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Our Savior taught this doctrine in the plainest and strongest terms. "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: And an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Christ insisted much upon this point in opposition to the Pharisees, who were fond of separa. ting actions from the heart. He addressed them in this pointed language. "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." He then spake a parable to illustrate this declaration. "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which goeth out of the mouth, this defileth a man." This parable offending the Pharisees, Peter desired Christ to explain it. Accordingly he replied and said, "Are ye also without understanding? Do not ye understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught. But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the HEART, and they defile the man. For out of the HEART proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man." Our Lord here plainly asserts, that all human actions proceed from the heart; and he conveys the same sentiment in his exposition of the divine law. "When the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, Then one of them who was a lawyer asked him a
question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the secoud is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets." It is easy to see the truth and propriety of this exposition, if all the actions of men flow from the heart. For if this be true, then the commands to read and pray, to labor six days in the week and sanctify the seventh, and to perform all other virtuous and holy. actions, are necessarily comprized in the law of love. By requiring a good heart, God virtually requires all good actions, and virtually forbids all bad actions. So the Apostle reasons upon the subject. "He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, that is, for this reason, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." This text plainly teaches, that the law requires love, because love will produce all good actions, and prevent all bad ones; or in other words, that the law requires a good heart, because all good actions will flow from it; And forbids a bad heart; because all bad actions will low from it. Thus it appears from Scripture precepts nd prohibitions, as well as from Scripture representions and declarations, that all human actions flow om the heart. And to make it appear, that we ve given the true sense of Scripture upon this point, id still further to establish it, we may observe;
2. That moral agency wholly consists in the heart, and therefore every moral action must necessarily flow from this, and no other source.
The heart consists in voluntary exercises; and voluntary exercises are moral agency. Willing is acting. Willing right is acting right; and willing wrong is acting wrong. All voluntary exercises belong to the heart; and therefore loving and hating is as really acting, as choosing and refusing. It is true, we sometimes make a distinction among the exercises of the heart; and call some affections, and others volitions. But the only ground of this distinction is, that loving and hating, which we call affections, are immanent exercises of the heart, which produce no external effects; whereas choosing and refusing, which we call volitions, are imperative acts of the will, and productive of external actions. Moral agency, however, equally belongs to the heart and the will, or to both affections and volitions. For we act when we love, whether we express our love or not. And we act, when we hate, whether we express our hatred or not. There is as much moral agency in the affections of the heart, as in the volitions of the will, The heart and will are essentially the same; or the will is only the heart producing external effects. So that strictly speaking, all moral agency belongs to the heart, as distinguished from all the other powers and faculties of the mind. The truth of this we all know by our own experience. No man feels, that any motion of body or mind is his action, unless his heart is concerned in it. If his eye, or head, or hand, or foot, should move without the concurrence of his heart, he would not call that motion his action, nor feel in the least degree accountable for it. Or if his intellectual powers were put in motion, with. out the choice of his heart, he would not call those
mental motions his actions, nor feel either praise or blame worthy for them. No exercises of body or mind have any moral quality, without the heart. There is no moral good, nor moral evil in thoughts, only as the heart approves or disapproves them. There is no moral good, nor moral evil in words, only as the heart approves or disapproves them. There is no moral good nor moral evil in reading, walking, or laboring, only as the heart approves or disapproves these external exertions. The reason is, all thoughts, words, and external exertions, are not actions, but mere motions, without the heart. All moral agency consists in the heart. With the heart man loves; with the heart man hates; with the heart man chooses and refuses; with the heart man believes and disbelieves; and with the heart he does all that may be called his action. For without the heart, he is a mere passive machine, which may be acted upon, but which cannot act. And on this ground it is, that the law of God knows the heart only, requires the heart only, and forbids the heart only. "My son, says God, give me thine heart." And, says the Apostle, "If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." God requires and accepts a good heart, but forbids and rejects a bad one. The heart comprises all that he requires or forbids; because to require or forbid any exercise or action without the heart, would be the same as to require or forbid an act without an agent, which is palpably absurd. Now if sinners always act from the heart, and if the heart, from which they act, be totally depraved, then all their actions must be totally depraved. If there be no flaw in any link of this chain of reasoning, and if one link be inseparably connected with another; then it must bind every person to believe, that "they that are in the flesh cannot please God."
1. We learn from what has been said, wherein their mistake lies, who acknowledge the total depravity of sinners, and yet deny their total sinfulness.
Those, who run into this inconsistency, have often been refuted, without being convinced. But it is much to be desired, that they should be convinced as well as refuted; and if the fallacy of their reasoning be fairly and clearly pointed out, perhaps they will be convinced. If the hearts of sinners be totally depraved, and all their actions proceed from their hearts, then all their actions must be totally depraved. This is too plain to be denied. Those, therefore, who deny that total sinfulness is the consequence of total depravity, deny that all the actions of sinners proceed from their hearts. And were this true, they might acknowledge total depravity, and yet deny total sinfulness, without the least inconsistency. Accordingly we find, they make a distinction between actions, which flow from the heart, and those, which flow from reason, conscience, or natural affections. They acknowledge, the heart is totally depraved, and all the actions which proceed from it; but they deny the total depravity of reason, conscience, and natural affections, and therefore deny, that the actions, which proceed from these innocent principles, are totally sinful. They say, sinners sometimes act only from their heart; sometimes only from their conscience; and sometimes only from their natural affections. And when they act only from the heart, which is totally corrupt, then their actions are entirely sinful. But when they act from the harmless principles of reason, conscience, and natural affections, then their actions are altogether innocent and acceptable to God. Now when they say this, they say something of which others are as capable of judging as themselves.