The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended (PART 1)Theological Writings of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
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EVIDENCES OF IT’S TRUTH PRODUCED, AND ARGUMENTS TO THE CONTRARY ANSWERED, CONTAINING IN PARTICULAR A REPLY TO THE OBJECTIONS OF DR. JOHN TAYLOR IN HIS BOOK ENTITLED,
“THE SCRIPTURE-DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN PROPOSED TO FREE AND CANDID EXAMINATION, ETC.”
They that be whole, need not a physician; but they that are sick.
BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THIS BOOK AND ITS AUTHOR,
BY THE FIRST EDITOR
THE Reverend Author of the following piece, was removed by death before its publication. But, ere his decease, the copy was finished and brought to the press; and a number of sheets passed his own review. They who were acquainted with the author, or know his just character, and have any taste for the serious theme, will want nothing to be said in recommendation of the ensuing tract, but only that Mr. Edwards wrote it.
Several valuable pieces on this subject have lately been published, upon the same side of the question. But he had no notice of so much as the very first of them, till he had wholly concluded what he had in view: nor has it been thought, that anything already printed should supersede this work; being designed on a more extensive plan — comprising a variety of arguments, and answers to many objections, that fell not in the way of the other worthy writers — and the whole done with a care of familiar method and language, as well as clear reasoning, accommodated very much to common capacities. It must be a sensible pleasure to every friend of truth, that so masterly a hand undertook a reply to Dr. Taylor; notwithstanding the various answers already given him, both at home and abroad.
Since it has been thought unfit, that this posthumous book should go unattended with a respectful memorial of the author, it is hoped, the reader will candidly accept the following:
As he lived cheerfully resigned in all things to the will of heaven, so he died, or rather, as the Scripture emphatically expressed it, in relation to the saint in Christ Jesus, he fell asleep, without the least appearance of pain, and with great calm of mind. Indeed, when he first perceived the symptoms upon him to be mortal, he is said to have been a little perplexed for a while, about the meaning of this mysterious conduct of providence, in calling him out from his beloved privacy, to a public scene of action and influence; and then so suddenly, just upon his entrance into it, translating him from thence, in such a way, by mortality! However, he quickly got believing and composing views of the wisdom and goodness of God in this surprising event: and readily yielded to the sovereign disposal of heaven, with the most placid submission. Amidst the joy of faith, he departed this world, to go and see Jesus, whom his soul loved; to be with him, to behold his glory, and rejoice in his kingdom.
In person, he was tall of stature, and of a slender make. There was something extremely delicate in his constitution; which always obliged him to observe the exactest rules of temperance, and every method of cautious and prudent living. By such means he was helped to go through incessant labors, and to bear up under much study, which, Solomon observes, is a weariness to the flesh. Perhaps, never was a man more constantly retired from the world; giving himself to reading and contemplation. And a wonder it was, that his feeble frame could subsist under such fatigues, daily repeated and so long continued. Yet upon occasion of some remark upon it by a friend, which was only a few months before his death, he told him, “He did not find but he was then as well able to bear the closest study, as he was thirty years before; and could go through the exercises of the pulpit with as little weariness of difficulty.” In his youth he appeared healthy, and with a good degree of vivacity; but was never robust. In middle life, he appeared very much emaciated (I had almost said, mortified) by severe studies, and intense applications of thought. Hence his voice was a little languid, and too low for a large assembly; though much relieved and advantaged by a proper emphasis, just cadence, well-placed pauses, and great distinctness in pronunciation.
He had a piercing eye, the truest index of the mind. His aspect and mien had a mixture of severity and pleasantry. He had a natural turn for gravity and sedateness; ever contemplative; and in conversation usually reserved, but always observant of a genuine decorum in his deportment; free from sullen, supercilious, and contemptuous airs, and without any appearance of ostentation, levity, or vanity. As to imagination, he had enough of it for a great and good man: but the gaieties of a luxuriant fancy, so captivating to many, were what he neither affected himself, nor was much delighted with in others. He had a natural steadiness of temper, and fortitude of mind; which being sanctified by the Spirit of God, was ever of vast advantage to him, to carry him through difficult services, and support him under trying afflictions, in the course of his life. Personal injuries he bore with a becoming meekness and patience, and a disposition to forgiveness. The humility, modesty, and serenity of his behavior, much endeared him to his acquaintance; and made him appear amiable in the eyes of such as had the privilege of conversing with him. He was a true and faithful friend; and showed much of a disinterested benevolence to his neighbor. The several relations sustained by him, he adorned with an exemplary conduct; and was solicitous to fill every station with its proper duty. He kept up an extensive correspondence, with ministers and others, in various parts; and his letters always contained some significant and valuable communications. In his private walk, as a Christian, he appeared an example of truly rational, consistent, uniform religion and virtue: a shining instance of the power and efficacy of that holy faith, to which he was so firmly attached, and of which he was so strenuous a defender. He exhibited much of spirituality, and a heavenly bent of soul. In him one saw the loveliest appearance, a rare assemblage of Christian graces, united with the richest gifts, and mutually subserving and recommending one another.
As a scholar, his intellectual furniture exceeded what is common, considering the disadvantages we labor under in this remote corner of the world. He very early discovered a genius above the ordinary size; and gradually ripened and expanded, by daily exertion and application. He was remarkable for the penetration and extent of his understanding, for his powers of criticism and accurate distinction, quickness of thought, solidity of judgment, and force of reasoning; which made him an acute and strong disputant. By nature he was formed for a logician, and a metaphysician; but by speculation, observation, and converse, greatly improved. He had a good insight into the whole circle of liberal arts and sciences; possessed a very valuable stock of classic learning, philosophy, mathematics, history, chronology, etc. By the blessing of God on his indefatigable studiousness, to the last, he was constantly treasuring up useful knowledge, both human and divine.
Thus he appears uncommonly accomplished for the arduous and momentous province to which he was finally called. And had heaven indulged us with the continuance of his precious life, we have reason to think, he would have graced his new station, and been a signal blessing to the college, and therein extensively served his generation, according to the will of God.
After all, it must be owned, divinity was his favorite study; and the ministry, his most delightful employment. Among the luminaries of the church, in these American regions, he was justly reputed a star of the first magnitude; thoroughly versed in all the branches of theology, didactic, polemic, casuistic, experimental, and practical. In point of divine knowledge and skill, he had few equals, and perhaps no superior, at least in these parts. On the maturest examination of the different schemes of principles, obtaining in the world, and on comparing them with the sacred Scriptures, the oracles of God and the great standard of truth, he was a Protestant and a Calvinist in judgment; adhering to the main articles of the reformed religion with an unshaken firmness, and with a fervent zeal, but tempered with charity and candor, and governed by discretion. He seemed as little as most men under the bias of education, or the influence of bigotry. As to practical and vital Christianity, no man appeared to have a better acquaintance with its nature and importance; or to understand true religion, and feel its power, more than he; which made him an excellently fit guide to inquiring souls, and qualified him to guard them against all false religion. His internal sense of the intercourse between God and souls, being brought by him to the severe test of reason and revelation, preserved him, both in sentiment and conduct, from the least tincture of enthusiasm. The accomplished divine enters deep into his character.
As a preacher, he was judicious, solid, and instructive. Seldom was he known to bring controversy into the pulpit; or to handle any subject in the nicer modes and forms of scholastic dissertation. His sermons, in general, seemed to vary exceedingly from his controversial compositions. In his preaching, usually, all was plain, familiar, sententious, practical; and very distant from any affectation of appearing the great man, or displaying his extraordinary abilities as a scholar. But still he ever preserved the character of a skillful and thorough divine. The common themes of his ministry were the most weighty and profitable; and especially, the great truths of the gospel of Christ, in which he himself lived by faith. His method in preaching was, first to apply to the understanding and judgment, laboring to enlighten and convince them; and then to persuade the will, engage the affections, and excite the active powers of the soul. His language was with propriety and purity, but with a noble negligence; nothing ornamented. Florid diction was not the beauty he preferred. His talents were of a superior kind. He regarded thought, rather than words. Precision of sentiment and clearness of expression are the principal characteristics of his pulpit style. Neither quick nor slow of speech, there was a certain pathos in his utterance, and such skill of address, as seldom failed to draw the attention, warm the hearts, and stimulate the consciences of the auditory. He studied to show himself approved unto God, a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. And he was one who gave himself to prayer, as well as to the ministry of the word. Agreeably it pleased God to put great honor upon him, by crowning his labors with surprising successes, in the conversion of sinners, and the edification of saints, to the advancement of the kingdom and glory of God our Savior Jesus Christ.
As a writer, Mr. Edwards distinguished himself in controversy, to which he was called on a variety of occasions. Here the superiority of his genius eminently appeared. He knew to arrange his ideas in an exact method; and close application of mind, with the uncommon strength of his intellectual powers, enabled him in a manner to exhaust every subject he took under consideration. He diligently employed the latter part of his life in defending Christianity, both in its doctrinal and practical views, against the errors of the times. Besides his excellent writings in behalf of the power of godliness, which some years ago happily prevailed in many parts of the British America, he made a noble stand against enthusiasm and false religion, when it threatened to spread, by his incomparable treatise upon religious affections. And more lately in opposition to Pelagian, Arminian, and other false principles, he published a very elaborate Treatise upon the Liberty of the Human Will. A volume, that has procured him the elogy of eminent divines abroad. Several professors of divinity in the Dutch universities very lately sent him their thanks for the assistance he had given them in their inquiry into some controverted points; having carried his own further than any author they had ever seen. And now this volume of his, on the great Christian doctrine of original sin, is presented to public view; which, though studiously adapted to lower capacities, yet carries in it the evident traces of his great genius, and seems with superior force of argument to have entirely baffled the opponent.
His writings will perpetuate his memory, and make his name blossom in the dust. The blessing of heaven attending the perusal of the, will make them effectually conducive to the glory of God, and the good of souls; which will brighten the author’s crown, and add to his joy, in the day of future retribution.
THE AUTHOR’S PREFACE
THE following discourse in intended, not merely as an answer to any particular book written against the doctrine of Original Sin, but as a general defense of that great important doctrine. Nevertheless, I have in this defense taken notice of the main things said against this doctrine, by such of the more noted opposers of it as I have had opportunity to read: particularly those two late writers, Dr. Turnbull and Dr. Taylor, of Norwich; but especially the latter, in what he has published in those two books of his, the first entitled, The Scripture-Doctrine of Original Sin proposed to free and candid Examination; the other, his Key to the Apostolic Writings, with a Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle to the Romans. I have closely attended to Dr. Taylor’s Piece on Original Sin, in all its parts, and have endeavored that no one thing there said, of any consequence in this controversy, should pass unnoticed, or that anything which has the appearance of an argument, in opposition to this doctrine, should be left unanswered. I look on the doctrine as of great importance; which everybody will doubtless own it is, if it be true. For, if the case be such indeed, that all mankind are by nature in a state of total ruin, both with respect to the moral evil of which they are the subjects, and the afflictive evil to which they are exposed, the one as the consequence and punishment of the other; then, doubtless, the great salvation by CHRIST stands in direct relation to this ruin, as the remedy to the disease; and the whole gospel, or doctrine of salvation, must suppose it; and all real belief, or true notion of that gospel, must be built upon it. Therefore, as I think the doctrine is most certainly both true and important, I hope, my attempting a vindication of it, will be candidly interpreted; and that what I have done towards its defense, will be impartially considered, by all that will give themselves the trouble to read the ensuing discourse; in which it is designed to examine everything material throughout the Doctor’s whole book, and many things in that other book, containing his Key and Exposition on Romans; as also many things written in opposition to this doctrine by some other modern authors. Moreover, my discourse being not only intended for an answer to Dr. Taylor, and other opposers of the doctrine of original sin, but for a general defense of that doctrine; producing the evidence of the truth of the doctrine, as well as answering objections made against it; I hope this attempt of mine will not be thought needless, nor be altogether useless, notwithstanding other publications on the subject.
I would also hope, that the extensiveness of the plan of the following treatise will excuse the length of it. And that when it is considered, how much was absolutely requisite to the full executing of a design formed on such a plan; how much has been written against the doctrine of original sin, and with what plausibility; how strong the prejudices of many are in favor of what is said in opposition to this doctrine — and that it cannot be expected, anything short of a full consideration of almost every argument advanced by the main opposers, especially by this late and specious writer, Dr. Taylor, will satisfy many readers — how much must unavoidably be said in order to a full handling of the arguments in defense of the doctrine; and how important the doctrine must be, if true; I trust, the length of the following discourse will not be thought to exceed what the case really required. However, this must be left to the judgment of the intelligent and candid reader.
Stockbridge, May 26, 1757.
WHEREIN ARE CONSIDERED SOME EVIDENCES OF ORIGINAL SIN FROM FACTS AND EVENTS, AS FOUNDED BY OBSERVATION AND EXPERIENCE, TOGETHER WITH REPRESENTATIONS AND TESTIMONIES OF HOLY SCRIPTURE, AND THE CONFESSION AND ASSERTION OF OPPOSERS
THE EVIDENCE OF ORIGINAL SIN FROM WHAT APPEARS IN FACT OF THE SINFULNESS OF MANKIND
All mankind constantly, in all ages, without fail in any one instance, run into that moral evil, which is in effect their own utter and eternal perdition in a total privation of GOD’s favor, and suffering of his vengeance and wrath.
BY Original Sin as the phrase has been most commonly used by divines, is meant the innate sinful depravity of the heart. But yet when the doctrine of original sin is spoken of, it is vulgarly understood in that latitude, which includes not only the depravity of nature, but the imputation of Adam’s first sin; or, in other words, the liableness or exposedness of Adam’s posterity, in the divine judgment, to partake of the punishment of that sin. So far as I know, most of those who have held one of these, have maintained the other; and most of those who have opposed one, have opposed the other: both are opposed by the Author chiefly attended to in the following discourse, in his book against original sin: And it may perhaps appear in our future consideration of the subject, that they are closely connected; that the arguments which prove the one establish the other, and that there are no more difficulties attending the allowing of one, than the other.
I shall in the first place, consider this doctrine more specially with regard to the corruption of nature; and as we treat of this the other will naturally come into consideration, in the prosecution of the discourse, as connected with it. As all moral qualities, all principles either of virtue or vice, lie in the disposition of the heart, I shall consider whether we have any evidence that the heart of man is naturally of a corrupt and evil disposition. This is strenuously denied by many late writers who are enemies to the doctrine of original sin; and particularly by Dr. Taylor.
The way we come by the idea of any such thing as disposition or tendency is by observing what is constant or general in event; especially under a great variety of circumstances; and above all, when the effect or event continues the same through great and various opposition, much and manifold force and means used to the contrary not prevailing to hinder the effect. I do not know that such a prevalence of effects is denied to be an evidence of prevailing tendency in causes and agents; or that it is expressly denied by the opposers of the doctrine of original sin, that if, in the course of events, it universally or generally proves that mankind are actually corrupt, this would be an evidence of a prior corrupt propensity in the world of mankind; whatever may be said by some, which, if taken with its plain consequences, may seem to imply a denial of this, which may be considered afterwards. But by many the fact is denied; that is, it is denied, that corruption and moral evil are commonly prevalent in the world: on the contrary, it is insisted on, that good preponderates, and that virtue has the ascendant.
To this purpose, Dr. Turnbull says, [Moral Philos. p. 289, 290] “With regard to the prevalence of vice in the world, men are apt to let their imagination run out upon all the robberies, piracies, murders, perjuries, frauds, massacres, assassinations they have either heard of, or read in history; thence concluding all mankind to be very wicked. As if a court of justice were a proper place to make an estimate of the morals of mankind, or an hospital of the healthfulness of a climate. But ought they not to consider that the number of honest citizens and farmers far surpasses that of all sorts of criminals in any state, and that the innocent and kind actions of even criminals themselves surpass their crimes in numbers; that it is the rarity of crimes in comparison of innocent or good actions, which engages our attention to them and makes them to be recorded in history, while honest, generous domestic actions are overlooked only because they are so common? as one great danger, or one month’s sickness shall become a frequently repeated story during a long life of health and safety. — Let not the vices of mankind be multiplied or magnified. Let us make a fair estimate of human life, and set over against the shocking, the astonishing instances of barbarity and wickedness that have been perpetrated in any age, not only the exceeding generous and brave actions with which history shines, but the prevailing innocence, good-nature, industry, felicity, and cheerfulness of the greater part of mankind at all times; and we shall not find reason to cry out, as objectors against providence do on this occasion, that all men are vastly corrupt and that there is hardly any such thing as virtue in the world. Upon a fair computation the fact does indeed come out, that very great villanies have been very uncommon in all ages and looked upon as monstrous; so general is the sense and esteem of virtue.” — It seems to be with a like view that Dr. Taylor says, “We must not take the measure of our health and enjoyments from a lazar-house, nor of our understanding from Bedlam, nor of our morals from a jail.” (p. 77. S)
With respect to the propriety and pertinence of such a representation of things, and its force as to the consequence designed, I hope we shall be better able to judge, and in some measure to determine whether the natural disposition of the hearts of mankind be corrupt or not, when the things which follow have been considered. But for the greater clearness, it may be proper here to premise one consideration that is of great importance in this controversy, and is very much overlooked by the opposers of the doctrine of original sin in their disputing against it.
That it is to be looked upon as the true tendency of the innate disposition of man’s heart, which appears to be its tendency, when we consider things as they are in themselves, or in their own nature, without the interposition of divine grace. — Thus, that state of man’s nature, that disposition of the mind, is to be looked upon as evil and pernicious, which, as it is in itself, tends to extremely pernicious consequences, and would certainly end therein, were it not that the free mercy and kindness of God interposes to prevent that issue. It would be very strange if any should argue that there is no evil tendency in the case, because the mere favor and compassion of the Most High may step in and oppose the tendency and prevent the sad effect. Particularly, if there be anything in the nature of man whereby he has an universal unfailing tendency to that moral evil which, according to the real nature and true demerit of things as they are in themselves, implies his utter ruin, that must be looked upon as an evil tendency or propensity; however divine grace may interpose to save him from deserved ruin, and to overrule things to an issue contrary to that which they tend to of themselves. Grace is sovereign, exercised according to the good pleasure of God, bringing good out of evil. The effect of it belongs not to the nature of things themselves, that otherwise have an ill tendency, any more than the remedy belongs to the disease; but is something altogether independent on it, introduced to oppose the natural tendency, and reverse the course of things. But the event to which things tend, according to their own demerit, and according to divine justice, is the event to which they tend in their own nature; as Dr. T.’s own words fully imply (Pref to. Par. on Rom. p. 131), “God alone (says he) can declare whether he will pardon or punish the ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind, which is in its own nature punishable.” Nothing is more precisely according to the truth of things than divine justice: it weighs things in an even balance; it views and estimates things no otherwise than they are truly in their own nature. Therefore undoubtedly that which implies a tendency to ruin, according to the estimate of divine justice, does indeed imply such a tendency in its own nature.
And then it must be remembered, that it is a moral depravity we are speaking of; and therefore when we are considering whether such depravity do not appear by a tendency to a bad effect or issue, it is a moral tendency to such an issue that is the thing to be taken into the account. A moral tendency or influence is by desert. Then may it be said man’s nature or state is attended with a pernicious or destructive tendency in a moral sense, when it tends to that which deserves misery and destruction. And therefore it equally shows the moral depravity of the nature of mankind in their present state, whether that nature be universally attended with an effectual tendency to destructive vengeance actually executed, or to their deserving misery and ruin, or their just exposedness to destruction, however that fatal consequence may be prevented by grace, or whatever the actual event be.
One thing more is to be observed here, that the topic mainly insisted on by the opposers of the doctrine of original sin, is the justice of God; both in their objections against the imputation of Adam’s sin, and also against its being so ordered, that men should come into the world with a corrupt and ruined nature, without having merited the displeasure of their Creator by any personal fault. But the latter is not repugnant to God’s justice, if men actually are born into the world with a tendency to sin, and to misery and ruin for their sin, which actually will be the consequence unless mere grace steps in and prevents it. If this be allowed, the argument from justice is given up: for it is to suppose, that their liableness to misery and ruin comes in a way of justice; otherwise there would be no need of the interposition of divine grace to save them. Justice alone would be sufficient security, if exercised, without grace. It is all one in this dispute about what is just and righteous, whether men are born in a miserable state by a tendency to ruin which actually follows, and that justly; or whether they are born in such a state as tends to a desert of ruin, which might justly follow, and would actually follow did not grace prevent. For the controversy is not what grace will do, but what justice might do.
