained by repeated right action, is grossly inconsistent with itself: for it supposes a course of right action, before there is a disposition to perform any right action.
These are no invented quibbles or sophisms. If God expected from Adam any obedience, or duty to him at all, when he first made him—whether it was in reflecting, considering, or any way exerting his faculties—then he was expected immediately to exercise love to God. For how could it be expected, that Adam should have a strict and perfect regard to God’s commands and authority, and his duty to him, when he had no love nor regard to him in his heart, nor could it be expected he should have any? If Adam from the beginning did his duty to God, and had more respect to the will of his Creator, than to other things, and as much respect to him as he ought to have; then from the beginning he had a supreme and perfect respect and love to God: and if so, he was created with such a principle. There is no avoiding the consequence. Not only external duties, but internal ones, such as summarily consist in love, must be immediately required of Adam, as soon as he existed, if any duty at all was required. For it is most apparently absurd, to talk of a spiritual being, with the faculties of understanding and will, being required to perform external duties, without internal. Dr. T. himself observes, that love is the fulfilling of the law, and that all moral rectitude, even every part of it, must be resolved into that single principle. Therefore, if any morally right act at all, reflection, consideration, or any thing else, was required of Adam immediately, on his first existence, and was performed as required; then he must, the first moment of his existence, have his heart possessed of that principle of divine love; which implies the whole of moral rectitude in every part of it, according to our author’s own doctrine; and so the whole of moral rectitude or righteousness must begin with his existence: which is the thing taught in the doctrine of original righteousness.
Let us consider how it could be otherwise, than that Adam was always, in every moment of his existence, obliged to exercise such respect of heart towards every object, as was agreeable to the apparent merit of that object. For instance, would it not at any time have become Adam, on the exhibition of God’s infinite goodness to him, to have exercised answerable gratitude; and would not the contrary have been unbecoming and odious? And if something had been presented to Adam’s view, transcendently amiable in itself, for instance, the glorious perfection of the divine nature, would it not have become him to love, relish, and delight in it? Would not such an object have merited this? And if the view of an object so amiable in itself did not affect his mind with complacence, would it not, according to the plain dictates of our understanding, have shown an unbecoming temper of mind? Time, by culture, to form and establish a good disposition, would not have taken off the odiousness of the temper. And if there had been never so much time, I do not see how it could be expected he should improve it aright, in order to obtain a good disposition, if he had not already some good disposition to engage him to it.
That belonging to the will, and disposition of the heart, which is in itself either odious or amiable, unbecoming or decent, always would have been Adam’s virtue or sin, in any moment of his existence; if there be any such thing as virtue or vice; by which terms nothing can be meant, but something in our moral disposition and behaviour, which is becoming or unbecoming, amiable or odious.
Human nature must be created with some dispositions; a disposition to relish some things as good and amiable, and to be averse to other things as odious and disagreeable: otherwise, it must be without any such thing as inclination or will; perfectly indifferent, without preference, without choice, or aversion, towards any thing as agreeable or disagreeable. But if it had any concreated dispositions at all, they must be either right or wrong, either agreeable or disagreeable to the nature of things. If man had at first the highest relish of things excellent and beautiful, a disposition to have the quickest and highest delight in those things which were most worthy of it, then his dispositions were morally right and amiable, and never can be excellent in a higher sense. But if he had a disposition to love most those things that were inferior and less worthy, then his dispositions were vicious. And it is evident there can be no medium between these.
