« PoprzedniaDalej »
I shall refer you to only a few of these. It is said, Gen. vi. 5, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth ; and that every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart, was only evil continually.” This was soon after men began to multiply; and there is no reason to think that the world was then more wicked than it has been since. It is said again in the fourteenth Psalm ; “ The Lord look. ed down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." And this the apostle quotes, Rom. iii. 11, 12 ; 'adding, other passages of the Old Testament, in further proof of the total, as well as universal depravity of men ; “ Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips : whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood : destruction and misery are in their ways ; and the way of peace have they not known : there is no fear of God before their eyes.” And to the Ephesians, most of whom had been heathen, he says; “ You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind ; and were by nature children of wrath even as others." And our Saviour says, John iii. 6, “ That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” so totally flesh, that is, corrupt and sinful, as to be incapable of entering into the kingdom of God, by embracing the gospel of his grace.
2. We are plainly taught the total depravity of fallen man, by what is said concerning the necessity
of regeneration, or the renewing of the Holy Ghost. This change is spoken of as necessary in order to good works ; and as that without which no one can see the kingdom of God. And it is set forth by such phrases as these : being born again ; having a new heart given us, and a new spirit put within us ; being quickened, or brought to life, when dead; and being created after God, in allusion to the first creation of man in the likeness of his Maker. All which strong modes of expression evidently imply, that man by the fall is become totally depraved. If the unrenewed heart were but partly sinful, it might be mended; and there would be no need of a new heart. If the old spirit were not wholly unholy, there would be no occasion for giving a new spirit. If there were any spiritual life in men they would not need quickening by the mighty power of God, in a manner as supernatural as the raising of Christ from the dead. If man had the root of the matter in him, or the seeds of virtue, by his first birth, there would be no necessity of his being born again. If we were by nature at all inclined to that which is good, or had any thing of that moral image of our Maker in which the first man was made ; there would be no need of a new creation after God in righteousness and true holiness, or of our being created in Christ Jesus unto good works.
All the forementioned representations of this necessary renewing of the Holy Ghost, are plainly de. signed to teach us, that it is a change of nature—the production of something specifically new in the soul of man—the beginning of a clean heart, or a right spirit : and therefore they evidently imply, that previously to it, there is a total destitution of every thing of this kind.
3. This is also very evident, from the certain marks, or distinguishing characteristics of a good man, which we often find in the holy scriptures.
Right exercises or dispositions, in any degree, are spoken of as things which accompany salvation, and as infallible evidences of a state of grace.
See Matt. v. 3—8, “ Blessed are the poor in spirit :-Blessed are they that mourn :-Blessed are the meek :Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness : -Blessed are the merciful :- Blessed are the pure in heart :"-See also 1 John iii. 14, “ We know that we are passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” And chap. iv. ver. 7, “Every one that loveth is born of God.”
In these texts, you may observe, the degree of the several graces or virtues spoken of is not mentioned. It is not said how poor in spirit men must be, to make it evident that their's is the kingdom of heaven : or how much they must mourn, before it is certain that they shall be comforted : or how meek they must be, to enjoy the earth as a divine patrimonial inheritance: or how merciful, that they may expect divine mercy : or how ardently they must desire righteousness, before the promise of being filled belongs to them : or how pure in heart those are, who shall hereafter enjoy the beatific vision of God. Nor is it said what degree of brotherly kindness and charity we must have, to know that we have passed from death to life, or that we are born of God. But it is left in such a manner as must necessarily lead us to suppose, that if one can be certain he has these virtues or graces, though in the lowest degree, he may be certain that he shall inherit the promises, and is an heir of glory. But this could not be true, if there were these good things in men, in any measure, while unbelicvers, and unrenewed. If the naturai man were not altogether destitute of these truly virtuous dispositions and affections, they could be no discriminating marks of the adopted children of God, or evidences of one's being in a state of grace.
Thus, you see, the Bible expressly asserts, and abundantly supposes, that man by nature is totally depraved ; that is, wholly destitute of true holiness. And what need have we of further witness ? God knows what is in man. His eye searcheth the very bottom of the heart; and He is a God of truth. If, therefore, we have his word, and in that are told there dwelleth no good thing in man by nature, as our Saviour told the unbelieving Jews, “I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you," it must be true.
With regard to human authorities, or the opinions of men, it may be observed, that no great stress is to be laid upon them in matters of religion ; more especially in the present question, which respects their own character. If mankind think mankind virtuous, it is no great evidence that they are really so. They bear witness for themselves; and such witness is never admitted as of much weight. “ Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness ;” though a faithful man is hardly to be found.
It is to be observed, however, that even on this question, wherein men must be very partial witnesses, their witness agreeth not together. Many deny the doctrine of man's total depravity by nature, and strenuously dispute against it: but by many it is acknowledged and maintained. And many who oppose it, still admit, and appeal to men's feelings for the truth of, what plainly implies it; namely, that self-love is the bottom spring of all human actions. An author of considerable fame,* two volumes of whose sermons we have in our public library, says, in one of them; “ If we closely attend to the operations of our own minds, and carefully observe what passeth within us, at that very instant when we are doing a charitable and friendly action, I am apt to think we shall find that the pleasure which results from it arises, either from a sense that what we are doing may procure us the approbation of men ; or it proceeds from a sense of having done our duty, and so recommended ourselves to the favor of God. That pleasure which is annexed to any generous and worthy deed, may be compared to its opposite; namely, that remorse which is consequent to wickedness. And it may be questioned whether we should have any, or at least any permanent remorse, after having committed an ill action, if we were sure we could fence off all ill consequences, and neither be exposed to the scorn and hatred of the world, nor draw upon ourselves the divine vengeance. Just so it
may admit of a dispute, whether the pleasure we are speaking of would not vanish, if we apprehended that mankind would neither commend and esteem us, nor the Deity reward us for our goodness.” In another place the same author says, “ The only things which influence our practice, are considerations which call forth the workings of self-love, that first great wheel of the soul, to which all the rest move in subordination."
A great part of our moral philosophers, and Arminian divines generally, are in the same sentiment. They conceive virtue to be a mere selfish thing : only a well regulated regard to one's personal inter
And the Antinomians, in all their different ways of explaining themselves, consider all religion as nothing else. They suppose that what converts a sinnery, and what excites the love of God in a saint, is only a belief of his love to them, in particular, or to mankind in general; thus making all religious affections turn upon the first great wheel of self-love.
Now these, I reckon some of the strongest human testimonies we could have, in proof of the total moral depravity of mankind by nature. From their own feelings, and from their observation of others, they are forced into the conclusion that man is a totally selfish creature. But we need not suppose the worst man on earth, or devil in hell, more depraved in the