I have been the more particular on this head, because it enervates many of the reasonings and conclusions by which Dr. T. makes out his scheme; in which he argues from that state which mankind are in by divine grace, yea, which he himself supposes to be by divine grace; and yet not making any allowance for this, he from hence draws conclusions against what others suppose of the deplorable and ruined state mankind are in by the fall. Some of his arguments and conclusions to this effect, in order to be made good, must depend on such a supposition as this; — that God’s dispensations of grace, are rectifications or amendments of his foregoing constitutions and proceedings, which were merely legal; as though the dispensations of grace, which succeed those of mere law, implied an acknowledgment, that the preceding legal constitution would be unjust, if left as it was, or at least very hard dealing with mankind; and that the other were of the nature of a satisfaction to his creatures, for former injuries, or hard treatment. So that, put together the injury with the satisfaction, the legal and injurious dispensation, taken with the following good dispensation, which our author calls grace, and the unfairness or improper severity of the former, amended by the goodness of the latter, both together made up one righteous dispensation.
The reader is desired to bear in mind what I have said concerning the interposition of divine grace not altering the nature of things, as they are in themselves. Accordingly, when I speak of such and such an evil tendency of things, belonging to the present nature and state of mankind, understand me to mean their tendency as they are in themselves, abstracted from any consideration of that remedy the sovereign and infinite grace of God has provided. — Having promised these things, I now assert, that mankind are all naturally in such a state, as is attended, without fail, with this consequence or issue; that THEY UNIVERSALLY RUN THEMSELVES INTO THAT WHICH IS, IN EFFECT, THEIR OWN UTTER ETERNAL PERDITION, as being finally accursed of God, and the subjects of his remediless wrath through sin. — From which I infer, that the natural state of the mind of man is attended with a propensity of nature, which is prevalent and effectual, to such an issue; and that therefore their nature is corrupt and depraved with a moral depravity, that amounts to and implies their utter undoing.
Here I would first consider the truth of the proposition; and then would show the certainty of the consequences which I infer from it. If both can be clearly and certainly proved, then I trust, none will deny but that the doctrine of original depravity is evident, and so the falseness of Dr. T.’s scheme demonstrated; the greatest part of whose book, called the Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin, etc. Is against the doctrine of innate depravity. In p. 107.S. he speaks of the conveyance of a corrupt and sinful nature to Adam’s posterity as the grand point to be proved by the maintainers of the doctrine of original sin.
In order to demonstrate what is asserted in the proposition laid down, there is need only that these two things should be made manifest: one is this fact, that all mankind come into the world in such a state, as without fail comes to this issue, namely, the universal commission of sin; or that everyone who comes to act in the world as a moral agent, is, in a greater or less degree, guilty of sin. The other is, that all sin deserves and exposes to utter and eternal destruction, unto God’s wrath and curse; and would end in it, were it not for the interposition of divine grace to prevent the effect. Both which can be abundantly demonstrated to be agreeable to the Word of God, and to Dr. T.’s own doctrine.
That everyone of mankind, at least such as are capable of acting as moral agents, are guilty of sin (not now taking it for granted that they come guilty into the world), is most clearly and abundantly evident from the Holy Scriptures: 1 Kin. 8:46, “If any man sin against thee; for there is no man that sinneth not.” Ecc. 7:20, “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Job 9:2, 3, “I know it is so of a truth (i.e. as Bildad had just before said, that God would not cast away a perfect man, etc. But how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.” To the like purpose, Psa. 143:2, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” So the words of the apostle (in which he has apparent reference to those of the Psalmist), Rom. 3:19, 20, “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” So, Gal. 2:16; 1 John 1:7-10, “If we walk in the light, the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a lair, and his word is not in us.” In this and innumerable other places, confession and repentance of sin are spoken of as duties proper for ALL; as also prayer to God for pardon of sin; also forgiveness of those that injure us, from that motive, that we hope to be forgiven of God. Universal guilty of sin might also be demonstrated from the appointment, and the declared use and end of the ancient sacrifices; and also from the ransom, which everyone that was numbered in Israel, was directed to pay, to make atonement for his soul. Exo. 30:11-16. All are represented, not only as being sinful, but as having great and manifold iniquity. Job 9:2, 3; Jam. 3:1, 2.
There are many scriptures which both declare the universal sinfulness of mankind, and also that all sin deserves and justly exposes to everlasting destruction, under the wrath and curse of God; and so demonstrate both parts of the proposition I have laid down. To which purpose that passage in Gal. 3:10 is exceeding full: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” How manifestly is it implied in the apostle’s meaning here, that there is no man but what fails in some instances of doing all things that are written in the book of the law, and therefore as many as have their dependence on their fulfilling the law, are under that curse which is pronounced on them that fail of it! And hence the apostle infers in the next verse: “that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God:” as he had said before in preceding chapter, verse 16: “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” The apostle shows us he understands, that by this place which he cites from Deuteronomy, “the Scripture hath concluded, or shut up, all under sin.” Gal. 3:22. So that here we are plainly taught, both that everyone of mankind is a sinner, and that every sinner is under the curse of God.
To the like purpose is Rom. 4:14, also 2 Cor. 3:6, 7, 9; where the law is called “the letter that kills, the ministration of death, and the ministration of condemnation.” The wrath, condemnation, and death, which is threatened in the law to all its transgressors, is final perdition, the second death, eternal ruin; as is very plain, and indeed is confessed. And this punishment which the law threatens for every sin, is a just punishment; being what every sin truly deserves; God’s law being a righteous law, and the sentence of it a righteous sentence.
All these things are what Dr. Taylor himself confesses and asserts. He says, that the law of God requires perfect obedience (Note on Rom. 7:6, p.308), “God can never require imperfect obedience, or by his holy law allow us to be guilty of any one sin, how small soever. And if the law, as a rule of duty, were in any respect abolished, then we might in some respects transgress the law, and yet not be guilty of sin. The moral law, or law of nature, is the truth, everlasting, unchangeable; and therefore, as such, can never be abrogated. On the contrary, our Lord Jesus Christ has promulgated it anew under the gospel, fuller and clearer than it was in the mosaical constitution, or anywhere else: — having added to its precepts the sanction of his own divine authority.” And many things which he says imply, that all mankind do in some degree transgress the Law. In p. 228, speaking of what may be gathered from Rom. 7 and 8, he says, “We are very apt, in a world full of temptation, to be deceived, and drawn into sin by bodily appetites, etc. And the case of those who are under a law threatening death to every sin, must be quite deplorable, if they have no relief from the mercy of the lawgiver.”
But this is very fully declared in what he says in his note on Rom. 5:20, p. 297. His words are as follows: “Indeed, as a rule of action prescribing our duty, it (the Law) always was and always must be a rule ordained for obtaining life; but not as a rule of justification, not as it subjects to death for every transgression. For if it COULD in its utmost rigor have given us life, then, as the apostle argues, it would have been against the promises of God. For if there had been a law, in the strict and rigorous sense of law, WHICH COULD HAVE MADE US LIFE, verily justification should have been by the law. But he supposes, no such law was ever given: and therefore there is need and room enough for the promises of grace; or as he argues, Gal. 2:21; it would have frustrated, or rendered useless, the grace of God. For if justification came by the law, then truly Christ is dead in vain, then he died to accomplish what was, or MIGHT HAVE BEEN, EFFECTED by law itself without his death. Certainly the law was not brought in among the Jews to be a rule of justification, or to recover them out of a state of death, and to procure life by their sinless obedience to it: for in this, as well as in another respect, it was WEAK; not in itself, but through the WEAKNESS of our flesh, Rom. 8:3. The law, I conceive, is not a dispensation suitable to the infirmity of the human nature in our present state; or it doth not seem congruous to the goodness of God to afford us no other way of salvation, but by LAW; WHICH IF WE ONCE TRANSGRESS, WE ARE RUINED FOR EVER. FOR WHO THEN, FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD, COULD BE SAVED?” How clear and express are these things, that no one of mankind, from the beginning of the world, can ever be justified by the law, because everyone transgresses it!
And here also we see, Dr. T. declares, that by the law men are sentenced to everlasting ruin for one transgression. To the like purpose he often expresses himself. So p. 207. “The law requireth the most extensive obedience, discovering sin in all its branches. — It gives sin a deadly force, subjecting every transgression to the penalty of death; and yet supplieth neither help nor hope to the sinner, but leaving him under the power of sin and sentence of death.” In p. 213, he speaks of the law as extending to lust and irregular desires, and to every branch and principle of sin; and even to its latent principles, and minutest branches; again (Note on Rom. 7:6, p. 308). To every sin, how small soever. And when he speaks of the law subjecting every transgression to the penalty of death, he means eternal death, as he from time to time explains the matter. In p. 212, he speaks of the law in the condemning power of it, as binding us in everlasting chains. In p. 120 S. he says, that death which is the wages of sin, is the second death; and this, p. 78, he explains of final perdition. In his Key, p. 107. § 296, he says, “The curse of the law subjected men for every transgression to eternal death.” So in Note on Rom. 5:20, p. 291: “The law of Moses subjected those who were under it to death, meaning by death, eternal death.” These are his words.
He also supposes, that this sentence of the law, thus subjecting men for every, even the least, sin, and every minutest branch and latent principle of sin, to so dreadful a punishment, is just and righteous, agreeable to truth and the nature of things, or to the natural and proper demerits of sin. In this he is very full. Thus in p. 186 P: “It was sin (says he) which subjected us to death by the law, JUSTLY threatening sin with death. Which law was given us, that sin might appear; might be set forth IN ITS PROPER COLOURS; when we saw it subjected us to death by a law PERFECTLY HOLY, JUST and GOOD; that sin by the commandment, by the law, might be represented WHAT IT REALLY IS, an exceeding great and deadly evil.” So in note on Rom. 5:20, p. 299: “The law or ministration of death, as it subject to death for every transgression, is still of use to show the NATURAL AND PROPER DEMERIT OF SIN.” Ibid. p. 292: “The language of the law, dying thou shalt die, is to be understood of the demerit of the transgression, that which it deserves.” Ibid. p. 298: “The law was added, saith Mr. Locke on the place, because the Israelites, the posterity of Abraham, were transgressors as well as other men, to show them their sins, and the punishment and death, which in STRICT JUSTICE they incurred by them. And this appears to be a true comment on Rom. 7:13. — Sin, by virtue of the law, subjected you to death for this end, that sin, working death in us, by that which is holy, just, and good, PERFECTLY CONSONANT TO EVERLASTING TRUTH AND RIGHTEOUSNESS. — Consequently every sin is in strict justice deserving of wrath and punishment; and the law in its rigor was given to the Jews, to set home this awful truth upon their consciences, to show them the evil and pernicious NATURE of sin; and that being conscious they had broke the law of God, this might convince them of the great need they had of the FAVOUR of the lawgiver, and oblige them, by faith in his GOODNESS, to fly to his MERCY, for pardon and salvation.”
If the law be holy, just, and good, a constitution perfectly agreeable to God’s holiness, justice, and goodness; then he might have put it exactly in execution, agreeably to all these his perfections. Our author himself says, p. 133.S: “How that constitution, which establishes a law, the making of which is inconsistent with the justice and goodness of God, and the executing of it inconsistent with his holiness, can be a righteous constitution, I confess, is quite beyond my comprehension.”
Now the reader is left to judge, whether it be not most plainly and fully agreeable to Dr. T’s own doctrine, that there never was any one person from the beginning of the world, who came to act in the world as a moral agent, and that it is not to be hoped there ever will be any, but what is a sinner or transgressor of the law of God; and that therefore this proves to be the issue and event of things, with respect to all mankind in all ages, that, by the natural and proper demerit of their own sinfulness, and in the judgment of the law of God, which is perfectly consonant to truth, and exhibits things in their true colors, they are the proper subjects of the curse of God, eternal death, and everlasting ruin; which must be the actual consequence, unless the grace or favor of the lawgiver interpose, and mercy prevail for their pardon and salvation. The reader has seen also how agreeable this is to the doctrine of the Holy Scripture. If so, and if the interposition of divine grace alters not the nature of things as they are in themselves, and that it does not in the least affect the state of the controversy we are upon — concerning the true nature and tendency of the state in which mankind come into the world — whether grace prevents the fatal effect or no; I trust, none will deny, that the proposition laid down, is fully proved, as agreeable to the Word of God, and Dr. T’s own words; viz. That mankind are all naturally in such a state, as is attended, without fail, with this consequence or issue, that they universally are the subjects of that guilt and sinfulness, which is, in effect, their utter and eternal ruin, being cast wholly out of the favor of God, and subjected to his everlasting wrath and curse.
PART I, CHAP. I
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 even, 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 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 argues 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 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.
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. 5:20, 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 anything 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, 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 states 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, etc. 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 everyone 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, etc. 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 connection 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? etc. — 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.
PART I, CHAP. I
That propensity, which has been proved to be in the nature of all mankind, must be a very evil, depraved, and pernicious propensity; making it manifest, that the soul of man, as it is by nature, is in a corrupt, fallen, and ruined state; which is the other part of the consequence, drawn from the proposition laid down in the first section.
THE question to be considered, in order to determine whether man’s nature be depraved and ruined, is not, Whether he is inclined to perform as many good deeds as bad ones? But, to which of these two he preponderates, in the frame of his heart, and the state of his nature, a state of innocence and righteousness, and favor with God; or a state of sin, guiltiness, and abhorrence in the sight of God? — Persevering sinless righteousness, or else the guilt of sin, is the alternative, on the decision of which depends — according to the nature and truth of things, as they are in themselves, and according to the rule of right, and of perfect justice — man being approved and accepted of his Maker and eternally blessed as good; or his being rejected, and cursed as bad. And therefore the determination of the tendency of man’s heart and nature, with respect to these terms, is that which is to be looked at, in order to determine whether his nature is good or evil, pure or corrupt, sound or ruined. If such be man’s nature, and the state of his heart, that he has an infallibly effectual propensity to the latter of those terms; then it is wholly impertinent to talk of the innocent and kind actions, even of criminals themselves, surpassing their crimes in numbers, and of the prevailing innocence, good nature, industry, felicity, and cheerfulness of the greater part of mankind. Let never so many thousands or millions of acts of honesty, good nature, etc. Be supposed; yet, by the supposition, there is an unfailing propensity to such moral evil, as in its dreadful consequences infinitely outweighs all effects or consequences of any supposed good. Surely that tendency, which, in effect, is an infallible tendency to eternal destruction, is an infinitely dreadful and pernicious tendency: and that nature and frame of mind, which implies such a tendency, must be an infinitely dreadful and pernicious frame of mind. It would be much more absurd to suppose, that such a state of nature is not bad, under a notion of men doing more honest and kind things than evil ones; than to say, the state of that ship is good, for crossing the Atlantic ocean, though such as cannot hold together through the voyage, but will infallibly founder and sink, under a notion that it may probably go great part of the way before it sinks, or that it will proceed and sail above water more hours than it will be in sinking: or, to pronounce that road a good road to go to such a place, the greater part of which is plain and safe, though some parts of it are dangerous, and certainly fatal, to them that travel in it; or to call that a good propensity; which is an inflexible inclination to travel in such a way.
A propensity to that sin which brings God’s eternal wrath and curse (which has been proved to belong to the nature of man) is evil, not only as it is calamitous and sorrowful, ending in great natural evil; but as it is odious and detestable; for by the supposition, it tends to that moral evil, by which the subject becomes odious in the sight of God, and liable, as such, to be condemned, and utterly rejected, and cursed by him. This also makes it evident, that the state which it has been proved mankind are in, is a corrupt state in a moral sense, that it is inconsistent with the fulfillment of the law of God, which is the rule of moral rectitude and goodness. That tendency, which is opposite to what the moral law requires, and prone to that which the moral law utterly forbids, and eternally condemns, is doubtless a corrupt tendency, in a moral sense.
So that this depravity is both odious, and also pernicious, fatal and destructive, in the highest sense; as inevitably tending to that which implies man’s eternal ruin. It shows, that man, as he is by nature, is in a deplorable state, in the highest sense. And this proves that men do not come into the world perfectly innocent in the sight of God, and without any just exposedness to his displeasure. For the being by nature in a lost and ruined state, in the highest sense, is not consistent with being by nature in a state of favor with God.
But if any should still insist on a notion of men’s good deeds exceeding their bad ones, and that, seeing the good more than countervails the evil, they cannot be properly denominated evil; all persons and things being most properly denominated from that which prevails, and has the ascendant in them; I would say further, That if there is in man’s nature a tendency to guilt and ill desert, in a vast overbalance to virtue and merit; or a propensity to sin, the demerit of which is so great, that the value and merit of all the virtuous acts that ever he performs, are as nothing to it; then truly the nature of man may be said to be corrupt and evil.
That this is the true case, may be demonstrated by what is evident of the infinite heinousness of sin against God, from the nature of things. The heinousness of this must rise in some proportion to the obligation we are under to regard the Divine Being; and that must be in some proportion to his worthiness of regard; which doubtless is infinitely beyond the worthiness of any of our fellow creatures. But the merit of our respect or obedience to God is not infinite. The merit of respect to any being does not increase, but is rather diminished, in proportion to the obligations we are under in strict justice to pay him that respect. There is no great merit in paying a debt we owe, and by the highest possible obligations in strict justice and obliged to pay; but there is great demerit in refusing to pay it. That on such accounts as these, there is an infinite demerit in all sin against God, which must therefore immensely outweigh all the merit which can be supposed to be in our virtue, I think, is capable of full demonstration; and that the futility of the objections which some have made against the argument, might most plainly be demonstrated. But I shall omit a particular consideration of the evidence of this matter from the nature of things, as I study brevity, and lest any should cry out, metaphysics! As the manner of some is, when any argument is handled against a tenet they are fond of, with a close and exact consideration of the nature of things. And this is not so necessary in the present case, inasmuch as the point asserted — that he who commits any one sin, has guilt and ill desert so great, that the value and merit of all the good which it is possible he should do in his whole life, is as nothing to it — is not only evident by metaphysics, but is plainly demonstrated by what has been shown to be fact, with respect to God’s own constitutions and dispensations towards mankind. Thus, whatever acts of virtue and obedience a man performs, yet if he trespasses in one point, is guilty of any the least sin, he — according to the law of God, and so according to the exact truth of things, and the proper demerit of sin — is exposed to be wholly cast out of favor with God, and subjected to his curse, to be utterly and eternally destroyed. This has been proved; and shown to be the doctrine which Dr. T. abundantly teaches.
But how can it be agreeable to the nature of things, and exactly consonant to everlasting truth and righteousness, thus to deal with a creature for the least sinful act, though he should perform ever so many thousands of honest and virtuous acts, to countervail the evil of that sin? Or how can it be agreeable to the exact truth and real demerit of things, thus wholly to cast off the deficient creature, without any regard to the merit of all his good deeds, unless that be in truth the case, that the value and merit of all those good actions, bear no proportion to the heinousness of the least sin? If it were not so, one would think, that however the offending person might have some proper punishment, yet seeing there is so much virtue of lay in the balance against the guilt, it would be agreeable to the nature of things, that he should find some favor, and not be altogether rejected, and made the subject of perfect and eternal destruction; and thus no account at all be made of his virtue, so much as to procure him the least relief or hope. How can such a constitution represent sin in its proper colors, and according to its true nature and desert (as Dr. T. says it does), unless this be its true nature, that it is so bad, that even in the least instance it perfectly swallows up all the value of the sinner’s supposed good deeds, let them be ever so many. So that this matter is not left to our metaphysics, or philosophy; the great lawgiver, and infallible judge of the universe, has clearly decided it, in the revelation he has made of what is agreeable to exact truth, justice, and the nature of things, in his revealed law, or rule of righteousness.
He that in any respect or degree is a transgressor of God’s law, is a wicked man, yea, wholly wicked in the eye of the law; all his goodness being esteemed nothing, having no account made of it, when taken together with his wickedness. And therefore, without any regard to his righteousness, he is, by the sentence of the law, and so by the voice of truth and justice, to be treated as worthy to be rejected, abhorred, and cursed forever; and must be so, unless grace interpose, to cover his transgression. But men are really, in themselves, what they are in the eye of the law, and by the voice of strict equity and justice; however they may be looked upon, and treated by infinite and unmerited mercy.
So that, on the whole, it appears, all mankind have an infallibly effectual propensity to that moral evil, which infinitely outweighs the value of all the good that can be in them; and have such a disposition of heart, that the certain consequence of it is, their being, in the eye of perfect truth and righteousness, wicked men. And I leave all to judge, whether such a disposition be not in the eye of truth a depraved disposition?