II. This notion of Adam being created without a principle of holiness in his heart, taken with the rest of Dr. T.‘s scheme, is inconsistent with what the history in the beginning of Genesis leads us to suppose of the great favours and smiles of Heaven, which Adam enjoyed while he remained in innocency. The Mosaic account suggests to us, that till Adam sinned, he was in happy circumstances, surrounded with testimonies and fruits of God’s favour. This is implicitly owned by Dr. T. when he says, (p. 252.) “That in the dispensation our first parents were under before the fall, they were placed in a condition proper to engage their gratitude, love, and obedience.” But it will follow, on our author’s principles, that Adam, while in innocency, was placed in far worse circumstances, than he was in after his disobedience, and infinitely worse than his posterity are in; under unspeakably greater disadvantages for avoiding sin, and the performance of duty. For by this doctrine, Adam’s posterity come into the world with their hearts as free from any propensity to sin as he, and he was made as destitute of any propensity to righteousness as they: and yet God, in favour to them, does great things to restrain them from sin, and excite them to virtue, which he never did for Adam in innocency, but laid him, in the highest degree, under contrary disadvantages. God, as an instance of his great favour, and fatherly love to man, since the fall, has denied him the ease and pleasures of paradise, which gratified and allured his senses, and bodily appetites; that he might diminish his temptations to sin. And as a still greater means to restrain from sin, and promote virtue, has subjected him to labour, toil, and sorrow in the world: and not only so, but as a means to promote his spiritual and eternal good far beyond this, has doomed him to death. When all this was found insufficient, he, in further prosecution of the designs of his love, shortened men’s lives exceedingly, made them twelve or thirteen times shorter than in the first ages. And yet this, with all the innumerable calamities which God, in great favour to mankind, has brought on the world—whereby their temptations are so vastly cut short, and the inducements to virtue heaped one upon another to so great a degree—have proved insufficient, now for so many thousand years together, to restrain from wickedness in any considerable degree; while innocent human nature, all along, comes into the world with the same purity and harmless dispositions that our first parents had in paradise. What vast disadvantages indeed then must Adam and Eve be in, who had no more in their nature to keep them from sin, or incline them to virtue, than their posterity, and yet were without all those additional and extraordinary means! They were not only without such exceeding great means as we now have, when our lives are made so very short, but had vastly less advantages than their antediluvian posterity, who to prevent their being wicked, and to make them good, had so much labour and toil, sweat and sorrow, briers and thorns, with a body gradually decaying and returning to the dust. Our first parents had the extreme disadvantage of being placed amongst many and exceeding great temptations—not only without toil or sorrow, pain or disease, to humble and mortify them, and a sentence of death to wean them from the world, but—in the midst of the most exquisite and alluring sensitive delights; the reverse in every respect, and the highest degree, of that most gracious state of requisite means, and great advantages, which mankind now enjoy! If mankind now, under these vast restraints, and great advantages, are not restrained from general, and as it were universal wickedness, how could it be expected that Adam and Eve, created with no better hearts than men bring into the world now, and destitute of all these advantages, and in the midst of all contrary disadvantages, should escape it?
180 These things are not agreeable to Moses’s account. That represents a happy state of peculiar favours and blessings before the fall, and the curse coming afterwards; but according to this scheme, the curse was before the fall, and the great favours and testimonies of love followed the apostasy. And the curse before the fall must be a curse with a witness, being to so high a degree the reverse of such means, means so necessary for such a creature as innocent man, and in all their multitude and fulness proving too little. Paradise therefore must be a mere delusion! There was indeed a great show of favour, in placing man in the midst of such delights. But this delightful garden, it seems, with all its beauty and sweetness, was in its real tendency worse than the apples of Sodom. It was but a mere bait, (God forbid the blasphemy,) the more effectually enticing by its beauty and deliciousness, to Adam’s eternal ruin. Which might be the more expected to be fatal to him, seeing he was the first man, having no capacity superior to his posterity, and wholly without the advantage of their observations, experiences, and improvements.
I proceed now to take notice of an additional proof of the doctrine we are upon, from another part of the Holy Scripture. A very clear text for original righteousness we have in Eccles. vii. 29. “Lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.”
