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The Origin of Moral Evil.


THUS the Doctor speaks: We assert, that the origin of moral evil is to be found in the union of two principles, neither of which considered alone partakes of a moral character. These two prinples are liberty and passive power-By passive power I mean, that which is of unavoidable necessity found in every creature, as such, in direct opposition to the self-existence, independence, and all-sufficiency of God. In other words, It is that tendency to nihility, physically considered, and to defection, morally considered, which of absolute necessity belongs to every dependent or created nature. That there is such a principle is self-evident, nor is it probable that any reasonable being will ever controvert its existence.** Again, he thus expresses himself: What is passive power? In general, it is that which distinguishes the creature from the Creator. But more particularly, it is that tendency to nothing as to being, and to defection, as to well

* Predestination to Life. Notes, p. 38, 39. Or Second edition, p. 42, 43,

being, which is ESSENTIAL to every created exis tence.'* On which I observe,

It is readily granted, that God only is immutable, independent, and self-sufficient; and that it is impossible for divine power to produce a creature possessed of these high perfections. But, that 'a tendency to defection, morally considered, belongs, of absolute necessity, to every dependent or created nature,' may, I think, be justly questioned, without forfeiting the character of a reasonable being.' The following particulars, among various others, have occurred to my thoughts, when meditating on the subject.


1. A tendency to defection, morally considered, is a tendency to moral evil. But a tendency to moral evil, from whatever source it proceeded, or however it came to exist, is a sinful tendency-is inherent depravity. For what is the corruption of human nature, as it respects a mere infant? Not the practice of sin, but a never-failing tendency to it: a tendency, however, morally evil to a high degree, as Dr. Williams himself must admit.

He denies, notwithstanding, that the supposed necessary tendency of every intelligent creature to revolt from God, has any thing sinful in it: saying, That it is not a moral evil is plain, for the holiest creatures are subjects of it.' But this is mere assertion for no evidence, respecting either branch of the proposition, is produced. Were it evinced, that the holiest creatures are the subjects of a perpetual tendency to rebel against God; it would, indeed, be proof sufficient, that sanctity in heaven, among the seraphim, and the spirits of departed + Page 43.

* Page 11.

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saints, is in a very imperfect state: but no proof at all, that an inherent, necessary tendency to hate God, and to become his avowed enemy, is not a moral evil. Nay, the Doctor himself, in his immediately preceding words, denominates the 'existence' of this very tendency A DIRECT CONTRARIETY' to God. Surely, then, there must be something in it extremely evil! But what, except moral pollution-depravity-sin-can deserve to be so represented?-While our Lord, however, concurring with the common observation and common sense of mankind, asserts, That a tree is known by its fruit; and while it must be admitted, that the never-failing, natural, genuine fruit of this tendency, is morally evil; we have indubitable evidence that the tendency itself is a moral evil.

If, then, this pernicious tendency existed in Adam's nature, from the first moment of his being, how are we to understand Gen. i. 27, 31. and Eccles. vii. 29, with various other passages of Scripture ?*

2. If the common father of mankind, when recent from the hands of his Maker, is to be considered as having a necessary tendency to revolt and ruin, but as destitute of a concreated bias to obedience and happiness; his primitive state, with regard to inherent tendency, was much inferior to that of Abel, of Enoch, of Noah, and of any other individual that is born of God. For every real saint, from the beginning of time, has not only had a law in his members, or a tendency to transgress and apostatize, but also a law in his mind, or an

* See President Edwards on Original Sin, part ii. sect. i. p. 177, 178, 188.

habitual bias on his will, in favour of divine autho rity, and of persevering obedience. Of any such bias to obedience, however, either in the heart of our first father, or in the nature of any angel that sinned, I do not observe the Doctor to speak, and whether he admit the existence of it, I am absolutely uncertain.

3. If a tendency to moral defection belong to every created intelligence, that baneful tendency in the nature of Adam, before he ate the forbidden fruit; and reigning depravity in the heart of Cain, when murdering his brother Abel; were the same in kind, and differed only in degree: i. e. as a grain of arsenic differs from an ounce. But is it possible to prove this, either by scriptural testimony, or on the principles of sound reason?—I do not much wonder to hear Arminians assert, 'That there was in man, before the fall, au inclination to sin; though not so vehement and inordinate as it is now but I am greatly surprised to meet with any thing of the same kind in a Publication by Dr. Williams.

4. If, of absolute necessity, there be in every reasonable creature, as such, an equal tendency to moral defection, and to physical nihility; a tendency to revolt from the dominion of God, must be essential to every subject of his moral government: for we cannot conceive of such a character without it. Nay, the doctor himself expressly tells us, that a' tendency to nothing as to being, and to defection as to well-being, is ESSENTIAL to every created existence." In other words, it is absolutely impossible that the Infinite, Eternal God should have a single

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