Agreeable to these things, the Scripture represents all mankind, not only as having guilt, but immense guilt, which they can have no merit or worthiness to countervail. Such is the representation we have in Mat. 18:21, to the end. There, on Peter’s inquiring, How often his brother should trespass against him, and he forgive him, whether until seven times? Christ replies, I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven; apparently meaning, that he should esteem no number of offenses too many, and no degree of injury it is possible our neighbor should be guilty of towards us too great, to be forgiven. For which this reason is given in the parable following, that if ever we obtain forgiveness and favor with God, he must pardon that guilt and injury towards his majesty, which is immensely greater than the greatest injuries that ever men are guilty of one towards another, yea, than the sum of all their injuries put together, let them be ever so many, and ever so great; so that the latter would be but as an hundred pence to ten thousand talents, which immense debt we owe to God, and have nothing to pay; which implies, that we have no merit to countervail any part of our guilt. And this must be, because if all that may be called virtue in us, be compared with our ill desert, it is in the sight of God as nothing to it. The parable is not to represent Peter’s case in particular, but that of all who then were, or ever should be, Christ’s disciples; as appears by the conclusion of the discourse, verse 35, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do, if ye, from your hearts, forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
Therefore how absurd must it be for Christians to object, against the depravity of man’s nature, a greater number of innocent and kind actions, than of crimes; and to talk of a prevailing innocence, good nature, industry, and cheerfulness of the greater part of mankind! Infinitely more absurd, than it would be to insist, that the domestic of a prince was not a bad servant, because though sometimes he contemned and affronted his master to a great degree, yet he did not spit in his master’s face so often as he performed acts of service. More absurd, than it would be to affirm, that his spouse was a good wife to him, because, although she committed adultery, and that with the slaves and scoundrels sometimes, yet she did not do this so often as she did the duties of a wife. These notions would be absurd, because the crimes are too heinous to be atoned for, by many honest actions of the servant or spouse of the prince; there being a vast disproportion between the merit of the one, and the ill desert of the other: but infinitely less, than that between the demerit of our offenses against God, and the value of our acts of obedience.
Thus I have gone through with my first argument; having shown the evidence of the truth of the proposition laid down at first, and proved its consequence. But there are many other things, that manifest a very corrupt tendency or disposition in man’s nature, in his present state, which I shall take notice of in the following sections.
PART I, CHAP. I
The depravity of nature appears by a propensity in all to sin immediately, as soon as they are capable of it, and to sin continually and progressively; and also by the remains of sin in the best of men.
THE great depravity of man’s nature appears, not only in that they universally commit sin, who spend any long time in the world; but in that men are naturally so prone to sin, that none ever fail of immediately transgressing God’s law, and so of bringing infinite guilt on themselves, and exposing themselves to eternal perdition, as soon as they are capable of it.
The Scriptures are so very express upon it, that all mankind, all flesh, all the world, every man living, are guilty of sin; that it must at least be understood, everyone capable of active duty to God, or of sin against him. There are multitudes in the world, who have but very lately begun to exert their faculties, as moral agents; and so have but just entered on their state trial, as acting for themselves: many thousands constantly, who have not lived one month, or week, or day, since they have arrived at any period that can be assigned (for the commencement of their agency) from their birth to twenty years of age. Now — if there be not a strong propensity in men’s nature to sin, that should, as it were, hurry them on to speedy transgression, and if they have no guilt previous to their personal sinning — what should hinder, but that there might always be a great number, who have hitherto kept themselves free from sin, and have perfectly obeyed God’s law, and so are righteous in his sight, with the righteousness of the law? And who, if they should be called out of the world without any longer trial, as great numbers die at all periods of life, would be justified by the deeds of the law? And how then can it be true, that in God’s sight no man living can be justified, that no man can be just with God, and that by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified, because by the law is the knowledge of sin? And what should hinder but there may always be many in the world — who are capable subjects of instruction and counsel, and of prayer to God — for whom the calls of God’s Word to repentance, to seek pardon through the blood of Christ, and to forgive others their injuries because they need that God should forgive them, would not be proper; and for whom the Lord’s prayer is not suitable, wherein Christ directs all his followers to pray, that God would forgive their sins, as they forgive those that trespass against them?
If there are any in the world — though but lately become capable of acting for themselves, as subjects of God’s law — who are perfectly free from sin; such are most likely to be found among the children of Christian parents, who give them the most pious education, and set them the best examples. And therefore, such would never be so likely to be found in any part or age of the world, as in the primitive Christian church, in the first age of Christianity (the age of the church’s greatest purity), so long after Christianity had been established, that there had been time for great numbers of children to be born, and educated by those primitive Christians. It was in that age, and in such a part of that age, that the apostle John wrote his first epistle to the Christians. But if there was then a number of them come to understanding, who were perfectly free from sin, why should he write as he does? 1 John 1:8, 9, 10: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and the truth is not in us.”
Again, the reality and greatness of the depravity of man’s nature appears in this, That he has a prevailing propensity to be continually sinning against God. What has been observed above, will clearly prove this. That same disposition of nature, which is an effectual propensity to immediate sin, amounts to a propensity to continual sin. For a being prone to continual sinning, is nothing but a proneness to immediate sin continued. Such appears to be the tendency of nature to sin, that as soon as ever man is capable, it causes him immediately to sin, without suffering any considerable time to pass without sin. And therefore, if the same propensity be continued undiminished, there will be an equal tendency to immediate sinning again, without any considerable time passing. And so the same will always be a disposition still immediately to sin, with as little time passing without sin afterwards, as at first. The only reason that can be given why sinning must be immediate at first, is that the disposition is so great, that it will not suffer any considerable time to pass without sin: and therefore the same disposition being continued in equal degree, without some new restraint, or contrary tendency, it will still equally tend to the same effect. And though it is true, the propensity may be diminished, or have restraints laid upon it, by the gracious disposals of providence, or the merciful influences of God’s Spirit; yet this is not owing to nature. That strong propensity of nature, by which men are so prone to immediate sinning at first, has no tendency in itself to a diminution; but rather to an increase; as the continued exercise of an evil disposition, in repeated actual sins, tends to strengthen it more and more: agreeable to that observation of Dr. T.’s p. 228: “We are apt to be drawn into sin by bodily appetites, and when once we are under the government of these appetites, it is at least exceeding difficult, if not impracticable, to recover ourselves, by the mere force of reason.” The increase of strength of disposition in such a case, is as in a falling body, the strength of its tendency to descend is continually increased, so long as its motion is continued. Not only a constant commission of sin, but a constant increase in the habits and practice of wickedness, is the true tendency of man’s depraved nature, if unrestrained by divine grace; as the true tendency of the nature of a heavy body, if obstacles are removed, is not only to fall with a continual motion, but with a constantly increasing motion. And we see, that increasing iniquity is actually to consequence of natural depravity, in most men, notwithstanding all the restraints they have. Dispositions to evil are commonly much stronger in adult persons, than in children, when they first begin to act in the world as rational creatures.
If sin be such a thing as Dr. T. himself represents it, p. 69: “a thing of an odious and destructive nature, the corruption and ruin of our nature, and infinitely hateful to God;” then such a propensity to continual and increasing sin, must be a very evil disposition. And if we may judge of the perniciousness of an inclination of nature, by the evil of the effect it naturally tends to, the propensity of man’s nature must be evil indeed: for the soul being immortal, as Dr. T. acknowledges, p. 94 S. it will follow from what has been observed above, that man has a natural disposition to one of these two things; either to an increase of wickedness without end, or till wickedness comes to be so great, that the capacity of his nature will not allow it to be greater. This being what his wickedness will come to by its natural tendency, if divine grace does not prevent, it may as truly be said to be the effect which man’s natural corruption tends to, as that an acorn in a proper soil, truly tends by its nature to become a great tree.
Again, that sin which is remaining in the hearts of the best men on earth, makes it evident, that man’s nature is corrupt, as he comes into the world. A remaining depravity of heart in the greatest saints, may be argued from the sins of most of those who are set forth in Scripture as the most eminent instances and examples of virtue and piety: and is also manifest from this, that the Scripture represents all God’s children as standing in need of chastisement. Heb. 12:6, 7, 8, “For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. — What son is he, whom the father chasteneth not? — If ye are without chastisement, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” But this is directly and fully asserted in some places; as in Ecc. 7:20, “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Which is as much as to say, there is no man on earth, that is so just, as to have attained to such a degree of righteousness, as not to commit any sin. Yea, the apostle James speaks of all Christians as often sinning, or committing many sins; even in that primitive age of the Christian church, an age distinguished from all others by eminent attainments in holiness: Jam. 3:2, “In many things we all offend.” And that there is pollution in the hearts of all antecedent to all means for purification, is very plainly declared in Pro. 20:9, “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?”
According to Dr. T. men come into the world wholly free from sinful propensities. And if so, it appears from what has been already said, there would be nothing to hinder, but that many, without being better than they are by nature, might perfectly avoid the commission of sin. But much more might this be the case with men after they had, by care, diligence, and good practice, attained those positive habits of virtue, whereby they are at a much greater distance from sin, than they were naturally: — which this writer supposes to be the case with many good men. But since the Scriptures teaches us, that the best men in the world do often commit sin, and have remaining pollution of heart, this makes it abundantly evident, that men, when they are no otherwise than they were by nature, without any of those virtuous attainments, have a sinful depravity; yea, must have great corruption of nature.
PART I, CHAP. I
The depravity of nature appears, in that the general consequence of the state and tendency of man’s nature is a much greater degree of sin, than righteousness; not only with respect to value and demerit, but matter and quantity.
I HAVE before shown, that there is a propensity in man’s nature to that sin, which in heinousness and ill desert immensely outweighs all the value and merit of any supposed good, that may be in him, or that he can do. I now proceed to say further, that such is man’s nature, in his present state, that it tends to this lamentable effect, that there should at all times, through the course of his life, be at least much more sin, than righteousness; not only as to weight and value, but as to matter and measure; more disagreement of heart and practice from the law of God, and from the law of nature and reason, than agreement and conformity. The law of God is the rule of right, as Dr. T. often calls it: It is the measure of virtue and sin: so much agreement as there is with this rule, so much is there of rectitude, righteousness, or true virtue, and no more; and so much disagreement as there is with this rule, so much sin is there. Having premised this, the following things may be here observed.
I. The degree of disagreement from this rule of right is to be determined, not only by the degree of distance from it in excess, but also in defect; or in other words, not only in positive transgression, or doing what is forbidden, but also in withholding what is required. The divine Lawgiver does as much prohibit the one as the other, and does as much charge the latter as a sinful breach of his law, exposing to his eternal wrath and curse, as the former. Thus at the day of judgment, as described in Mat. 25. The wicked are condemned as cursed, to everlasting fire, for their sin in defect and omission: I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat, etc. And the case is thus, not only when the defect is in word or behavior, but in the inward temper and exercise of the mind. 1 Cor. 16:22, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” Dr. T. speaking of the sentence and punishment of the wicked (Mat. 25:41, 46), says, p. 159: “It was manifestly for WANT to benevolence, love and compassion to their fellow-creatures, that they were condemned.” And elsewhere, as was observed before, he says, that the law of God extends to the latent principles of sin to forbid them, and to condemn to external destruction for them. And if so, it doubtless also extends to the inward principles of holiness, to require them, and in like manner to condemn for the want of them.
II. The sum of our duty to God, required in his law, is LOVE; taking love in a large sense, for the true regard of our hearts to GOD, implying esteem, honor, benevolence, gratitude, complacence, etc. This is not only very plain by the Scripture, but it is evident in itself. The sum of what the law of God requires, is doubtless obedience to that law: no law can require more than that it be obeyed. But it is manifest, that obedience is nothing, any otherwise than as a testimony of the respect of our hearts to God: without the heart, man’s external acts are no more than the motions of the limbs of a wooden image; have no more of the nature of either sin or righteousness. It must therefore needs be, that love to God, the respect of the heart, must be the sum of the duty required in his law.
III. It therefore appears from the premises, that whosoever withholds more of that love or respect of heart from God, which his law requires, than he affords, has more sin than righteousness. Not only he that has less divine love, than passions and affections which are opposite; but also he that does not love God half so much as he ought, or has reason to do, has justly more wrong than right imputed to him, according to the law of God, and the law of reason; he has more irregularly than rectitude, with regard to the law of love. The sinful disrespect of his heart towards God, is greater than his respect to him.
But what considerate person is there, even among the more virtuous part of mankind, but would be ashamed to say, and profess before God or men, that he loves God half so much as he ought to do; or that he exercises one half of that esteem, honor, and gratitude towards God, which would be altogether becoming him; considering what God is, and what great manifestations he has made of his transcendent excellency and goodness, and what benefits he receives from him? And if few or none of the best of men can with reason and truth make even such a profession, how far from it must the generality of mankind be?
The chief and most fundamental of all the commands of the moral law, requires us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and with all our souls, with all our strength, and all our mind: that is, plainly, with all that is within us, or to the utmost capacity of our nature. God is in himself worthy of infinitely greater love, than any creature can exercise towards him; love equal to his perfections, which are infinite. God loves himself with no greater love than he is worthy of, when he loves himself infinitely; but we can give God no more love than we have. Therefore, if we give him so much, if we love him to the utmost extent of the faculties of our nature, we are excused. But when what is proposed, is only that we should love him as much as our capacity will allow, all excuse of want of capacity ceases, and obligation takes hold of us; and we are doubtless obliged to love God to the utmost of what is possible for us, with such faculties, and such opportunities and advantages to know God, as we have. And it is evidently implied in this great commandment of the law, that our love to God should be so great, as to have the most absolute possession of all the soul, and the perfect government of all the principals and springs of action that are in our nature.
Though it is not easy, precisely to fix the limits of man’s capacity, as to love to God; yet in general we may determine, that his capacity of love is coextended with his capacity of knowledge: the exercise of the understanding opens the way for the exercise of the other faculty. Now, though we cannot have any proper positive understanding of God’s infinite excellency; yet the capacity of the human understanding is very great, and may be extended far. It is needless to dispute, how far man’s knowledge may be said to be strictly comprehensive of things that are very great, as of the extent of the expanse of the heavens, etc. The word comprehensive, seems to be ambiguous. But doubtless we are capable of some proper positive understanding of the greatness of these things, in comparison of other things that we know. We are capable of some clear understanding of the greatness or considerableness of a whole nation; or of the whole world of mankind, as vastly exceeding that of a particular person or family. We can positively understand, that the whole globe of the earth, that the latter is as it were nothing to it. So the human faculties are capable of a real and clear understanding of the greatness, glory, and goodness of God, and of our dependence upon him, from the manifestations which God has made of himself to mankind, as being beyond all expression above that of the most excellent human friend, or earthly object. And so we are capable of esteem and love to God, which shall be proportionable, much exceeding that which we have to any creature.
These things may help us to form some judgment, how vastly the generality of mankind fall below their duty, with respect to love to God; yea, how far they are from coming half way to that height of love, which is agreeable to the rule of right. Surely if our esteem of God, desires after him, and delight in him, were such as become us, considering the things forementioned, they would exceed our regard to other things, as the heavens are high above the earth, and would swallow up all other affections like a deluge. But how far, how exceeding far, are the generality of the world from any appearance of being influenced and governed by such a degree of divine love as this!
If we consider the love of God, with respect to one exercise of it, gratitude, how far indeed do the generality of mankind come short of the rule of right and reason in this! If we consider how various, innumerable, and vast the benefits we receive from God, how infinitely great and wonderful that grace, which is revealed and offered to them who live under the gospel — in that eternal salvation which is procured by God giving his only-begotten Son to die for sinners — and also how unworthy we are all, deserving (as Dr. T. confesses) eternal perdition under God’s wrath and curse — how great is the gratitude that would become us, who are the subjects of so many and great benefits! What grace is this towards poor sinful lost mankind, set before us in so affecting a manner, as in the extreme sufferings of the Son of God; who was carried through those pains by a love stronger than death, a love that conquered those mighty agonies, a love whose length and breadth, and depth and height, passes knowledge? But oh! What poor returns! — How little gratitude! How low, how cold and inconstant, the affection in the best, compared with the obligation! And what then shall be said of the gratitude of the generality? Or rather, who can express the ingratitude?
If the greater part of them who are called Christians, were no enemies to Christ in heart and practice, were not governed by principles opposite to him and his gospel, but had some real love and gratitude; yet if their love falls vastly short of the obligation, or occasion given, they are guilty of shameful and odious ingratitude. As, when a man has been the subject of some instance of transcendent generosity, whereby he has been relieved from the most extreme calamity, and brought into very opulent, honorable, and happy circumstances, by a benefactor of excellent character; and yet expresses no more gratitude on such an occasion, than would be requisite for some kindness comparatively infinitely small, he may justly fall under the imputation of vile unthankfulness, and of much more ingratitude than gratitude; though he may have no ill will to his benefactor, or no positive affection of mind contrary to thankfulness and benevolence. What is odious in him is his defect, whereby he falls so vastly below his duty.
Dr. Turnbull abundantly insists, that the forces of the affections naturally in man are well proportioned; and often puts a question to this purpose, — How man’s nature could have been better constituted in this respect? How the affections of his heart could have been better proportioned? — I will now mention one instance, out of many that might be mentioned. Man, if his heart were not depraved, might have had a disposition to gratitude to God for his goodness, in proportion to his disposition to anger towards men for their injuries. When I say, in proportion, I mean considering the greatness and number of favors and injuries, and the degree in which the one and the other are unmerited, and the benefit received by the former, and the damage sustained by the latter. Is there not an apparent and vast difference and inequality in the dispositions to these two kinds of affection, in the generality of both old and young adult persons and little children? How ready is resentment for injuries received from men! And how easily is it raised in most, at least to an equality with the desert! And is it so with respect to gratitude for benefits received from God, in any degree of comparison? Dr. Turnbull pleads for the natural disposition to anger for injuries, as being good and useful: but surely gratitude to God, if we were inclined to it, would be at least as good and useful as the other.
How far the generality of mankind are from their duty, with respect to love to God, will appear further, if we consider that we are obliged not only to love him with a love of gratitude for benefits received; but true love to God primarily consists in a supreme regard to him for what he is in himself. The tendency of true virtue is to treat everything as it is, and according to its nature. And if we regard the Most High according to the infinite dignity and glory of his nature, we shall esteem and love him with all our heart and soul, and to the utmost of the capacity of our nature, on this account; and not primarily because he has promoted our interest. If God be infinitely excellent in himself, then he is infinitely lovely on that account; or in other words, infinitely worthy to be loved. And doubtless, if he be worthy to be loved for this, then he ought to be loved for it. And it is manifest, there can be no true love to him, if he be not loved for what he is in himself. For if we love him not for his own sake, but for something else, then our love is not terminated on him, but one something else, as its ultimate object. That is no true value for infinite worth, which implies no value for that worthiness in itself considered, but only on the account of something foreign. Our esteem of God is fundamentally defective, if it be not primarily for the excellency of his nature, which is the foundation of all this is valuable in him in any respect. If we love not God because he is what he is, but only because he is profitable to us, in truth we love him not at all: if we seem to love him, our love is not to him, but to something else.
And now I must leave it to everyone to judge for himself, from his own opportunities of observation and information concerning mankind, how little there is of this disinterested love to God, this pure divine affection, in the world. How very little indeed in comparison of other affections altogether diverse, which perpetually urge, actuate, and govern mankind, and keep the world, through all nations and ages, in a continual agitation and commotion! This is an evidence of a horrid contempt of God. It would justly be esteemed a great instance of disrespect and contempt of a prince, if one of his subjects, when he came into his house, should set him below his meanest slave. But in setting the infinite JEHOVAH below earthly objects and enjoyments, men degrade him below those things, between which and him there is an infinitely greater distance, than between the highest earthly potentate and the most abject of mortals. Such a conduct as the generality of men are guilty of towards God, continually and through all ages, in innumerable respects, would be accounted the most vile contemptuous treatment of a fellow creature, of distinguished dignity. Particularly men’s treatment of the offers God makes of himself to them as their friend, their father, their God, and everlasting portion; their treatment of the exhibitions he has made of his unmeasurable love, and the boundless riches of his grace in Christ, attended with earnest repeated calls, counsels, expostulations, and entreaties; as also of the most dreadful threatenings of his eternal displeasure and vengeance.