It is an observation of no weight which Dr. T. makes on this text, that the word man is commonly used to signify mankind in general, or mankind collectively taken. It is true, it often signifies the species of mankind; but then it is used to signify the species, with regard to its duration and succession from its beginning, as well as with regard to its extent. The English word mankind is used to signify the species: but what then? Would it be an improper way of speaking, to say, that when God first made mankind, he placed them in a pleasant paradise, (meaning in their first parents,) but now they live in the midst of briers and thorns? And it is certain, that to speak thus of God making mankind—his giving the species an existence in their first parents, at the creation—is agreeable to the scripture use of such an expression. As in Deut. iv. 32. “Since the day that God created man upon the earth.” Job xx. 4. “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon the earth.” Isa. xlv. 12. “I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens.” Jer. xxvii. 5. “I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power.” All these texts speak of God making man, signifying the species of mankind; and yet they all plainly have respect to God making man at first, when he made the earth, and stretched out the heavens. In all these places the same word, Adam, is used as in Ecclesiastes; and in the last of them, used with (HE emphaticum) the emphatic sign, as here; though Dr. T. omits it, when he tells us he gives us a catalogue of all the places in Scripture where the word is used. And it argues nothing to the Doctor’s purpose, that the pronoun they is used;—THEY have sought out many inventions. This is properly applied to the species, which God made at first upright; the species begun with more than one, and continued in a multitude. As Christ speaks of the two sexes, in the relation of man and wife, continued in successive generations; Matt. xix. 4. “He that made them at the beginning, made them male and female;” having reference to Adam and Eve.
No less impertinent, and also very unfair, is his criticism on the word (rSy) translated upright. Because the word sometimes signifies right, he would from thence infer, that it does not properly signify moral rectitude, even when used to express the character of moral agents. He might as well insist, that the English word upright, sometimes, and in its most original meaning, signifies right up, or in an erect posture, therefore it does not properly signify any moral character, when applied to moral agents. And indeed less unreasonably; for it is known, that in the Hebrew language, in a peculiar manner, most words used to signify moral and spiritual things, are taken from external and natural objects. The word (rSy Jashar) is used, as applied to moral agents, or to the words and actions of such, (if I have not misreckoned, 266266 Making use of Buxtorf’s Concordance, which, according to the author’s professed design, directs to all the places where the word is used. ) about an hundred and ten times in Scripture; and about an hundred of them, without all dispute, to signify virtue, or moral rectitude, (though Dr. T. is pleased to say, the word does not generally signify a moral character,) and for the most part it signifies true virtue, or virtue in such a sense, as distinguishes it from all false appearances of virtue, or what is only virtue in some respects, but not truly so in the sight of God. It is used at least eighty times in this sense: and scarce any word can be found in the Hebrew language more significant of this. It is thus used constantly in Solomon’s writings, (where it is often found) when used to express a character or property of moral agents. And it is beyond all controversy, that he uses it in this place, (Eccles. vii.) to signify moral rectitude, or a character of real virtue and integrity. For the wise man is speaking of persons with respect to their moral character, inquiring into the corruption and depravity of mankind, (as is confessed, p. 184.) and he here declares, he had not found more than one among a thousand of the right stamp, truly and thoroughly virtuous and upright: which appeared a strange thing! But in this text he clears God, and lays the blame on man: man was not made thus at first. He was made of the right stamp, altogether good in his kind, (as all other things were,) truly and thoroughly virtuous, as he ought to be; but they have sought out many inventions. Which last expression signifies things sinful, or morally evil; (as is confessed, p. 185.) And this expression, used to signify those moral evils he found in man, which he sets in opposition to the uprightness man was made in, shows, that by uprightness he means the most true and sincere goodness. The word rendered inventions, most naturally and aptly signifies the subtile devices, and crooked deceitful ways, of hypocrites, wherein they are of a character contrary to men of simplicity and godly sincerity; who, though wise in that which is good, are simple concerning evil. Thus the same wise man, in Prov. xii. 2. sets a truly good man in opposition to a man of wicked devices, whom God will condemn. Solomon had occasion to observe many who put on an artful disguise and fair show of goodness; but on searching thoroughly, he found very few truly upright. As he says, Prov. xx. 6. “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” So that it is exceeding plain, that by uprightness, in this place, (Eccles. vii.) Solomon means true moral goodness.
What our author urges concerning many inventions, whereas Adam’s eating of the forbidden fruit was but one invention, is of as little weight as the rest of what he says on this text. For the many lusts and corruptions of man kind, appearing in innumerable ways of sinning, are all the consequence of that sin. The great corruption men are fallen into by the original apostacy, appears in the multitude of the wicked ways to which they are inclined. And therefore these are properly mentioned as the fruits and evidences of the greatness of that apostacy and corruption.
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