Before I finish this section, it may be proper to say something in reply to an objection, some may be ready to make, against the force of this argument — that men do not come half-way to that degree of love to God, which becomes them, and is their duty. The objection is this: That the argument seems to prove too much, in that it will prove, that even good men themselves have more sin than holiness; which also has been supposed. But if this were true, it would follow, that sin is the prevalent principle even in good men, and that it is the principle which has the predominancy in the heart and practice of the truly pious; which is plainly contrary to the Word of God.
I answer, If it be indeed so, that there is more sin, consisting in defect of required holiness, than there is of holiness, in good men in this world, yet it will not follow, that sin has the chief government of their heart and practice, for two reasons.
1. They may love God more than other things, and yet there may not be so much love, as there is want of due love; or in other words, they may love God more than the world, and therefore the love of God may be predominant, and yet may not love God near half so much as they ought to do. This need not be esteemed a paradox: A person may love a father, or some great friend and benefactor, of a very excellent character, more than some other object, a thousand times less worthy of his esteem and affection, and yet love him ten times less than he ought; and so be chargeable, all things considered, with a deficiency in respect and gratitude, that is very unbecoming and hateful. If love to God prevails above the love of other things, then virtue will prevail above evil affections, or positive principles of sin; by which principles it is, that sin has a positive power and influence. For evil affections radically consist in inordinate love to other things besides God: and therefore, virtue prevailing beyond these, will have the governing influence. The predominance of the love of God in the hearts of good men, is more from the nature of the object loved, and the nature of the principle of true love, than the degree of the principle. The object is one of supreme loveliness; immensely above all other objects in worthiness of regard; and it is by such a transcendent excellency, that he is God, and worthy to be regarded and adored as God: and he that truly loves God, loves him as God. True love acknowledges him to be divinely and supremely excellent; and must arise from some knowledge, sense, and conviction of his worthiness of supreme respect: and though the sense and view of it may be very imperfect, and the love that arises from it in like manner imperfect; yet if there be any realizing view of such divine excellency, it must cause the heart to respect God above all.
2. Another reason, why a principle of holiness maintains the dominion in the hearts of good men, is the nature of the covenant of grace, and the promises of that covenant, on which true Christian virtue relies, and which engage God’s strength and assistance to be on its side, and to help it against its enemy, that it may not be overcome. The just live by faith. Holiness in the Christian, or his spiritual life, is maintained, as it has respect by faith to its author and finisher, and derives strength and efficacy from the divine fountain, and by this means overcomes. For, as the apostle says, This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. It is our faith in him who has promised never to leave nor forsake his people; not to forsake the works of his own hands, nor suffer his people to be tempted above their ability; that his grace shall be sufficient for them, his strength be made perfect in weakness; and that where he has begun a good work he will carry it on to the day of Christ.
PART I, CHAP. I
The corruption of man’s nature appears by its tendency, in its present state, to an extreme degree of folly and stupidity in matters of religion.
IT appears, that man’s nature is greatly depraved, by an apparent proneness to an exceeding stupidity and sottishness in those things wherein his duty and main interest are chiefly concerned. I shall instance in two things, viz. Men’s proneness to idolatry; and a general, great disregard of eternal things, in them who live under the light of the gospel.
It is manifest, in the first instance, that man’s nature in its present state is attended with a great propensity to forsake the acknowledgment and worship of the true God, and to fall into the most stupid idolatry. This has been sufficiently proved by known fact, on abundant trial: insomuch as the world of mankind in general (excepting one small people, miraculously delivered and preserved) through all nations, in all parts of the world, ages after ages, continued without the knowledge and worship of the true God, and overwhelmed in gross idolatry, without the least appearance or prospect of its recovering itself from so great blindness, or returning from its brutish principles and customs, till delivered by divine grace.
In order to the most just arguing from face, concerning the tendency of man’s nature, as that is in itself, it should be inquired what the event has been, where nature has been left to itself, to operate according to its own tendency, with least opposition made to it by anything supernatural; rather than in exempt places, where the infinite power and grace of God have interposed, and extraordinary means have been used to stem the current, and bring men to true religion and virtue. As to the means by which God’s people of old, in the line of Abraham, were delivered and preserved from idolatry, they were miraculous, and of mere grace. Notwithstanding which, they were often relapsing into the notions and ways of the heathen; and when they had backslidden, never were recovered, but by divine gracious interposition. And as to the means by which many gentile nations have been delivered since the days of the gospel, they are such as have been wholly owing to the most wonderful, miraculous, and infinite grace. God was under no obligation to bestow on the heathen world greater advantages than they had in the ages of their gross darkness; as appears by the fact, that God actually did not, for so long a time, bestow greater advantages.
Dr. T. himself observes (Key, p. 1), That in about four hundred years after the flood, the generality of mankind were fallen into idolatry. And thus it was everywhere through the world, excepting among that people that was saved and preserved by a constant series of miracles, through a variety of countries, nations, and climates, great enough — and through successive changes, revolutions, and ages, numerous enough — to be a sufficient trial of what mankind are prone to, if there be any such thing as a sufficient trial.
That men should forsake the true God for idols, is an evidence of the most astonishing folly and stupidity, by God’s own testimony, Jer. 2:12, 13, “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be ye horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord: for my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed out to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” And that mankind in general did thus, so soon after the flood, was from the evil propensity of their hearts, and because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge; as is evident by Rom. 1:28. And the universality of the effect shows that the cause was universal, and not anything belonging to the particular circumstances of one, or only some nations or ages, but something belonging to that nature, which is common to all nations, and which remains the same through all ages. And what other cause could this great effect possibly arise from, but a depraved disposition, natural to all mankind? It could not arise from want of a sufficient capacity or means of knowledge. This is in effect confessed on all hands. Dr. Turnbull (Chris. Phil. p. 21) says: “The existence of one infinitely powerful, wise, and good mind, the Author, Creator, Upholder, and Governor of all things, is a truth that lies plain and obvious to all that will but think.” And (ibid. p. 245), “Moral knowledge, which is the most important of all knowledge, may easily be acquired by all men.” And again (ibid. p. 292), “Every man by himself, if he would duly employ his mind in the contemplation of the works of God about him, or in the examination of his own frame, — might make very great progress in the knowledge of the wisdom and goodness of God. This all men, generally speaking, might do, with very little assistance; for they have all sufficient abilities for thus employing their minds, and have all sufficient time for it.” Mr. Locke say (Human Understanding p. 4, chap. 4, p. 242. edit 11), “Our own existence, and the sensible parts of the universe, offer the proofs of a Deity so clearly and cogently to our thoughts, that I deem it impossible for a considerate man to withstand them. For I judge it as certain and clear a truth, as can anywhere be delivered, that the invisible things of God are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead.” And Dr. T. himself (in p. 78) says, “The light given to all ages and nations of the world, is sufficient for the knowledge and practice of their duty.” And (p. 111, 112) Citing those words of the apostle, Rom. 2:14, 15; he says, “This clearly supposes that the Gentiles, who were then in the world, might have done the things contained in the law by nature, or their natural power.” And in one of the next sentences he says, “The apostle, in Rom. 1:19, 20, 21 affirms that the Gentiles had light sufficient to have seen God’s eternal power and godhead, in the works of creation; and that the reason why they did not glorify him as God, was because they became vain in their imaginations, and had darkened their foolish heart; so that they were without excuse. And in his paraphrase on those verses in the 1st of Rom. He speaks of the very heathens, that were without a written revelation, as having that clear and evident discovery of God’s being and perfections, that they are inexcusable in not glorifying him suitably to his excellent nature, and as the author of their being and enjoyments.” And (p. 146. S), he says, “God affords every man sufficient light to know his duty.” If all ages and nations of the world have sufficient light for the knowledge of God, and their duty to him, then even such nations and ages, in which the most brutish ignorance and barbarity prevailed, had sufficient light, if they had but a disposition to improve it; and then much more those of the heathen, which were more knowing and polished, and in ages wherein arts and learning had made greatest advances. But even in such nations and ages, there was no advance made towards true religion; and Dr. Winder observes (History Of Knowledge, vol. 2, p. 336) in the following words; “The pagan religion degenerated into greater absurdity, the further it proceeded; and it prevailed in all its height of absurdity, when the pagan nations were polished to the height. Though they set out with the talents of reason, and had solid foundations of information to build upon, it in fact proved, that with all their strengthened faculties, and growing powers of reason, the edifice of religion rose in the most absurd deformities and disproportioned, incongruous systems, of which the most easy dictates of reason would have demonstrated the absurdity. They were contrary to all just calculations in moral mathematics.” He observes, “that their grossest abominations first began in Egypt, where was an ostentation of the greatest progress in learning and science: and they never renounced clearly any of their abominations, or openly returned to the worship of the one true God, the Creator of all things, and to the original, genuine sentiments of the highest and most venerable antiquity. The pagan religion continued in this deep corruption to the last. The pagan philosophers, and inquisitive men, made great improvements in many sciences, and even in morality itself; yet the inveterate absurdities of pagan idolatry remained without remedy. Every temple smoked with incense to the sun and moon, and other inanimate material luminaries, and earthly elements, to Jupiter, Juno, Mars and Venus, etc. the patrons and examples of almost every vice. Hecatombs bled on the altars of a thousand gods; as mad superstition inspired. And this was not the disgrace of our ignorant untaught northern countries only; but even at Athens itself, the infamy reigned, and circulated through all Greece; and finally prevailed, amidst all their learning and politeness, under the Ptolemies in Egypt, and the Caesars at Rome. Now if the knowledge of the pagan world, in religion, proceeded no further than this; if they retained all their deities, even the most absurd of them all, their deified beasts, and deified men, even to the last breath of pagan power: we may justly ascribe the great improvements in the world, on the subject of religion, to divine revelation, either vouchsafed in the beginning, when this knowledge was competently clear and copious; or at the death of paganism, when this light shone forth in its consummate luster at the coming of Christ.”
Dr. T. often speaks of the idolatry of the heathen world, as great wickedness, in which they were wholly inexcusable; and yet often speaks of their case as remediless, and of them as being dead in sin, and unable to recover themselves. If so, and yet, according to his own doctrine, every age, every nation, and every man, had sufficient light afforded, to know God, and their whole duty to him; then their inability to deliver themselves must be a moral inability, consisting in a desperate depravity, and most evil disposition of heart.
And if there had not been sufficient trial of the propensity of the hearts of mankind, through all those ages that passed from Abraham to Christ, the trial has been continued down to this day, in all those vast regions of the face of the earth, that have remained without any effects of the light of the gospel; and the dismal effect continues everywhere unvaried. How was it with that multitude of nations inhabiting South and North America? What appearance was there, when the Europeans first came hither, of their being recovered, or recovering, in any degree, from the grossest ignorance, delusions, and most stupid paganism? And how is it at this day, in those parts of Africa and Asia, into which the light of the gospel has not penetrated?
This strong and universally prevalent disposition of mankind to idolatry, of which there has been such great trial, and so notorious and vast proof, in fact, is a most glaring evidence of the exceeding depravity of the human nature; as it is a propensity, in the utmost degree, contrary to the highest end, the main business, and chief happiness of mankind — consisting in the knowledge, service, and enjoyment of the living God, the Creator and Governor of the world — in the highest degree contrary to that for which mainly God gave mankind more understanding than the beasts of the earth, and made them wiser than the fowls of heaven; which was, that they might be capable of the knowledge of God. It is also in the highest degree contrary to the first and greatest commandment of the moral law, That we should have no other gods before JEHOVAH, and that we should love and adore him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The Scriptures are abundant in representing the idolatry of the heathen world, as their exceeding wickedness, and their most brutish stupidity. They who worship and trust in idols, are said themselves to be like the lifeless statues they worship, like mere senseless stocks and stones (Psa. 115:4-8 and 135:15-18).
A second instance of the natural stupidity of mankind, is the great disregard of their own eternal interest, which appears so remarkably, so generally among them who live under the gospel.
Mr. Locke observes (Hum. Und. Vol. 1, p. 207) “Were the will determined by the views of good, as it appears in contemplation, greater or less to the understanding, it could never get loose from the infinite eternal joys of heaven, once proposed, and considered as possible; the eternal condition of a future state infinitely outweighing the expectation of riches or honour, or any other worldly pleasure, which we can propose to ourselves; though we should grant these the more probable to be obtained.” Again (p. 228, 229) “He that will not be so far a rational creature, as to reflect seriously upon infinite happiness and misery, must needs condemn himself, as not making that use of his understanding he should. The rewards and punishments of another life, which the Almighty has established, as the enforcements of his laws, are of weight enough to determine the choice, against whatsoever pleasure or pain this life can show. When the eternal state is considered but in its bare possibility, which nobody can make any doubt of, he that will allow exquisite and endless happiness to be but the possible consequence of a good life here, and the contrary state the possible reward of a bad one, must own himself to judge very much amiss, if he does not conclude that a virtuous life, with the certain expectation of everlasting bliss, which may come, is to be preferred to a vicious one, with the fear of that dreadful state of misery, which it is very possible may overtake the guilty, or at least the terrible uncertain hope of annihilation. This is evidently so; though the virtuous life here had nothing but pain, and the vicious continual pleasure; which yet is for the most part quite otherwise, and wicked men have not much the odds to brag of, even in their present possession: nay, all things rightly considered, have I think even the worst part here. But when infinite happiness is put in one scale, against infinite misery in the other; if the worst that comes to the pious man, if he be in the right; who can, without madness, run the venture? Who in his wits would choose to come within a possibility of infinite misery? Which if he miss, there is yet nothing to be got by that hazard: whereas, on the other side, the sober man ventures nothing, against infinite happiness to be got, if his expectation comes to pass.”
That disposition of mind which is a propensity to act contrary to reason, is a depraved disposition. It is not because the faculty of reason, which God has given to mankind, is not sufficient fully to discover to them, that forty, sixty, or an hundred years, is as nothing in comparison of eternity — infinitely less than a second of time to an hundred years — that the greatest worldly prosperity is not treated with the most perfect disregard, in all cases where there is any degree of competition of earthly things, with salvation from exquisite, eternal misery, and the enjoyment of everlasting glory and felicity. But is it a matter of controversy, whether men in general show a strong disposition to act far otherwise, from their infancy, till death sensibly approaches? In things that concern their temporal interest, they easily discern the difference between things of a long and short continuance. It is no hard matter to convince men of the difference between things of a long and short continuance. It is no hard matter to convince men of the difference between being admitted to the accommodations and entertainments of a convenient, beautiful, well-furnished habitation, and to partake of the provisions and produce of a plentiful estate for a day, or a night; and having all given them, and settled upon them, as their own, to possess as long as they live, and to be theirs and their heirs’ forever. There would be no need of preaching sermons, and spending strength and life, to convince them of the difference. Men know how to adjust things in their dealings and contracts one with another, according to the length of time in which anything agreed for is to be used or enjoyed. In temporal affairs, they are sensible, that it concerns them to provide for future time, as well as for the present. Thus common prudence teaches them to take care in summer to lay up for winter; yea, to provide a fund, or an estate, whence they may be supplied for a long time to come. And not only so, but they are forward to spend and be spent, in order to provide for their children after they are dead; though it be quite uncertain, who shall enjoy what they lay up, after they have left the world. And if their children should have the comfort of it, as they desire, they will not partake with them in that comfort, or have any portion in anything under the sun. In things which relate to men’s temporal interest, they seem very sensible of the uncertainty of life, especially in the lives of others; and to make answerable provision for the security of their worldly interest, that no considerable part of it may rest only on so uncertain a foundation, as the life of a neighbor or friend. Common discretion leads them to take good care, that their outward possessions be well secured, by a good and firm title. In worldly concerns, men discern their opportunities, and are careful to improve them before they are past. The husbandman is careful to plow his ground, and sow his seed, in the proper season; otherwise he knows he cannot expect a crop: and when the harvest is come, he will not sleep away the time; for he knows, if he does so, the crop will soon be lost. How careful and eagle-eyes is the merchant to improve opportunities to enrich himself! How apt are men to be alarmed at the appearance of danger to their world estate, or anything that remarkably threatens great damage to their outward interest! And how will they bestir themselves in such a case, if possible, to avoid the threatened calamity! In things purely secular, and not of a moral or spiritual nature, they easily receive conviction by past experience, when anything, on repeated trial, proves unprofitable or prejudicial; and are ready to take warning by what they have found themselves, and also by the experience of their neighbors and forefathers.
But if we consider how men generally conduct themselves in things on which their well-being infinitely more depends, how vast is the diversity! In these things how cold, lifeless, and dilatory! With what difficulty are a few, out of multitudes, excited to any tolerable degree of care and diligence, by the innumerable means used, in order to make them wise for themselves! And when some vigilance and activity is excited, how apt is it to die away, like a mere force against a natural tendency! What need of a constant repetition of admonitions and counsels, to keep the heart from falling asleep! How many objections are made! How are difficulties magnified! And how soon is the mind discouraged! How many arguments, often renewed, variously and elaborately enforced, do men stand in need of, to convince them of things that are almost self-evident! As that things which are external, are infinitely more important than things temporal, and the like. And after all, how very few are convinced effectually, or in such a manner as to induce them to a practical preference of eternal things! How senseless are men of the necessity of improving their time, as to their spiritual interest, and their welfare in another world! Though it be an endless futurity, and though it be their own personal, infinitely important good, that is to be cared for. Though men are so sensible of he uncertainty of their neighbors’ lives, when any considerable part of their own estates depends on the continuance of them; how stupidly senseless do they seem to be of the uncertainty of their own lives, when their preservation from immensely great, remediless, and endless misery, is risked by a present delay, through a dependence on future opportunity! What a dreadful venture will men carelessly and boldly run, repeat, and multiply, with regard to their eternal salvation; who yet are very careful to have everything in a deed or bond, firm, and without a flaw! How negligent are they of their special advantages and opportunities for their soul’s good! How hardly awakened by the most evident and imminent dangers, threatening eternal destruction, yea, though put in mind of them, and much pains taken to point them forth, show them plainly, and fully to represent them, if possible to engage their attention! How are they like the horse, that boldly rushes into the battle! How hardly are men convinced by their own frequent and abundant experience, of the unsatisfactory nature of earthly things, and the instability of their own hearts in their good frames and intentions! And how hardly convinced by their own observation, and the experience of all past generations, of the uncertainty of life and its enjoyments! Psa. 49:11, etc.: “Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever. — Nevertheless, man being in honour, abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish. This their way is their folly; yet their posterity approve their sayings. Like sheep are they laid in the grave.”
In these things, men who are prudent for their temporal interest, act as if they were bereft of reason: “The have eyes, and see not; ears, and hear not; neither do they understand: they are like the horse and mule, that have no understanding.” — Jer. 8:7, “The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming: but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.”
These things are often mentioned in Scripture, as evidences of extreme folly and stupidity, wherein men act as great enemies to themselves, as though they loved their own ruin, Pro. 8:36. Laying wait for their own blood, Pro. 1:18. And how can these things be accounted for, but by supposing a most wretched depravity of nature? Why otherwise should not men be as wise for themselves in spiritual and eternal things, as in temporal? All Christians will confess, that man’s faculty of reason was given him chiefly to enable him to understand the former, wherein his main interest and true happiness consist. This faculty would therefore undoubtedly be every way as fit for understanding them, as the latter, if not depraved. The reason why these are understood, and not the other, is not that such things as have been mentioned, belonging to men’s spiritual and eternal interest, are more obscure and abstruse in their own nature. For instance, the difference between long and short, the need of providing for futurity, the importance of improving proper opportunities, and of having good security, and a sure foundation, in affairs wherein our interest is greatly concerned, etc. These things are as plain in themselves in religious, as in other matters. And we have far greater means to assist us to be wise for ourselves in eternal than in temporal things. We have the abundant instruction of perfect and infinite wisdom itself, to lead and conduct us in the paths of righteousness, so that we may not err. And the reasons of things are most clearly, variously, and abundantly set before us in the Word of God; which is adapted to the faculties of mankind, tending greatly to enlighten and convince the mind: whereas, we have no such excellent and perfect rules to instruct and direct us in things pertaining to our temporal interest, nor anything to be compared to it.
If any should say it is true, if men gave full credit to what they are told concerning eternal things, and these appeared to them as real and certain things, it would be an evidence of a sort of madness in them, that they show no greater regard to them in practice: but there is reason to think, this is not the case; the things of another world being unseen, appear to men as things of a very doubtful nature, and attended with great uncertainty. — In answer, I would observe, agreeable to what has been cited from Mr. Locke, though eternal things were considered in their bare possibility, if men acted rationally, they would infinitely outweigh all temporal things in their influence on their hearts. And I would also observe, that to suppose eternal things not to be fully believed, at least by them who enjoy the light of the gospel, does not weaken, but rather strengthen, the argument for the depravity of nature. For the eternal world being what God had chiefly in view in the creation of men, this world was made wholly subordinate to the other, man’s state here being only a state of probation, preparation, and progression, with respect to the future state. Eternal things are in effect their all, their whole concern; to understand and know which, it chiefly was, that they had understanding given them; therefore we may undoubtedly conclude, that if men have not respect to them as real and certain things, it cannot be for want of sufficient evidence of their truth: but it must be from a dreadful stupidity of mind, occasioning a sottish insensibility of their truth and importance, when manifested by the clearest evidence.
PART I, CHAP. I
That man’s nature is corrupt, appears in that by far the greater part of mankind, in all ages, have been wicked men.
THE depravity of man’s nature appears, not only in its propensity to sin in some degree, which renders a man an evil or wicked man in the eye of the law, and strict justice, as was before shown; but it is so corrupt, that its depravity either shows that men are, or tends to make them to be, of such an evil character, as shall denominate them wicked men, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace.
This may be argued from several things which have been already observed: as from a tendency to continual sin; a tendency to much greater degrees of sin than righteousness, and from the general extreme stupidity of mankind. But yet the present state of man’s nature, as implying, or tending to, a wicked character, may deserve to be more particularly considered, and directly proved. And in general, this appears, in that there have been so very few in the world, from age to age, ever since the world has stood, that have been of any other character.
It is abundantly evident in Scripture, and is what I suppose none that call themselves Christians will deny, that the whole world is divided into good and bad, and that all mankind at the day of judgment will either be approved as righteous, or condemned as wicked: either glorified, as children of the kingdom, or cast into a furnace of fire, as children of the wicked one.
I need not stand to show what things belong to the character of such as shall hereafter be accepted as righteous, according to the Word of God. It may be sufficient for my present purpose, to observe what Dr. T. himself speaks of, as belonging essentially to the character of such. In p. 203, he says, “This is infallibly the character of true Christians, and what is essential to such, that they have really mortified the flesh with its lusts; — they are dead to sin, and live no longer therein; the old man is crucified, and the body of sin destroyed; they yield themselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and their members as instruments of righteousness to God, and as servants of righteousness to holiness.” — There is more to the like purpose in the two next pages. In p. 228, he says, “Whatsoever is evil and corrupt in us, we ought to condemn; not so, as it shall still remain in us, that we may always be condemning it, but that we may speedily reform, and be effectually delivered from it; otherwise certainly we do not come up to the character of the true disciples of Christ.”
In p. 248, he says, “Unless God’s favour be preferred before all other enjoyments whatsoever, unless there be a delight in the worship of God, and in converse with him, unless every appetite be brought into subjection to reason and truth, and unless there be a kind and benevolent disposition towards our fellow-creatures, how can the mind be fit to dwell with God, in his house and family, to do him service in his kingdom, and to promote the happiness of any part of his creation.” — And in his Key, § 286, p. 101, 102, etc. showing there, what it is to be a true Christian, he says, among other things, “That he is one who has such a sense and persuasion of the love of God in Christ, that he devotes his life to the honour and service of God, in hope of eternal glory. And that to the character of a true Christian, it is absolutely necessary, that he diligently study the things that are freely given him of God, viz. His election, regeneration, etc. That he may gain a just knowledge of those inestimable privileges, may taste that the Lord is gracious, and rejoice in the gospel-salvation, as his greatest happiness and glory. — It is necessary, that he work these blessings on his heart, till they become a vital principles, producing in him the love of God, engaging him to all cheerful obedience to his will, giving him a proper dignity and elevation of soul, raising him above the best and worst of this world, carrying his heart into heaven, and fixing his affections and regards upon his everlasting inheritance, and the crown of glory laid up for him there. — Thus he is armed against all the temptations and trials resulting from any pleasure or pain, hopes or fears, gain or loss, in the present world. None of these things move him from a faithful discharge of any part of his duty, or from a firm attachment to truth and righteousness; neither counts he his very life dear to him, that he may do the will of God, and finish his course with joy. In a sense of the love of God in Christ, he maintains daily communion with God, by reading and meditating on his Word. In a sense of his own infirmity, and the readiness of the divine favour to succor him, he daily addresses the throne of grace, for the renewal of spiritual strength, in assurance of obtaining it, through the one Mediator Christ Jesus. Enlightened and directed by the heavenly doctrine of the gospel,” etc.
Now I leave everyone that has any degree of impartiality, to judge, whether there be not sufficient grounds to think, that it is but a very small part indeed, of the many myriad’s and millions which overspread this globe, who are of a character that in any wise answers these descriptions. However Dr. T. insists, that all nations, and every man on the face of the earth, have light and means sufficient to do the whole will of God, even they that live in the grossest darkness of paganism.
Dr. T. in answer to arguments of this kind, very impertinently from time to time objects, that we are no judges of the viciousness of men’s characters, nor are able to decide in what degree they are virtuous or vicious. As though we could have no good grounds to judge, that anything appertaining to the qualities or properties of the mind, which is invisible, is general or prevailing among a multitude or collective body, unless we can determine how it is with each individual. I think I have sufficient reason, from what I know and have heard of the American Indians, to judge, that there are not many good philosophers among them; though the thoughts of their hearts, and the ideas and knowledge they have in their minds, are things invisible; and though I have never seen so much as a thousandth part of the Indians; and with respect to most of them, should not be able to pronounce peremptorily concerning anyone, that he was not very knowing in the nature of things, if all should singly pass before me. And Dr. T. himself seems to be sensible of the falseness of his own conclusions, that he so often urges against others; if we may judge by his practice, and the liberties he takes, in judging of a multitude himself. He, it seems, is sensible that a man may have good grounds to judge, that wickedness of character is general in a collective body; because he openly does it himself. (Key, p. 102) After declaring the things which belong to the character of a true Christian, he judges of the generality of Christians, that they have cast off these things, that they are a people that do err in their hearts, and have not known God’s way, p. 259, he judges, that the generality of Christians are the most wicked of all mankind, when he thinks it will throw some disgrace on the opinion of such as he opposes. The like we have from time to time in other places (as p. 168, p. 258, Key, p. 127, 128).
But if men are not sufficient judges, whether there are few of the world of mankind but what are wicked, yet doubtless God is sufficient, and his judgment, often declared in his Word, determines the matter. Mat. 7:13, 14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: because strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth to life, and few there be that find it.” It is manifest, that here Christ is not only describing the state of things, as it was at that day, and does not mention the comparative smallness of the number of them that are saved, as a consequence of the peculiar perverseness of that people, and of that generation; but as a consequence of the general circumstances of the way to life, and the way to destruction, the broadness of the one, and the narrowness of the other. In the straitness of the gate, etc. I suppose none will deny, that Christ has respect to the strictness of those rules, which he had insisted on in the preceding sermon, and which render the way to life very difficult. But certainly those amiable rules would not be difficult, were they not contrary to the natural inclinations of men’s hearts; and they would not be contrary to those inclinations, were these not depraved. Consequently the wideness of the gate, and broadness of the way, that leads to destruction, in consequence of which many go in thereat, must imply the agreeableness of this way to men’s natural inclinations. The like reason is given by Christ, why few are saved. Luke 13:23, 24, “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” That there are generally but few good men in the world, even among them who have the most distinguishing and glorious advantages for it, is evident by that saying of our Lord, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” And if there are but few among these, how few, how very few indeed, must persons of this character be, compared with the whole world, appears by the representations often made of them as distinguished from the world; in which they are spoken of as called and chosen out of the world, redeemed from the earth, redeemed from among men; as being those that are of God, while the whole world lieth in wickedness and the like.
And if we look into the Old Testament, we shall find the same testimony given. Pro. 20:6, “Most men will proclaim every man his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” By the faithful man, as the phrase is used in Scripture, is intended much the same as a sincere, upright, or truly good man; as in Psa. 12:1, and 31:23, and 51:6, and other places. Again, Ecc. 7:25-29, “I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to find out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: and I find more bitter than death, the woman whose hearts is snares, etc. Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account, which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found: but a woman among all these have I not found. Lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Solomon here signifies, that when he set himself diligently to find out the account or proportion of true wisdom, or thorough uprightness among men, the result was, that he found it to be but as one to a thousand, etc. Dr. T. on this place, p. 184, says, “The wise man in the context, is inquiring into the corruption and depravity of mankind, of the men and women, THAT LIVED IN HIS TIME.” As though what he said represented nothing of the state of things in the world in general, but only in his time. But does Dr. T. or anybody else, suppose this only to be the design of that book, to represent the vanity and evil of the world in that time, and to show that all way vanity and vexation of spirit in Solomon’s day? That day truly, we have reason to think, was a day of the greatest smiles of heaven on that nation, that ever had been on any nation from the foundation of the world. Not only does the subject and argument of the whole book show it to be otherwise; but also the declared design of the book in the first chapter; where the world is represented as very much the same, as to its vanity; and evil, from age to age. It makes little or no progress, after all its revolutions and restless motions, labors, and pursuits; like the sea, that has all the rivers constantly emptying themselves into it, from age to age, and yet is never the fuller. As to that place, Pro. 20:6, “A faithful man who can find?” there is no more reason to suppose that the wise man has respect only to his time, in these words, than in those immediately preceding, “Counsel in the heart of a man is like deep waters; but a man of understanding will draw it out.” Or in the words next following, “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” Or in any other proverb in the whole book. And if it were so, that Solomon in these things meant only to describe his own times, it would not at all weaken the argument. For, if we observe the history of the Old Testament, there is reason to think there never was any time from Joshua to the captivity, wherein wickedness was more restrained, and virtue and religion more encouraged and promoted, than in David’s and Solomon’s times. And if there was so little true piety in that nation, the only people of God under heaven, even in their best times, what may we suppose, concerning the world in general, take one time with another?
Notwithstanding what some authors advance concerning the prevalence of virtue, honesty, good neighborhood, cheerfulness, etc. In the world; Solomon, whom we may justly esteem as wise and just an observer of human nature, and the state of the world of mankind, as most in these days (besides, Christians ought to remember, that he wrote by divine inspiration) — judged the world to be so full of wickedness, that it was better never to be born, than to be born to live only in such a world. Ecc. 4:1-3, “So I returned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun; and behold, the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter: and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore, I praised the dead, which were already dead, more than the living, which are yet alive. Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been; who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.” Surely it will not be said that Solomon has only respect to his time here too, when he speaks of the oppressions of them that were in power; since he himself, and others appointed by him, and wholly under his control, were the men that were in power in that land, and in almost all the neighboring countries.
The same inspired writer says, Ecc. 9:3, “The heart of the sons of men is full of evil; and madness is in their heart while they live; and after that they go to the dead.” If these general expressions are to be understood only of some, and those the smaller part, when in general, truth, honesty, good-nature, etc. Govern the world, why are such general expressions from time to time used? Why does not this wise and noble prince express himself in a more generous and benevolent strain, and say, wisdom is in the hearts of the sons of men while they live, etc. — instead of leaving in his writings so many sly, ill-natured suggestions, which pour such contempt on human nature, and tend so much to excite mutual jealousy and malevolence, to taint the minds of mankind through all generations after him?
If we consider the various successive parts and periods of the duration of the world, it will, if possible, be yet more evident, that by far the greater part of mankind have, in all ages, been of a wicked character. The short accounts we have of Adam and his family are such as lead us to suppose, that the greater part of his posterity in his lifetime, yea, in the former part of his life, were wicked. It appears, that his eldest son Cain, was a very wicked man, who slew his righteous brother Abel. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years before Seth was born: and by that time, we may suppose, his posterity began to be considerably numerous: when he was born, his mother called his name Seth; for God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel. Which naturally suggests this to our thoughts; that of all her seed then existing, none were of any such note for religion and virtue, as that their parents could have any great comfort in them, or expectation from them, on that account. And by the brief history we have, it looks as if — however there might be some intervals of a revival of religion, yet — in the general, mankind grew more and more corrupt till the flood. It is signified, that when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, wickedness prevailed exceedingly, Gen. 6:1, etc. And that before God appeared to Noah, to command him to build the ark, one hundred and twenty years before the flood, the world had long continued obstinate in great and general wickedness, and the disease was become inveterate. The expressions (Gen. 6:3, 5, 6) suggest as much: “And the Lord said, my spirit shall not always strive with man. — And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thought of his heart was evil, only evil continually; and it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” And by that time, “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth,” (Gen. 6:12). And as Dr. T. himself observes (p. 122) “Mankind were universally debauched into lust, sensuality, rapine, and injustice.”
And with respect to the period after the flood, to the calling of Abraham; Dr. T. says, as already observed, that in about four hundred years after the flood, the generality of mankind were fallen into idolatry; which was before all they were dead who came out of the ark. And it cannot be thought, the world went suddenly into that general and extreme degree of corruption, but that they had been gradually growing more and more corrupt; though it is true, it must be by very swift degrees — however soon we may suppose they began — to get to that pass in one age.
And as to the period from the calling of Abraham to the coming of Christ, Dr. T. justly observes as follows: (Key, p. 133): “If we reckon from the call of Abraham to the coming of Christ, the Jewish dispensation continued one thousand nine hundred and twenty-one years; during which period, the other families and nations of the earth, not only lay out of God’s peculiar kingdom, but also lived in idolatry, great ignorance, and wickedness.” And with regard to the Israelites, it is evident that wickedness was the generally prevailing character among them, from age to age. If we consider how it was with Jacob’s family, the behavior of Reuben with his father’s concubine, the behavior of Judah with Tamar, the conduct of Joseph’s ten brethren in their cruel treatment of him; we cannot think, that the character of true piety belonged to many of them, according to Dr. T.’s own notion of such a character; though it be true, they might afterwards repent. And with respect to the time the children of Israel were in Egypt; the Scripture, speaking of them in general, or as a collective body, often represents them as complying with the abominable idolatries of the country. [Lev. 17:7; Jos. 5:9, and 24:14, Eze. 20:7, 8 and 22:3, VOL. I.] And as to that generation which went out of Egypt, and wandered in the wilderness, they are abundantly represented as extremely and almost universally wicked, perverse, and children of divine wrath. And after Joshua’s death, the Scripture is very express, that wickedness was the prevailing character in the nation, from age to age. So, it was till Samuel’s time. 1 Sam. 8:7, 8, “The have rejected me, that I should not reign over them; according to all their works which they have done, since the day that I brought them out of Egypt, unto this day.” Yea, so it was till Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s time. Jer. 32:30, 31, “For the children of Israel, and the children of Judah, have only done evil before me from their youth; for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the Lord: for this city hath been to me a provocation of mine anger, and of my fury, from the day they built it, even unto this day.” Compare Jer. 5:21, 23; and chap. 7:25, 26, 27. So Eze. 2:3, 4, “I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation, that hath rebelled against me, they and their fathers have transgressed against me, they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day: for they are impudent children, and stiff-hearted.” And it appears by the discourse of Stephen; Acts 7, that this was generally the case with that nation, from their first rise, even to the days of the apostles. After this summary rehearsal of the instances of their perverseness from the very time of their selling Joseph into Egypt, he concludes, verse 51-53, “Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost. As your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of that just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”
Thus it appears, that wickedness was the generally prevailing character in all nations, till Christ came. And so also it appears to have been since his coming to this day. So in the age of apostles. There was a great number of persons of a truly pious character in the latter part of the apostolic age, when multitudes of converts had been made, and Christianity was as yet in its primitive purity; but what says the apostle John of the church of God at that time, as compared with the rest of the world? 1 John 5:19, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” And after that Christianity came to prevail to that degree, that Christians had the upper hand in nations and civil communities, still the greater part of mankind remained in their old heathen state; which Dr. T. speaks of as a state of great ignorance and wickedness. And besides, this is noted in all ecclesiastical history, that as the Christians gained in power and secular advantages, true piety declined, and corruption and wickedness prevailed among them. — And as to the state of the Christian world, since Christianity began to be established by human laws, wickedness for the most part has greatly prevailed; as is very notorious, and is implied in what Dr. T. himself says: In giving an account how the doctrine of original sin came to prevail among Christians, he observes (p. 167 S) “That the Christian religion was very early and grievously corrupted, by dreaming, ignorant, superstitious monks.” In p. 259, he says, “The generality of Christians have embraced this persuasion concerning original sin; and the consequence has been, that the generality of Christians have been the most wicked, lewd, bloody, and treacherous of all mankind.
Thus, a view of the several successive periods of the past duration of the world, from the beginning to this day, shows, that wickedness has ever been exceeding prevalent, and has had vastly the superiority in the world. And Dr. T. himself in effect owns, that it has been so ever since Adam first turned into the way of transgression. “It is certain (says he, p. 168) the moral circumstances of mankind, since the time Adam first turned into the way of transgression, have been very different from a state of innocence. So far as we can judge from history, or what we know at present, the greatest part of mankind have been, and still are, very corrupt; though not equally so in every age and place.” And lower in the same page, he speaks of Adam’s posterity, as having sunk themselves into the most lamentable degrees of ignorance, superstition, idolatry, injustice, debauchery, etc.
These things clearly determine the point, concerning the tendency of man’s nature to wickedness, if we may be allowed to proceed according to such rules and methods of reasoning, as are never denied or doubted to be good and sure, in experimental philosophy; or may reason from experience and facts, in that manner which common sense leads all mankind to in other cases. If experience and trial will evince anything at all concerning the natural disposition of the human heart, one would think the experience of so many ages, as have elapsed since the beginning of the world, and the trial made by hundreds of different nations together, for so long a time, should be sufficient to convince all, that wickedness is agreeable to the nature of mankind in its present state.
Here, to strengthen the argument, if there were any need of it, I might observe, not only the extent and generality of the prevalence of wickedness in the world, but the height to which it has risen, and the degree in which it has reigned. Among innumerable things which confirm this, I shall now only observe, The degree in which mankind have from age to age been hurtful one to another. Many kinds of brute animals are esteemed very noxious and destructive, many of them are fierce, voracious, and many very poisonous, and the destroying of them has always been looked upon as a public benefit: but have not mankind been a thousand times as hurtful and destructive as any one of them, yea, as all the noxious beasts, birds, fishes, and reptiles in the earth, air, and water, put together, at least of all kinds of animals that are visible? And no creature can be found anywhere so destructive of its own kind as man is. All others, for the most part, are harmless and peaceable, with regard to their own species. Where one wolf is destroyed by another wolf, one viper by another, probably a thousand men are destroyed by those of their own species. Well therefore might our blessed Lord say, when sending forth his disciples into the world; Mat. 10:16, 17, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; — but, beware of men.” Why do I say wolves? I send you forth into the wide world of men, that are far more hurtful and pernicious, and of whom you had much more need to beware, than of wolves.
It would be strange indeed, that this should be the state of mankind, distinguished by reason, for that very end, that they might be capable of religion, which summarily consists in love, if men, as they come into the world, are in their nature innocent and harmless, undepraved, and perfectly free from all evil propensities.
PART I, CHAP. I
The native depravity of mankind appears, in that there has been so little good effect of so manifold and great means, used to promote virtue in the world.
THE evidence of the native corruption of mankind, appears much more glaring, when it is considered that the world has been so generally, so constantly, and so exceedingly corrupt, notwithstanding the various, great, and continual means that have been used to restrain men from sin, and promote virtue and true religion among them.
Dr. T. supposes, that sorrow and death, which come on mankind in consequence of Adam’s sin was brought on them in great favor; as a benevolent father, exercising an unwholesome discipline towards his children; to restrain them from sin, by increasing the vanity of all earthly things, to abate their force to tempt and delude; to induce them to be moderate in gratifying the appetites of the body; to mortify pride and ambition; and that men might always have before their eyes a striking demonstration that sin is infinitely hateful to God, by a sight of that, than which nothing is more proper to give them the utmost abhorrence of iniquity, and to fix in their minds a sense of the dreadful consequences of sin, etc. etc. And in general, that they do not come as punishments, but purely as means to keep men from vice, and to make them better. — If it be so, surely they are great means. Here is a mighty alteration: mankind, once so easy and happy, healthful vigorous, and beautiful, rich in all the pleasant and abundant blessings of paradise, now turned out, destitute, weak, and decaying, into a wide barren world, yielding briers and thorns, instead of the delightful growth and sweet fruit of the garden of Eden, to wear out life in sorrow and toil, on the ground cursed for his sake; and at last, either through long and lingering decay, or severe pain and acute disease, to expire and turn into putrefaction and dust. If these are only used as medicines, to prevent and to cure the disease of the mind, they are sharp medicines indeed; especially death; which, to use Hezekiah’s representation, is as it were breaking all his bones. And, one would think, should be very effectual, if the subject had no depravity — no evil and contrary bias, to resist, and hinder a proper effect — especially in the old world, when the first occasion of this terrible alteration, this severity of means, was fresh in memory. Adam continued alive near two-thirds of the time before the flood; so that a very great part of those who were alive till the flood, might have opportunity of seeing and conversing with him, and hearing from his mouth, not only an account of his fall, and the introduction of the awful consequences of it, but also of his first finding himself in existence in the new-created world, of the creation of Eve, and what passed between him and his Creator in paradise.
But what was the success of these great means, to restrain men from sin, and to induce them to virtue? Did they prove sufficient? — instead of this, the world soon grew exceeding corrupt; till, to use our author’s own words, mankind were universally debauched into lust, sensuality, rapine, and injustice.
Then God used further means: he sent Noah, a preacher of righteousness, to warn the world of the universal destruction which would come upon them by a flood of waters, if they went on in sin. This warning he delivered with circumstances tending to strike their minds, and command their attention. He immediately went about building that vast structure, the ark, in which he must employ a great number of hands, and probably spent all he had in the world to save himself and his family. And under these uncommon means God waited upon them one hundred and twenty years — But all to no effect. The whole world, for ought appears, continued obstinate, and absolutely incorrigible; so that nothing remained to be done with them, but utterly to destroy the inhabitants of the earth; and to begin a new world, from that single family who had distinguished themselves by their virtue, that from them might be propagated a new and purer race. Accordingly, this was done: and the inhabitants of this new world, Noah’s posterity, had these new and extraordinary means to restrain sin, and excite to virtue, in addition to the toil, sorrow, and common mortality, which the world has been subjected to before, in consequence of Adam’s sin; viz., that God had newly testified his dreadful displeasure for sin, in destroying the many millions of mankind, all at one blow, old and young, men, women, and children, without pity on any for all the dismal shrieks and cries with which the world was filled. They themselves, the remaining family, were wonderfully distinguished by God’s preserving goodness, that they might be a holy seed, being delivered from the corrupting examples of the old world; and being all the offspring of a living parent, whose pious instructions and counsels they had, to enforce these things upon them, to prevent sin, and engage them to their duty. These inhabitants of the new earth, must, for a long time, have before their eyes many evident and striking effects of that universal destruction, to be a continual affecting admonition to them. And besides all this, God now shortened the life of man to about one half of what it used to be. The shortening man’s life, Dr. T. says (p. 68): “Was that the wild range of ambition and lust might be brought into narrower bounds, and have less opportunity of doing mischief; and that death, being still nearer to our view, might be a more powerful motive to regard less the things of a transitory world, and to attend more to the rules of truth and wisdom.”
And now let us observe the consequence. — These new and extraordinary means, in addition to the former, were so far from proving sufficient, that the new world degenerated, and became corrupt, by such swift degrees, that as Dr. T. observes, mankind in general were sunk into idolatry, in about four hundred years after the flood, and so in about fifty years after Noah’s death, they became so wicked and brutish, as to forsake the true God, and turn to the worship of inanimate creatures.
When things were come to this dreadful pass, God was pleased, for a remedy, to introduce a new and wonderful dispensation — separating a particular family, and people, from all the rest of the world, by a series of most astonishing miracles, done in the open view of the world; and fixing their dwelling, as it were, in the midst of the earth, between Asia, Europe, and Africa, and in the midst of those nations which were most considerable for power, knowledge, and arts — that might, in an extraordinary manner, dwell among that people, in visible tokens of his presence. There he manifested himself, and thence to the world, by a course of miraculous operations and effects, for many ages; that the people might be holy to God, as a kingdom of priests, and might stand as a city on a hill, to be a light to the world. He also gradually shortened man’s life, till it was brought to about one-twelfth part of what it used to be before the flood; and so, according to Dr. T. greatly diminishing his temptations to sin, and increasing his excitements to holiness. — And now let us consider what the success of these means was, both as to the Gentile world, and the nation of Israel.
Dr. T. justly observes (Key, p. 24. § 75): “The Jewish dispensation had respect to the nations of the world, to spread the knowledge and obedience of God in the earth; and was established for the benefit of all mankind.” — But how unsuccessful were these means, and all other means used with the heathen nations, so long as this dispensation lasted! Abraham was a person noted in all the principal nations then in the world; as in Egypt, and the eastern monarchies. God made his name famous by his wonderful, distinguishing dispensations towards him, particularly by so miraculously subduing, before him and his trained servants, those armies of the four eastern kings. This great work of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, was greatly noticed by Melchizedeck; and one would think, should have been sufficient to awaken the attention of all the nations in that part of the world, and to lead them to the knowledge and worship of the only true God; especially if considered in conjunction with that miraculous and most terrible destruction of Sodom, and all the cities of the plain, for their wickedness, with Lot’s miraculous deliverance; facts which doubtless in their day were much famed abroad in the world. But there is not the least appearance, in any accounts we have, of any considerable good effect. On the contrary those nations which were most in the way of observing and being affected with these things, even that nations of Canaan, grew worse and worse, till their iniquity came to the full, in Joshua’s time. And the posterity of Lot, that saint so wonderfully distinguished, soon became some of the most gross idolaters; as they appear to have been in Moses’s time. (See Num. 25). Yea, and the far greater part even of Abraham’s posterity, the children of Ishmael, Ziman, Joksham, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah, and Esau, soon forgot the true God and fell off to heathenism.
Great things were done in the sight of the nations, tending to awaken them, and lead them to the knowledge and obedience of the true God, in Jacob’s and Joseph’s time; in that God did miraculously, by the hand of Joseph, preserve from perishing by famine, as it were the whole world; as appears by Gen. 41:56, 57. Agreeably to which, the name the Pharaoh gave to Joseph, Zaphnath-Paaneah, as is said, in the Egyptian language, signifies savior of the world. But there does not appear to have been any good abiding effect of this; no, not so much as among the Egyptians, the chief of all the heathen nations at that day, who had these great works of Jehovah in their most immediate view. On the contrary, they grew worse and worse, and seem to be far more gross in their idolatries and ignorance of the true God, and every way more wicked, and ripe for ruin, when Moses was sent to Pharaoh, than they were in Joseph’s time.
After this, in Moses and Joshua’s time, the great God was pleased to manifest himself in a series of the most astonishing miracles, for about fifty years together, wrought in the most public manner, in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in Canaan, in the view as it were of the whole world; miracles by which the world was shaken, the whole frame of the visible creation, earth, seas, and rivers, the atmosphere, the clouds, sun, moon, and stars were affected; miracles, greatly tending to convince the nations of the world, of the vanity of their false gods, showing Jehovah to be infinitely above them, in the thing wherein they dealt most proudly, and exhibiting God’s awful displeasure at the wickedness of the heathen world. And these things are expressly spoken of as one end of these great miracles; Exo. 9:14; Num. 14:21; Jos. 4:23, 24. However, no reformation followed, but by the scripture account, the nations which had them most in view, were dreadfully hardened, stupidly refusing all conviction and reformation, and obstinately went on in opposition to the living God, to their own destruction.
After this, God from time to time very publicly manifested himself to the nations of the world, by wonderful works wrought in the time of the Judges, of a like tendency with those already mentioned. Particularly in so miraculously destroying, by the hand of Gideon, almost the whole of the vast army of the Midianites, Amalekites, and all the children of the east, consisting of about 135,000 men; Jdg. 7:12; 8:10. But no reformation followed this, or the other great works of God, wrought in the times of Deborah and Barak, Jeptha and Samson.
After these things, God used new, and in some respects, much greater means with the heathen world, to bring them to the knowledge and service of the true God, in the days of David and Solomon. He raised up David, a man after his own heart, a most fervent worshipper of the true God, and zealous hater of idols, and subdued before him almost all the nations between Egypt and Euphrates; often miraculously assisting him in his battles with his enemies. And he confirmed Solomon his son in the full and quiet possession of that great empire, for about forty years; and made him the wisest, richest, most magnificent, and every way the greatest monarch that ever had been in the world; and by far the most famous, and of greatest name among the nations; especially for his wisdom, and things concerning the name of his God; particularly the temple he built, which was exceeding magnificent, that it might be of fame and glory throughout all lands; 1 Chr. 22:5. And we are told, that there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth; 1 Kin. 4:34; 10:24. And the Scripture informs us, that these great things were done, that the nations in far countries might hear of God’s great name, and of his outstretched arm; that all the people of the earth might fear him, as well as his people Israel: and that all the people of the earth might know, that the Lord was God, and that there was none else; 1 Kin. 8:41-43, 60. But still there is no appearance of any considerable abiding effect, with regard to any one heathen nation.
After this, before the captivity in Babylon, many great things were done in the sight of the gentile nations, very much tending to enlighten, affect, and persuade them. As God destroying the army of the Ethiopians of a thousand thousand, before Asa; Elijah’s and Elisha’s miracles; especially Elijah miraculously confounding Baal’s prophets and worshippers; Elisha healing Namaan, the king of Syria’s prime minister, and the miraculous victories obtained, through Elisha’s prayers, over the Syrians, Moabites, and Edomites; the miraculous destruction of the vast united army of the children of Moab, Ammon, and Edom, at Jehoshaphat’s prayer; 2 Chr. 20. Jonah’s preaching at Nineveh, together with the miracles of his deliverance from the whale’s belly; which was published, and well attested, as a sign to confirm his preaching: but more especially that great work of God, in destroying Sennacherib’s army by an angel, for his contempt of the God of Israel, as if he had been no more than the gods of the heathen.
When all these things proved ineffectual, God took a new method with the heathen world, and used, in some respects, much greater means to convince and reclaim them than ever before. In the first place, his people, the Jews, were removed to Babylon, the head and heart of the heathen world (Chaldea having been very much the foundation of idolatry), to carry thither the revelations which God had made of himself, contained in the sacred writings; and there to bear their testimony against idolatry; as some of them, particularly Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, did, in a very open manner before the king, and the greatest men of the empire, with such circumstances as made their testimony very famous in the world. And God confirmed it with great miracles; which were published through the empire, by order of its monarch, as the mighty works of the God of Israel, showing him to be above all gods: Daniel, that great prophet, at the same time being exalted to be governor of all the wise men of Babylon, and one of the chief officers of Nebuchadnezzar’s court.
After this, God raised up Cyrus to destroy Babylon, for its obstinate contempt of the true God, and injuriousness towards his people; according to the prophecies of Isaiah, speaking of him by name, instructing him concerning the nature and dominion of the true God; Isa. 45. Which prophecies were probably shown to him, whereby he was induced to publish his testimony concerning the God of Israel, as THE GOD; Ezra 1:2, 3. Daniel, about the same time, being advanced to be prime minister of state in the new empire, erected under Darius, did in that place appear openly as a worshipper of the God of Israel, and him alone; God confirming his testimony for him, before the king and all the grandees of his kingdom, by preserving him in the den of lions; whereby Darius was induced to publish to all people, nations, and languages, that dwelt in all the earth, his testimony, that the God of Israel was the living God, and steadfast forever, etc.
When, after the destruction of Babylon, some of the Jews returned to their own land multitudes never returned to their own land, multitudes never returned, but were dispersed abroad through many parts of the vast Persian empire; as appears by the book of Esther. And many of them afterwards, as good histories inform us, were removed into the more western parts of the world; and so were dispersed as it were all over the heathen world, having the Holy Scriptures with them, and synagogues everywhere, for the worship of the true God. And so it continued to be, to the days of Christ and his apostles; as appears by the Acts of the Apostles. Thus that light, which God had given them, was carried abroad into all parts of the world: so that now they had far greater advantages to come to the knowledge of the truth, in matters of religion, if they had been disposed to improve their advantages.
And besides all these things, from about Cyrus’s time, learning and philosophy increased, and was carried to a great height. God raised up a number of men of prodigious genius, to instruct others, and improve their reason and understanding, in the nature of things: and philosophic knowledge having gone on to increase for several ages, seemed to be got to its height before Christ came, or about that time.
And now let it be considered what was the effect of all these things. — Instead of a reformation, or any appearance or prospect of it, the heathen world in general rather grew worse. As Dr. Winder observes, “The inveterate absurdities of pagan idolatry continued without remedy, and increased as arts and learning increased; and paganism prevailed in all its height of absurdity, when pagan nations were polished to the height, and in the most polite cities and countries; and thus continued to the last breath of pagan power.” And so it was with respect to wickedness in general, as well as idolatry; as appears by what the apostle Paul observes in Rom. 1. — Dr. T. speaking of the time when the gospel-scheme was introduced (Key, § 289) says, “The moral and religious state of the heathen was very deplorable, being generally sunk into great ignorance, gross idolatry, and abominable vice.” Abominable vices prevailed, not only among the common people, but even among their philosophers themselves, yea, some of the chief of them, and of greatest genius; so Dr. T. himself observes, as to that detestable vice of sodomy, which they commonly and openly allowed and practiced without shame. (See Dr. T.’s note on Rom. 1:27).
Having thus considered the state of the heathen world, with regard to the effect of means used for its reformation, during the Jewish dispensation, from the first foundation of it in Abraham’s time; let us now consider how it was with that people themselves, who were distinguished with the peculiar privileges of that dispensation. The means used with the heathen nations were great; but they were small, if compared with those used with the Israelites. The advantages by which that people were distinguished, are represented in Scripture as vastly above all parallel, in passages which Dr. T. takes notice of (Key, § 54). And he reckons these privileges among those which he calls antecedent blessings, consisting in motives to virtue and obedience; and says (Key, § 66). “That this was the very end and design of the dispensation of God’s extraordinary favors to the Jews, viz. To engage them to duty and obedience, or that it was a scheme for promoting virtue, is clear beyond dispute, from every part of the Old Testament.” Nevertheless, the generality of that people, through all the successive periods of that dispensation, were men of a wicked character. But it will be more abundantly manifest, how strong the natural bias to iniquity appeared to be among that people, by considering more particularly their condition from time to time.
Notwithstanding the great things God had done in the times of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to separate them and their posterity from the idolatrous world, that they might be a holy people to himself; yet in about two hundred years after Jacob’s death, and in less than one hundred and fifty years after the death of Joseph, and while some were alive who had seen Joseph, the people had in a great measure lost the true religion, and were apace conforming to the heathen world. For a remedy, and the more effectually to alienate them from idols, and engage them to the God of their fathers, God appeared, in order to bring them out from among the Egyptians, and separate them from the heathen world, and to reveal himself in his glory and majesty, in so affecting and astonishing a manner, as tended most deeply and durably to impress their minds; that they might never forsake him any more. But so perverse were they, that they murmured even in the midst of the miracles that God wrought for them in Egypt, and murmured at the Red sea, in a few days after God had brought them out with such a mighty hand. When he had led him through the sea, they sang his praise, but soon forgat his works. Before they got to Mount Sinai, they openly manifested their perverseness from time to time; so that God says of them; Exo. 16:28, “How long refuse ye to keep my commandments, and my laws?” Afterwards they murmured again at Rephidim.
In about two months after they came out of Egypt, they came to Mount Sinai; where God entered into a most solemn covenant with the people, that they should be an holy people unto him, with such astonishing manifestations of his power, majesty, and holiness, as were altogether unparalleled. God puts the people in mind; Deu. 4:32-34, “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth; and ask from one side of heaven unto the other, whether there has been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it. Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of another nation?” etc. And these great things were in order to impress their minds which such a conviction and sense of divine truth, and their obligations, that they might never forget them; as God says; Exo. 19:9, “Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever.” But what was the effect of all? It was not more than two or three months, before that people, under that very mountain, returned to their old Egyptian idolatry, and were singing and dancing before a golden calf, which they had set up to worship. And after awful manifestations of God’s displeasure for that sin, and so much done to bring them to repentance, and confirm them in obedience, it was but a few months before they came to that violence of spirit, in open rebellion against God, that with the utmost vehemence they declared their resolution to follow God no longer, but to make them a captain to return into Egypt. And thus they went on in perverse opposition to the Most High, from time to time repeating their open acts of rebellion, in the midst of continued astonishing miracles, till that generation was destroyed. And though the following generation seems to have been the best that ever was in Israel, yet notwithstanding their good example, and notwithstanding all the wonders of God’s power and love to that people in Joshua’s time, how soon did that people degenerate, and begin to forsake God, and join with the heathen in their idolatries, till God, by severe means, and by sending prophets and judges, extraordinarily influenced from above, reclaimed them! But when they were brought to some reformation by such means, they soon fell away again into the practice of idolatry; and so from one age to another; and nothing proved effectual for any abiding reformation.
After things had gone on thus for several hundred years, God used new methods with his people, in two respects: First, he raised up a great prophet, under whom a number of young men were trained up in schools, that from among them there might be a constant succession of great prophets in Israel, of such as God should choose; which seems to have been continued for more than five hundred years. Secondly, God raised up a great king, David, one eminent for wisdom, piety, and fortitude, to subdue all their heathen neighbors, who used to be such a snare to them; and to confirm, adorn, and perfect the institutions of his public worship; and by him to reveal more fully the great salvation, and future glorious kingdom of the Messiah. And after him was raised up his son, Solomon, the wisest and greatest prince that ever was on earth, more fully to settle and establish those things which his father David had begun, concerning the public worship of God in Israel, and to build a glorious temple for the honor of JEHOVAH, and the institutions of his worship, and to instruct the neighbor nations in true wisdom and religion. But what was the success of these new and extraordinary means? If we take Dr. T. for our expositor of Scripture, the nation must be extremely corrupt in David’s time; for he supposes he has respect to his own times, in those words; Psa. 14:2, 3, “The Lord looked down from heaven, 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.” But, whether Dr. T. be in the right in this, or not, yet if we consider what appeared in Israel, in Absalom’s and Sheba’s rebellion, we shall not see cause to think, that the greater part of the nation at that day were men of true wisdom and piety. As to Solomon’s time, Dr. T. supposes, as has been already observed, that Solomon speaks of his own times, when he says, he had found but one in a thousand that was a thoroughly upright man.
However, it appears, that all those great means used to promote and establish virtue and true religion, in Samuel’s, David’s, and Solomon’s times, were so far from having any general abiding good effect in Israel, that Solomon himself, with all his wisdom, and notwithstanding the unparalleled favors of God to him, had his mind corrupted, so as openly to tolerate idolatry in the land, and greatly to provoke God against him. And as soon as he was dead, ten tribes of the twelve forsook the true worship of God, and instead of it, openly established the like idolatry that the people fell into at Mount Sinai, when they made the golden calf; and continued fully obstinate in this apostasy, notwithstanding all means that could be used with them by the prophets, whom God sent, one after another, to reprove, counsel, and warn them, for about two hundred and fifty years; especially those two great prophets, Elijah and Elisha. Of all the kings that reigned over them, there was not so much as one but what was of a wicked character. And at last their case seemed utterly desperate; so that nothing remained to be done with them, but to remove them out of God’s sight. Thus the scripture represents the matter; 2 Kin. 17.
And as to the other two tribes; though their kings were always of the family of David, and they were favored in many respects far beyond their brethren yet they were generally exceeding corrupt. Their kings were, most of them, wicked men, and their magistrates, and priests, and people, were generally agreed in the corruption. Thus the matter is represented in the scripture history, and the books of the prophets. And when they had seen how god had cast off the ten tribes, instead of taking warning, they made themselves vastly more vile than ever the others had done. 2 Kin. 17:18, 19; Eze. 16:46, 47, 51. God indeed waited longer upon them, for his servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, that he had chosen; and used more extraordinary means with them; especially by those great prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, but to no effect: so that at last, as the prophets represent the matter, they were like a body universally and desperately diseased and corrupted, that would admit of no cure, the whole head sick, and the whole heart faint, etc.
Things being come to that pass, God took this method with them; he utterly destroyed their city and land, and the temple which he has among them, made thorough work in purging the land of them; as when a man empties a dish, wipes it, and turns it upside down; or when a vessel is cast into a fierce fire, till its filthiness is thoroughly burnt out: 2 Kin. 21:13; Eze. 24. They were carried into captivity, and there left, till that wicked generation was dead, and those old rebels were purged out; that afterwards the land might be resettled with a more pure generation.
After the return from the captivity, and God had built the Jewish church again in their own land, by a series of wonderful providences; yet they corrupted themselves again, to so great a degree, that the transgressors were come to full again in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes; as the matter is represented in the prophecy of Daniel: Dan. 8:23. And then God made them the subjects of a dispensation, little, if anything, less terrible, than that which had been in Nebuchadnezzar’s days. And after God had again delivered them, and restored the state of religion among them, by the instrumentality of the Maccabees, they degenerated again; so that when Christ came, they were arrived to that extreme degree of corruption, which is represented in the accounts given by the evangelists.
It may be observed here in general, that the Jews, though so vastly distinguished with advantages, means, and motives to holiness, yet are represented, from time to time, as more wicked in the sight of God, than the very worst of the heathen. As, of old, God swore by his life, that the wickedness of Sodom was small, compared with that of the Jews; Eze. 16:47, 48, etc. Also chapter 5:5-10. So, Christ speaking of the Jews, in his time, represents them as having much greater guilt than the inhabitants of Tyre and Sydon, or even Sodom and Gomorrah.
But we are now come to the time when the grandest scene was displayed that ever was opened on earth. After all other schemes had been so long and thoroughly tried, and had so greatly failed of success, both among Jews and Gentiles; that wonderful dispensation was at length introduced — the greatest scheme for suppressing and restraining iniquity among mankind, that ever infinite wisdom and mercy contrived — even the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. “A new dispensation of grace was erected (to use Dr. T.’s own words, p.239, 240) for the more certain and effectual sanctification of mankind, into the image of God; delivering them from the sin and wickedness, into which they might fall, or were already fallen; to redeem the from all iniquity, and bring them to the knowledge and obedience of God.” In whatever high and exalted terms the Scripture speaks of the means and motives which the Jews enjoyed of old; yet their privileges are represented as having no glory in comparison of the advantages of the gospel. Dr. T.’s words (p. 233) are worthy to be here repeated. “Even the heathen (says he) knew God, and might have glorified him as God; but under the glorious light of the gospel, we have very clear ideas of the divine perfections, and particularly of the love of God as our Father, and as the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We see our duty in the utmost extent, and the most cogent reasons to perform it: we have eternity opened to us, even an endless state of honour and felicity, the reward of virtuous actions; and the Spirit of God promised for our direction and assistance. And all this may and ought to be applied to the purifying of our minds, and the perfecting of holiness. And to these happy advantages we are born; for which we are bound forever to praise and magnify the rich grace of God in the Redeemer.” And he elsewhere says, [Key, § 167] “The gospel-constitution is a scheme the most perfect and effectual for restoring true religion, and promoting virtue and happiness, that ever the world has yet seen.” And [Note on Rom. 1:16.] admirably adapted to enlighten our minds, and sanctify our hearts. And never were motives so divine and powerful proposed, to induce us to the practice of all virtue and goodness.
And yet even these means have been ineffectual upon the far greater part of them with whom they have been used; of the many that have been called, few have been chosen.
As to the Jews, God’s ancient people, with whom they were used in the first place, and used long by Christ and his apostles, the generality of them rejected Christ and his gospel, with extreme pertinacity of spirit. They not only went on still in that career of corruption which had been increasing from the time of the Maccabees; but Christ’s coming, his doctrine and miracles, the preaching of his followers, and the glorious things that attended the same, were the occasion, through their perverse misimprovement, of an infinite increase of the wickedness. They crucified the Lord of glory, with the utmost malice and cruelty, and persecuted his followers; they pleased not God, and were contrary to all men; they went on to grow worse and worse, till they filled up the measure of their sin, and wrath came upon them to the uttermost; and they were destroyed, and cast out of God’s sight, with unspeakably greater tokens of the divine abhorrence and indignation, than in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. The greater part of the whole nation were slain, and the rest were scattered abroad through the earth in the most abject and forlorn circumstances. And in the same spirit of unbelief and malice against Christ and the gospel, and in their miserable dispersed circumstances, do they remain to this day.
And as to the gentile nations, though there was a glorious success of the gospel amongst them, in the apostles’ days; yet probably not one in ten of those that had the gospel preached to them embraced it. The powers of the world were set against it, and persecuted it with insatiable malignity. And among the professors of Christianity, there presently appeared in many a disposition to abuse the gospel to the service of pride and licentiousness. The apostles foretold a grand apostasy of the Christian world, which should continue many ages; and observed, that there appeared a disposition to such an apostasy, among professing Christians, even in that day; 2 Thes. 2:7. The greater part of the ages now elapsed, have been spent in that grand and general apostasy, under which the Christian world, as it is called, has been transformed into what has been vastly more dishonorable and hateful to God, and repugnant to true virtue, than the state of the heathen world before: which is agreeable to the prophetical descriptions given of it by the Holy Spirit.
In these latter ages of the Christian church, God has raised up a number of great and good men, to bear testimony against the corruptions of the church of Rome, and by their means introduced that light into the world, by which, in a short time, at least one-third part of Europe was delivered from the more gross enormities of Anti-Christ: which was attended at first with a great reformation, as to vital and practical religion. But how is the gold become dim! To what a pass are things come in Protestant countries at this day, and in our nation in particular! To what a prodigious height has a deluge of infidelity, profaneness, luxury, debauchery, and wickedness of every kind, arisen! The poor savage Americans are mere babes, if I may so speak, as to proficiency in wickedness, in comparison of multitudes in the Christian world. Dr. T. himself, as before observed, represents, that the generality of Christians have been the most wicked, lewd, bloody, and treacherous of all mankind; and (Key, § 388) that “The wickedness of the Christian world renders it so much like the heathen, that the good effects of our change to Christianity are but little seen.”
With respect to the dreadful corruption of the present day, it is to be considered, besides the advantages already mentioned, that great advances in learning and philosophic knowledge have been made in the present and past century; affording great advantage for a proper and enlarged exercise of our rational powers, and for our seeing the bright manifestation of God’s perfection in his works. And it is to observed, that the means and inducements to virtue, which this age enjoys, are in addition to most of those which were mentioned before, as given of old; and among other things, in addition to the shortening of man’s life to 70 or 80 years, from near a thousand. And with regard to this, I would observe, that as the case now stands in Christendom, take one with another of those who ever come to years of discretion, their life is not more than forty or forty-five years; which is but about the twentieth part of what it once was: and not so much in great cities, places where profaneness, sensuality, and debauchery, commonly prevail to the greatest degree.
Dr. T. (Key, § 1) truly observes, That God has from the beginning exercised wonderful and infinite wisdom, in the methods he has, from age to age, made use of to oppose vice, cure corruption, and promote virtue in the world; and introduced several schemes to that end. It is indeed remarkable, how many schemes and methods were tried of old, both before and after the flood; how many were used in the times of the Old Testament, both with Jews and heathens, and how ineffectual all these ancient methods proved, for 4000 years together, till God introduced that grand dispensation, for redeeming men from all iniquity, and purifying them to himself, a people zealous of good works; which the Scripture represents as the subject of the admiration of angels. But even this has now so long proved ineffectual, with respect to the generality, that Dr. T. thinks there is need of a new dispensation; the present light of the gospel being insufficient for the full reformation of the Christian world, by reason of its corruptions: Note on Rom. 1:27. — And yet all these things, according to him, without any natural bias to these things, according to him, without any natural bias to the contrary; no stream of natural inclination or propensity at all, to oppose inducements to goodness; no native opposition of heart, to withstand those gracious means, which God has ever used with mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day; any more than there was in the heart of Adam, the moment God created him in perfect innocence.
Surely Dr. T.’s scheme is attended with strange paradoxes. And that his mysterious tenets may appear in a true light, it must be observed that — at the same time he supposes these means, even the very greatest and best of them, to have proved so ineffectual, that help from them, as to any general reformation, is to be despaired of — that he maintains all mankind, even the heathen in all parts of the world, yea, every single person in it (which must include every Indian in America, before the Europeans came hither; and every inhabitant of the unknown parts of Africa and Terra Australis), has ability, light, and means sufficient to do their whole duty; yea, many passages in his writings plainly suppose, to perform perfect obedience to God’s law, without the least degree of vice or iniquity. (See p. 259. 63, 64, 72. S.)
But I must not omit to observe, that Dr. T. supposes, the reason why the gospel-dispensation has been so ineffectual, is, that it has been greatly misunderstood and perverted. In his Key (§ 389) he says, “Wrong representations of the scheme of the gospel have greatly obscured the glory of divine grace, and contributed much to the corruption of its professors. — Such doctrines have been almost universally taught and received, as quite subvert it. Mistaken notions about nature, grace, election and reprobation, justification, regeneration, redemption, calling, adoption, etc. have quite taken away the very ground of the Christian life.”
But how came the gospel to be so universally and exceedingly misunderstood? Is it because it is in itself so very dark and unintelligible, and not adapted to the apprehension of the human faculties? If so, how is the possession of such an obscure and unintelligible thing, so glorious an advantage? — Or is it because of the native blindness, corruption, and superstition of mankind? But this is giving up the thing in question, and allowing a great depravity of nature. Dr. T. speaks of the gospel as far otherwise than dark and unintelligible; he represents it as exhibiting the clearest and most glorious light, calculated to deliver the world from darkness, and to bring them into marvelous light. He speaks of the light which the Jews had, under the Mosaic dispensation, as vastly exceeding the light of nature, which the heathen enjoyed; and yet he supposes that even the latter was so clear, as to be sufficient to lead men to the knowledge of God, as their whole duty to him. He speaks of the light of the gospel as vastly exceeding the light of the Old Testament; and says of the apostle Paul in particular, “That he wrote with great perspicuity; that he takes great care to explain every part of his subject; that he has left no part of it unexplained and unguarded; and that never was an author more exact and cautious in this.” [Pref. To Par. On Rom. p. 146, 48.] Is it not strange, therefore, that the Christian world, without any native depravity, should be so blind in the midst of such glaring light, as to be all, or the generality, agreed from age to age, so essentially to misunderstand that which is made so very plain?
Dr. T. says (p. 167 S) “It is my persuasion, that the Christian religion was very early and grievously corrupted by dreaming, ignorant, superstitious monks, too conceited to be satisfied with the plain gospel; and has long remained in that deplorable state.” — But how came the whole Christian world, without any blinding depravity, to hearken to these ignorant foolish men, rather than unto wiser and better teachers? Especially, when the latter had plain gospel on their side, and the doctrines of the other were (as our author supposes) so very contrary not only to the plain gospel, but to men’s reason and common sense? Or were all teachers of the Christian church nothing but a parcel of ignorant dreamers? If so, this is very strange indeed, unless mankind naturally loves darkness rather than light; seeing in all parts of the Christian world, there was a great multitude in the work of the ministry, who had the gospel in their hands, and whose whole business it was to study and teach it; and therefore had infinitely greater advantages to become truly wise, than the heathen philosophers. But if, by some strange and inconceivable means, notwithstanding all these glorious advantages, all the teachers of the Christian church through the world, without any native evil propensity, very early became silly dreamers — and also in their dreaming, generally stumbled on the same individual monstrous opinions, and so the world might be blinded for a while — yet, why did not they hearken to that wise and great man, Pelagius, and others like him, when he plainly held forth the truth to the Christian world? Especially seeing his instructions were so agreeable to the plain doctrines, and the bright and clear light of the gospel of Christ, and also so agreeable to the plainest dictates of the common sense and understanding of all mankind; but the other so repugnant to it, that (according to our author) if they were true, it would prove understanding to be no understanding, and the Word of God to be no rule of truth, nor at all to be relied upon, and God to be a Being worthy of no regard?
Besides, if the inefficacy of the gospel to restrain sin and promote virtue, be owing to the general prevalence of these doctrines, which are supposed to be so absurd and contrary to the gospel, here is this further to be accounted for; namely, Why, since there has been so great an increase of light in religious matters (as must be supposed on Dr. T.’s scheme) in this and the last age, and these monstrous doctrines of original sin, election, reprobation, justification, regeneration, etc. Have been so much exploded, especially in our nation, there has been no reformation attending this great advancement of light and truth: but on the contrary, vice, and everything opposite to practical Christianity, has gone on to increase, with such a prodigious celerity, as to become like an overflowing deluge; threatening, unless God mercifully interposes, speedily to swallow up all that is virtuous and praiseworthy.
Many other things might have been mentioned under this head — the means which mankind have had to restrain vice, and promote virtue — such as wickedness being many ways contrary to men’s temporal interest and comfort, and their having continually before their eyes so many instances of persons made miserable by their vices; the restraints of human laws, without which men cannot live in society; the judgments of God brought on men for their wickedness, with which history abounds, and the providential rewards of virtue; and innumerable particular means, that God has used from age to age to curb the wickedness of mankind, which I have omitted. But there would be no end of a particular enumeration of such things. They that will not be convinced by the instances which have been mentioned, probably would not be convinced, if the world had stood a thousand times so long, and we had the most authentic and certain accounts of means having been used from the beginning, in a thousand times greater variety; and new dispensations had been introduced, after others had been tried in vain, ever so often, and still to little effect. He that will not be convinced by a thousand good witnesses, it is not likely that he would be convinced by a thousand thousand.
The proofs that have been extant in the world, from trial and fact, of the depravity of man’s nature, are inexpressible, and as it were infinite, beyond the representation of all similitude. If there were a piece of ground which abounded with briers and thorns, or some poisonous plant, and all mankind had used their endeavors, for a thousand years together, to suppress that evil growth — and to bring that ground by manure and cultivation, planting and sowing, to produce better fruit, all in vain; it would still be overrun with the same noxious growth — it would not be a proof, that such a produce was agreeable to the nature of that soil, in any wise to be compared to that which is given in divine providence, that wickedness is a produce agreeable to the nature of the field of the world of mankind. For the means used with it have been various, great, and wonderful, contrived by the unsearchable and boundless wisdom of God; medicine procured with infinite expense, exhibited with a vast apparatus; a marvelous succession of dispensations, introduced one after another, displaying an incomprehensible length and breadth, depth and height, of divine wisdom, love, and power, and every perfection of the godhead, to the eternal admiration of principalities and powers in heavenly places.
PART I, CHAP. I
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. [Belsham] Again (p. 52-54 S etc.) “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, etc. — 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.[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 everyone 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 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 labor 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, etc. — 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 [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, etc. 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 [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 favor 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 everywhere, 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 everything 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 anything observable in their constant practice or behavior, 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 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, etc. Let everyone 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, everywhere, 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 behavior 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 everywhere 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. 2:21. It is evident, that the generation which came with Joshua into Canaan was an excellent generation, by innumerable things said of them. (See Jer. 2:2, 3; Psa. 68:14; Jos. 22:2, 23:8; Deu. 4:3, 4; Hos. 11:1, 9:10; Jdg. 2:7, 17, 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 steadfastly 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 center, to which it naturally and constantly tends.
So that evil example will in nowise 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 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 honorable; and this — though that of one in our nature, yet — was the example of one infinitely higher and more honorable 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, etc. 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 in, 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 [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 vigor, 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 [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 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 not 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 vigor no otherwise than by exercise and culture [Mor. Phil. p. 311]. But can there be any force in this? Is there anything 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 [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 forever — 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 [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.
UNIVERSAL MORTALITY PROVES ORIGINAL SIN; PARTICULARLY THE DEATH OF INFANTS, WITH ITS VARIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES.
THE universal reign of death over persons of all ages indiscriminately, with the awful circumstances and attendants of death, prove that men come sinful into the world. — It is needless here particularly to inquire, whether God has not a sovereign right to set bounds to the lives of his own creates, be they sinful or not; and as he gives life, so to take it away when he pleases? Or how far God has a right to bring extreme suffering and calamity on an innocent moral agent? For death, with the pains and agonies with which it is usually brought on, is not merely a limiting of existence, but is a most terrible calamity; and to such a creature as man — capable of conceiving of immortality, made with an earnest desire after it, capable of foresight and reflection on approaching death, and having an extreme dread of it — is a calamity above all others terrible. I say, it is needless elaborately to consider, whether God may not, consistent with his perfections by absolute sovereignty, bring so great a calamity on mankind when perfectly innocent. It is sufficient, if we have good evidence from Scripture, that it is not agreeable to God’s manner of dealing with mankind so to do.
It is manifest, that mankind were not originally subjected to this calamity: God brought it on them afterwards, on occasion of man’s sin, when manifesting his great displeasure, and by a sentence pronounced by him as a judge; which Dr. T. often confesses. Sin entered into the world, as the apostle says, and death by sin. Which certainly leads us to suppose, that this affair was ordered, not merely by the sovereignty of a creator, but by the righteousness of a judge. And the Scripture everywhere speaks of all great afflictions and calamities, which God in his providence brings on mankind, as testimonies of his displeasure for sin, in the subjects of those calamities; excepting those sufferings which are to atone for the sins of others. He ever taught his people to look on such calamities as his rod, the rod of his anger, his frown, the hidings of his face in displeasure. Hence such calamities are in Scripture so often called by the name of judgments, being what God brings on men as a judge, executing a righteous sentence for transgression. Yea, they are often called by the name of wrath, especially calamities consisting or issuing in death. (See Lev. 10:6; Num. 1:53, and 18:5; Jos. 9:20; 2 Chr. 24:18, and 19:2, 10, and 28:13, and 32:25; Ezra 7:23; Neh. 13:18; Zec. 7:12 and many other places.) And hence also is that which Dr. T. would have us take so much notice of, that sometimes, in the Scripture, calamity and suffering is called by such names as sin, iniquity, being guilty, etc. which is evidently by a metonymy of the cause for the effect. It is not likely that, in the language used of old among God’s people, calamity or suffering would have been called by the names of sin and guilt, if it had been so far from having any connection with sin, that even death itself, which is always spoken of as the most terrible of calamities, is not so much as any sign of the sinfulness of the subject, or any testimony of God’s displeasure for his guilt, as Dr. T. supposes.
Death is spoken of in Scripture as the chief of calamities, the most extreme and terrible of all natural evils in this world. Deadly destruction is spoken of as the most terrible destruction (1 Sam. 5:11). Deadly sorrow, as the most extreme sorrow (Isa. 17:11; Mat. 26:38). And deadly enemies, as the most bitter and terrible enemies (Psa. 17:9). The extremity of Christ’s sufferings is represented by his suffering unto death (Phil. 2:8, and other places). Hence the greatest testimonies of God’s anger for the sins of men in this world, have been by inflicting death; as on the sinners of the old world; on the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah; on Onan, Pharaoh, and the Egyptians; on Nadab and Abihu, Korah and his company, and the rest of the rebels in the wilderness; on the wicked inhabitants of Canaan; on Hophni and Phinehas, Ananias and Sapphira, and the unbelieving Jews, upon whom wrath came to the uttermost, in the time of the last destruction of Jerusalem. This calamity is often spoken of as in a peculiar manner the fruit of guilt. Exo. 28:43, “That they bear not iniquity and die.” Lev. 22:9, “Lest they bear sin for it and die” (so Num. 18:22, compared with Lev. 10:1, 2). The very light of nature, or tradition from ancient revelation, led the heathen to conceive of death as in a peculiar manner an evidence of divine vengeance. Thus we have an account (Acts 28:4), That “when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on Paul’s hand, they said among themselves, no doubt this man is a murderer, whom though he hath escaped the seas, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.”
Calamities, very small in comparison of the universal temporal destruction of mankind by death, are spoken of as manifest indications of God’s great displeasure for the sinfulness of the subject; such as the destruction of particular cities, countries, or numbers of men, by war or pestilence. Deu. 29:24, “All nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?” (Compare Deu. 32:30; 1 Kin. 9:8; and Jer. 22:8, 9.) These calamities, thus spoken of as plain testimonies of God’s great anger, consisted only in hastening on that death, which otherwise, by God’s disposal, would most certainly have come in a short time. Now to take off thirty or forty years from seventy or eighty, supposing it to be so much, one with another, in the time of these extraordinary judgments, is but a small matter, in comparison of God first making man mortal, cutting off his hope of immortality, subjecting him to inevitable death, which his nature so exceedingly dreads; and afterwards shortening his life further, by cutting off more than eight hundred years of it: so bringing it to be less than a twelfth part of what is was in the first ages of the world. Besides that innumerable multitudes in the common course of things, without any extraordinary judgment, die in youth, in childhood, and infancy. Therefore how inconsiderable a thing is the additional or hastened destruction, that is sometimes brought on a particular city or country by war, compared with that universal havoc which death makes of the whole human race, from generation to generation, without distinction of sex, age, quality, or condition; with all the infinitely various dismal circumstances, torments, and agonies, which attend the death of old and young, adult persons and little infants! if those particular and comparatively trivial calamities, extending perhaps not to more than the thousandth part of one generation, are clear evidences of God’s great anger; certainly this universal destruction — by which the whole world, in all generations, is swallowed up, as by a flood that nothing can resist — must be a most glaring manifestation of God’s anger for the sinfulness of mankind. Yea, the Scripture is express, that it is so: (Psa. 90:3, etc.) “Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Return, ye children of men. — Thou carriest them away as with a flood: they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass, which groweth up; in the morning it flourisheth and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down and withereth. For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou has set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten: and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? According to thy fear, so is they wrath. So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” How plain and full is this testimony, that the general mortality of mankind is an evidence of God’s anger for the sin of those who are the subjects of such a dispensation!
Abimelech speaks of it as what he had reason to conclude from God’s nature and perfection, that he would not slay a righteous nation. Gen. 20:4. By righteous evidently meaning innocent. And if so, much less will God slay a righteous world — consisting of so many nations, repeating the great slaughter in every generation — or subject the whole world of mankind to death, when they are considered as innocent, as Dr. T. supposes. We have from time to time in Scripture such phrases as — worthy of death, and guilty of death: but certainly the righteous Judge of all the earth will not bring death on thousands of millions, not only that are not worthy of death, but are worthy of no punishment at all.
Dr. T. from time to time speaks of affliction and death as a great benefit, as they increase the vanity of all earthly things, and tend to excite sober reflections, and to induce us to be moderate in gratifying the appetites of the body, and to mortify pride and ambition, etc. [P 21, 67, and other places.]
1. It is not denied but God may see it needful for mankind in their present state, that they should be mortal, and subject to outward afflictions, to restrain their lusts, mortify their pride, etc. But then is it not an evidence of man’s depravity, that it is so? Is it not an evidence of distemper of mind, yea, strong disease, when man stands in need of such sharp medicines, such severe and terrible means to restrain his lusts, keep down his pride, and to make him willing, and obedient to God? It must be owing to a corrupt and ungrateful heart, if the riches of divine bounty, in bestowing life and prosperity, things comfortable and pleasant, will not engage the heart to God and virtue, love and obedience. Whereas he must always have the rod held over him, be often chastised, and held under the apprehensions of death, to keep him from running wild in pride, contempt, and rebellion; ungratefully using the blessings dealt forth from God’s hand, in sinning against him, and serving his enemies. If man has no natural disingenuity of heart, it must be a mysterious thing indeed, that the sweet blessings of God’s bounty have not as powerful an influence to restrain him from sinning against God, as terrible afflictions. If anything can be a proof of a perverse and vile disposition, this must be a proof of a perverse and vile disposition, this must be a proof of it, that men should be most apt to forget and despise God, when his providence is most kind; and that they should need to have God chastising them with great severity, and even killing them, to keep them in order. If we were as much disposed to gratitude to God for his benefits, as we are to anger at our fellow-creatures for injuries, as we must be (so far as I can see) if we are not of a depraved heart; then the sweetness of divine bounty, and the height of every enjoyment pleasing to innocent human nature, would be as powerful incentives to a proper regard for God — tending as much to promote religion and virtue — as to have the world filled with calamities, and to have God (to use the language of Hezekiah, Isa. 38:13, describing death and its agonies) as a lion, breaking all our bones, and from day even to night, making an end of us.
Dr. T himself (p. 252) says, “that our first parents before the fall were placed in a condition proper to engage their gratitude, love, and obedience.” Which is as much as to say, a condition proper to engage them to the exercise and practice of all religion. And if the paradisaical state was proper to engage to all religion and duty, and men still come into the world with hearts as good as the two first of the species, why is it not proper to engage them to it still? What need of so vastly changing man’s state, depriving him of all those blessings, and instead of them allotting to him a world full of briers and thorns, affliction, calamity, and death, to engage him to it? The taking away of life, and all those pleasant enjoyments man had at first, by a permanent constitution, would be no stated benefit to mankind, unless there was in them a stated disposition to abuse such blessings. The taking of them away, is supposed to be a benefit, under the notion of their tending to lead men to sin: but they would have no such tendency, at least in a stated manner, unless there was in men a fixed tendency to make that unreasonable misimprovement of them. Such a temper of mind, as amounts to a disposition to make such a misimprovement of blessings, is often spoken of in Scripture as most astonishingly vile and perverse. So concerning Israel abusing the blessings of Canaan, that land flowing with milk and honey; their ingratitude in it is spoken of by the prophets, as enough to astonish all heaven and earth, and as more than brutish stupidity and vileness. Jer. 2:7, “I brought them into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof, and the goodness thereof. But when ye entered, ye defiled my land,” etc. See the following verses, especially verse 12, “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this.” So Isa. 1:2-4, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but my people doth not know, Israel doth not consider. Ah, sinful nation! a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that are corrupters.” (Compare Deu. 32:6-19.) If to be disposed thus to abuse the blessings of so fruitful and pleasant a land as Canaan, showed so great depravity, surely it would be an evidence of a corruption no less astonishing, to be inclined to abuse the blessings of Eden, and the garden of God.
2. If death be brought on mankind only as a benefit, and in that manner which Dr. T. mentions — to mortify or moderate their carnal appetites and affections, wean them from the world, excite them to sober reflections, and lead them to the fear and obedience of God, etc. — is it not strange that it should fall so heavily on infants, who are not capable of making any such improvement of it; so that many more of mankind suffer death in infancy, than in any other equal part of the age of man? Our author sometimes hints, that the death of infants may be for the correction and punishment of parents. But hath God any need of such methods to add to parents’ afflictions? Are there not other ways for increasing their trouble, without destroying the lives of such multitudes of those who are perfectly innocent, and who, on the supposition, have in no respect any sin belonging to them? On whom death comes at an age, when not only the subjects are not capable of reflection, or making any improvement of it, either in suffering, or the expectation of it: but also at an age, when parents and friends — who alone can improve, and whom Dr. T. supposes alone to be punished by it — suffer least by being bereaved of them; though the infants themselves sometimes suffer to great extremity?
3. To suppose, as Dr. T. does, that death is brought on mankind in consequence of Adam’s sin, not at all as a calamity but only as a favor and benefit, is contrary to the gospel; which teaches, that when Christ, as the second Adam, comes to remove and destroy that death, which came by the first Adam, he finds it not as a friend, but an enemy. 1 Cor. 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” (with 1 Cor. 15:25, 26), “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed, is death.”
Dr. T urges, that the afflictions to which mankind are subjected, and particularly their common mortality, are represented in Scripture as the chastisements of our heavenly Father; and therefore are designed for our spiritual good, and consequently are not of the nature of punishments. (So in p. 68, 69. 38, 39. S.)
Though I think the thing asserted far from being true, viz. that the Scripture represents the afflictions of mankind in general, and particularly their common mortality, as the chastisement of a heavenly Father; yet it is needless to stand to dispute that matter. For if it be so, it will be no argument that the afflictions and death of mankind are not evidences of their sinfulness. Those would be strange chastisements from the hand of a wise and good Father, which are wholly for nothing; especially such severe chastisements, as to break the child’s bones, when at the same time the father does not suppose any guilt, fault, or offense, in any respect, belonging to the child; but it is chastised in this terrible manner, only for fear that it will be faulty hereafter. I say, these would be a strange sort of chastisements; yea, though he should be able to make it up to the child afterwards. Dr. T speaks of representations made by the whole current of Scripture; I am certain, it is not agreeable to the current of Scripture, to represent divine fatherly chastisements after this manner. It is true, the Scripture supposes such chastenings to be the fruit of God’s goodness; yet at the same time it evermore represents them as being for the sin of the subject, and as evidences of the divine displeasure for its sinfulness. Thus the apostle (1 Cor. 11:30-32) speaks of God chastening his people by mortal sickness, for their good, that they might not be condemned with the world, and yet signifies that it was for their sin; for this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep: that is, for the profaneness and sinful disorder before mentioned. So Elihu (Job 33:16-20, etc.) speaks of the same chastening by sickness, as for men’s good; to withdraw man from his sinful purpose, and to hide pride from man, and keep back his soul from the pit; that therefore God chastens man with pain on his bed, and the multitude of this bones with strong pain. But these chastenings are for his sins, as appears by what follows (Job 33:28). Where it is observed, that when God by this means has brought men to repent, and humbly confess their sins, he delivers them. Again, the same Elihu, speaking of the unfailing love of God to the righteous, even when he chastens them, and they are bound in fetters, and holden in cords of affliction (Job 36:7-8, etc.) yet speaks of these chastenings as being for their sins (verse 9) “Then he showeth them their work, and their transgressions, that they have exceeded.” So David (Psa. 30) speaks of God’s chastening by some afflictions, as being for his good, and issuing joyfully; and yet being the fruit of God’s anger for his sin (Psa. 30:5). God’s anger endureth but for a moment, etc. (Compare Psa. 119:67, 71, 75.) God’s fatherly chastisements are spoken of as being for sin. (2 Sam. 7:14, 15) “I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but my mercy shall not depart away from him.” So the prophet Jeremiah speaks of the great affliction that God’s people suffered in the time of the captivity, as being for their good. (Lam. 3:25, etc.) But yet these chastisements are spoken of as being for their sin (see especially verse 39-40). So Christ says, Rev. 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” But the words following show, that these chastenings from love are for sin that should be repented of: “Be zealous therefore, and repent.” And though Christ tells us, they are blessed that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and have reason to rejoice and be exceeding glad; yet even the persecutions of God’s people, as ordered in divine providence, are spoken of as divine chastenings for sin, like the just corrections of a father, when the children deserve them, Heb. 12. The apostle there speaking to the Christians concerning the persecutions which they suffered, calls their sufferings by the name of divine rebukes; which implies testifying against a fault: and that they may not be discouraged, puts them in mind, that whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son that he receiveth. It is also very plain, that the persecutions of God’s people, as they are from the disposing hand of God, are chastisements for sin. (See 1 Pet. 4:17, 18, compared with Pro. 11:31. See also Psa. 69:4-9.)
If divine chastisements in general are certain evidences that the subjects are not wholly without sin, some way belonging to them, then in a peculiar manner is death so; for these reasons:
(1.) Because slaying, or delivering to death, is often spoken of as, in general, a more awful thing than the chastisements which are endured in this life. Thus, Psa. 118:17, 18, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore; but he hath not given me over unto death.” So the Psalmist (Psa. 88:15) setting forth the extremity of his affliction, represents it as what was next to death. “I am afflicted, and ready to die, — while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted.” (see 1 Sam. 20:3) And so God’s tenderness towards persons under chastisement, is, from time to time, set forth, that he did not proceed so far, as to make an end of them by death. (As in Psa. 78:38, 39; Psa. 103:9, with verse 14, 15; Psa. 30:2, 3, 9, and Job 33:22-24.)
Especially may death be looked upon as the most extreme of all temporal sufferings, when attended with such dreadful circumstances, and extreme pains, as those with which Providence sometimes brings it on infants; as on the children that were offered up to Moloch, and some other idols, who were tormented to death in burning brass. Dr. T. says (p. 83, 128. S.) “The Lord of all being can never want time, and place, and power, to compensate abundantly any sufferings infants now undergo in subserviency to his good providence.” But there are no bounds to such a license, in evading evidences from fact. It might as well be said, that there is not and cannot be any such thing as evidence, from events of God’s displeasure; which is most contrary to the whole current of Scripture, as may appear in part from what has been observed. This gentleman might as well go further still, and say, that God may cast guiltless persons into hell fire, to remain there in the most unutterable torments for ages of ages (which bear no greater proportion to eternity than a quarter of an hour), and if he does so, it is no evidence of God’s displeasure; because he can never want time, place, and power, abundantly to compensate their sufferings afterwards. If it be so, it is not to the purpose, as long as the Scripture so abundantly teaches us to look on great calamities and sufferings which God brings on men, especially death, as marks of his displeasure for sin, and for sin belonging to them who suffer.
(2.) Another thing — which may well lead us to suppose death, in a peculiar manner, above other temporal sufferings, to be intended as a testimony of God’s displeasure for sin — is, that death is attended with that awful appearance, that gloomy and terrible aspect, which naturally suggests to our minds God’s awful displeasure. Of this Dr. T. himself takes particular notice, when (p. 69). speaking of death; “Herein (says he) have we before our eyes a striking demonstration, that sin is infinitely hateful to God, and the corruption and ruin of our nature. Nothing is more proper than such a sight to give us the utmost abhorrence of all iniquity,” etc. Now, if death be no testimony of God’s displeasure for sin — no evidence that the subject is looked upon, by him who inflicts it, as any other than perfectly innocent, free from all imputation of guilt, and treated only as an object of favor — is it not strange, that God should annex to it such affecting appearances of his hatred and anger for sin, more than to other chastisements? Which yet the Scripture teaches us are always for sin. These gloomy and striking manifestations of God’s hatred of sin attending death, are equivalent to the awful frowns of God attending the stroke of his hand. If we should see a wise and just father chastising his child, mixing terrible frowns with severe strokes, we should justly argue, that the father considered his child as having in him something displeasing, and that he did not thus treat his child only under a notion of mortifying him, and preventing his being faulty hereafter, and making it up to him afterwards, when he had been perfectly innocent, and without fault, either of action or disposition.
We may well argue from these things, that infants are not sinless, but are by nature children of wrath, seeing this terrible evil comes so heavily on mankind at this early period. But, besides the mortality of infants in general, there are some particular cases of their death attended with circumstances, which, in a peculiar manner, give evidence of their sinfulness, and of their just exposedness to divine wrath. Particularly,
The destroying of the infants in Sodom and the neighboring cities, may be pleaded in evidence; for these cities destroyed in so miraculous and awful a manner, are set forth as a signal example of God’s dreadful vengeance for sin. (Jude, verse 7.) God did not reprove, but manifestly countenanced, Abraham, when he said, with respect to the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 18:23, 25), “Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Abraham’s words imply that God would not destroy the innocent with the guilty. We may well understand innocent as included in the word righteous, according to the language usual in Scripture, in speaking of such cases of judgment and punishment (Gen. 20:4; Exo. 23:7; Deu. 25:1; 2 Sam. 4:11; 2 Chr. 6:23, and Pro. 18:5). Eliphaz says, Job 4:7, “Who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?” We see what great care God took that Lot should not be involved in that destruction. He was miraculously rescued by angels, sent on purpose; who laid hold on him, brought him, set him without the gates of the city, and told him that they could do nothing till he was out of the way (Gen. 19:22). And not only was he thus miraculously delivered, but his two wicked daughters for his sake. The whole affair, both the destruction and the rescue, was miraculous; and God could as easily have delivered the infants which were in those cities. And if they had been without sin, their perfect innocence, one should think, would have pleaded much more strongly for them, than those lewd women’s relation to Lot pleaded for them. When in such a case, we must suppose these infants much further from deserving to be involved in that destruction, than even Lot himself. To say, that God could make it up to those infants in another world, must be an insufficient reply. For so he could as easily have made it up to Lot, or to ten or fifty righteous, if they had been destroyed in the same fire. Nevertheless, it is plainly signified, that this would not have been agreeable to the wise and holy proceedings of the judge of all the earth.
Since God declared, that if there had been found but then righteous in Sodom, he would have spared the whole city for their sakes, may we not well suppose, if infants are perfectly innocent, that he would have spared the old world, in which there were, without doubt, many hundred thousand infants, and in general, one in every family, whose perfect innocence pleaded for its preservation? Especially when such vast care was taken to save Noah and his family (some of whom, one at least, seem to have been none of the best), that they might not be involved in that destruction. If the perfect sinlessness of infants had been a notion entertained among the people of God, in the ages next following the flood — handed down from Noah and his children, who well knew that vast multitudes of infants perished in the flood — is it likely that Eliphaz, who lived within a few generations of Shem and Noah, would have said to Job (Job 4:7), “Who ever perished, being innocent? and when were the righteous cut off? Especially, since in the same discourse (Job 5:1) he appeals to the tradition of the ancients for a confirmation of this very point (also in Job 15:7-10, and 22:15, 16.) and he mentions the destruction of the wicked by the flood, as an instance of that perishing of the wicked, which he supposes to be peculiar to them, for Job’s conviction; in which the wicked were cut down out of time, their foundation being overflown with a flood. Where it is also observable, that he speaks of such an untimeliness of death as they suffered by the flood, as one evidence of guilt; as he also does, Job 15:32, 33, “It shall be accomplished before his time; and his branch shall not be green.” But those who were destroyed by the flood in infancy, above all the rest, were cut down out of time; when instead of living above nine hundred years, according to the common period of man’s life, at that time, many were cut down before they were one year old.
When God executed vengeance on the ancient inhabitants of Canaan, he not only did not spare their cities and families for the sake of their infants, nor took care that they should not be involved in the destruction; but he often repeated his express commands, that their infants should not be spared, but should be utterly destroyed, without any pity; while Rahab the harlot (who had been far from innocence, though she expressed her faith in entertaining and safely dismissing the spies) were preserved, and all her friends for her sake. And when God executed his wrath on the Egyptians, by slaying their first-born — though the children of Israel, who were most of them wicked men, as was before shown, were wonderfully spared by the destroying angel, yet — the Egyptian infants were not spared. They not only were not rescued by the angel, and no miracle wrought to save them (as was observed in the case of the infants of Sodom), but the angel destroyed them by his own immediate hand, and a miracle was wrought to kill them.
Not to be particular, concerning the command by Moses, respecting the destruction of the infants of the Midianites (Num. 31:17); and that given to Saul to destroy all the infants of the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15:3); and what is said concerning Edom (Psa. 137:9), “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones;” I proceed to take notice of something remarkable concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, represented in Eze. 9, when command was given to destroy the inhabitants, verse 1-8. And this reason is given for it, that their iniquity required it, and it was a just recompense of their sin (Eze. 9:9, 10). God, at the same time, was most particular and exact in his care, that such as had proved by their behavior, that they were not partakers in the abominations of the city, should by no means be involved in the slaughter. Command was given to the angel to go through the city, and set a mark upon their foreheads, and the destroying angel had a strict charge not to come near any man, on whom was the mark; yet the infants were not marked, nor a word said of sparing them: on the contrary, infants were expressly mentioned as those that should be utterly destroyed, without pity (Eze 9:5, 6), “Go through the city and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity. Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark.”
And if any should suspect, that such instances as these were peculiar to a more severe dispensation, under the Old Testament, let us consider a remarkable instance in the days of the glorious gospel of the grace of God; even the last destruction of Jerusalem. This was far more terrible, and with greater testimonies of God’s wrath and indignation, that the destruction of Sodom, or of Jerusalem in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, or anything that ever had happened to any city, or people, from the beginning of the world to that time (agreeable to Mat. 24:21; and Luke 21:22, 23). At that time particular care was taken to distinguish and to deliver God’s people; as foretold, Dan. 12:1. And we have in the New Testament a particular account of the care Christ took for the preservation of his followers: he gave them a sign, by which they might know when the desolation of the city was nigh, that they who were in Jerusalem might flee to the mountains, and escape. And, as history relates, the Christians followed the directions given, and escaped to a place in the mountains called Pella, and were preserved. Yet no care was taken to preserve the infants of the city, in general; but according to the predictions of that event, they were involved with others in that great destruction. So heavily did the calamity fall upon them, that those words were verified, Luke 23:29, “Behold the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the womb that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck:” and that prophecy in Deu. 32:21-25, which has undoubtedly a special respect to this very time, and is so applied by the best commentators; — “I will provoke them to jealousy with those that are not a people: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, — and it shall burn to the lowest hell. I will heap mischiefs upon them: I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and bitter destruction. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man, and the virgin, the suckling also, with the man of grey hairs.” And, by the history of that destruction appears, that then it was a remarkable fulfillment of Deu. 28:53-57, concerning parents eating their children in the siege, — and the tender and delicate woman eating her new-born child. And here it must be remembered, that these very destructions of that city and land are spoken of as clear evidences of God’s wrath, to all nations who shall behold them. And if so, they were evidences of God’s wrath towards infants; who, equally with the rest, were the subject of the destruction. If a particular kind or rank of persons, which made a very considerable part of the inhabitants, were from time to time partakers of the overthrow, without any distinction made in Divine Providence, and yet this was no evidence at all of God’s displeasure with any of them; then being the subjects of such a calamity could not be an evidence of God’s wrath against any of the inhabitants, to the reason of all nations, or any nation, or so much as one person.
Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:
Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.
Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.