Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

man from that labour, which he is otherwise willing to perform. “ The desire of the sluggard “ killeth him ; for his hands refuse to labour.” 1 If moral inability renders it unjust to punish crimes, what law can be given, either by God or man, which numbers are not incapacitated to obey ? Every felon, especially the hardened felon, might plead this kind of inability: but will any judge or jury admit the plea? Why then should we think that God will admit it? The inability, of which we, certainly in unison with the scriptures, speak, is that of a miser to be liberal, not that of the apostle, “ Silver and gold have I none.” And this distinction, so far from being subtle and metaphysical, as some would insinuate, is so obvious, that no man on earth, in his sober senses, ever mistook it. Every master distinguishes between the incapacity of a sick, and that of a slothful, servant. Every poor person, distinguishes between the rich man, who could relieve him, were it not for his covetousness; and the poor man, who would relieve him, were it not for his poverty. · In the case under consideration, let it be again noticed, that we maintain this total disinclination, or moral inability, only in respect of those things which are.' good in the sight of God.' A dead faith, works good before men, splendid virtues; all short of genuine repentance, holy faith, and acceptable obedience; men of different characters, but destitute of true godliness, are often both inclined and able to perform, merely from selfish motives

Prov. xxi, 25.

diversely modified, or from a sort of instinct: and they would do the very same things, if they did not believe even the existence of a God.

The Article proceeds to say, that 'man of his own nature inclineth to evil, so that the flesh ·lusteth always contrary to the spirit.'!...' The article does not pronounce, with the Calvinists, that man of his own nature can perform nothing but evil, but that he inclineth to evil; a doctrine fundamentally different, since an inclination, though strong, may be conquered.'2_-The English Article runs thus, ' Man-is of his own nature inclined to eyil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit.' This is more explicit than ‘man of his own nature inclineth. The Latin article is, ad malum sua natura propendeat, by nature is propense to evil : the very language which Calvin frequently uses on the subject. But not at present to insist on this, it is certainly true that ' an inclination, though strong, may be con

quered ;' but by what means? We answer, by another and still stronger inclination, and in no other way. The strong inclination to animal indulgence has been conquered in many instances, by a stronger inclination to acquire power, honour, or riches; nay, sometimes by a prudent regard to health. The powers of the soul may govern or overcome the bodily appetites. The world is kept in order more by the restraints which one vicious inclination imposes on other inconsistent. vicious: inclinations, than by men's virtues. The heathen

10

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

moralists and philosophers thought of nothing higher than keeping men from grovelling vice, (turpe,) by the love of honour (honestum). But the love of honour, or of the praise of men, is equally opposite with the more grovelling vices to Christian repentance, humility, faith, and holiness. What then is there in our fallen nature, apart from the grace of God, by which the strong inclination to evil, and disinclination to what is truly good, can be overcome? In order to this victory, the stronger inclination must be towards that which is 'good in the sight of God :' but it is conceded,

that man has not this disposition, or inclination, till he is influenced by the Spirit of God.' Where then is the fundamental difference of our Article from the doctrine of the Calvinists ?

'In a second collect we pray, O God,-be'cause, through the weakness of our mortal na'ture, we can do no good thing without thee, grant .' us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy com‘mandments we may please thee, both in will and deed ;' which is nothing more than altering the words of one of our Articles, already explained, into the form of a prayer; and I have only to ob

serve, that the good thing' here mentioned ' must mean good in the sight of God : such an

action our weak and unassisted nature will, un' questionably, not allow us to perform.? 2

In respect of the collects, it should be observed that they were framed for the use of professed Christians, and members of the church of Eng

First after Trinity.

2 Ref. 67.

land; admitted as such, and never expelled. The sincerity of their profession is therefore, as in numerous other instances, assumed to be sincere. They describe the case of those who, by the grace of God are true Christians, and not that of man by nature: so that no conclusion, concerning what the compilers judged of man by nature, can legitimately be deduced from them. Yet the concession made in the quotation is of great importance. Let it be compared with a passage from Mr. Overton :- By natural good works, is here doubt* less meant, those works which are outwardly and 'speciously good, and which are estimable in hu'man judgment. That he can perform these, (ci' vilem justitiam et diligendas res rationi subjectas, as the Augsburg Confession expresses it) 'nobody denies. The question is not, what his * powers are in respect of natural things, but in re

spect of spiritual things : not what he can do which ' may please men, but what that is pleasing and 'acceptable to God: not how far he can conform himself to the laws of common society, but how far he can convert himself to true Christianity; how far, by his own natural and unassisted powers, he can repent, and believe, and love God and his neighbour; and mortify sin, and pursue holiness, ‘in the manner, and from the motives, which the 'gospel requires. Nor is it a natural, but a moral i impotence, which is the subject of our discus

sion.'—What a grievous thing it is that men will not bestow more pains in understanding one another! His Lordship here fully concedes the grand

[ocr errors]

: B.I. point, for which Mr. Overton and the rest of us contend.

If we then maintain, that human nature is incorrigibly depraved, except by the grace of God; that the heart and will of fallen man, so far from beginning the needful change or renovation, or at first concurring in it, always resist conviction, till that resistance is overcome ; yet that no compulsion is used in overcoming it: what is it that we avow, as to the manner in which it is actually overcome This question leads me to another topic.

SECTION VII. On the inclining of the Heart by the Grace of God.

* The terms of scripture represent the Spirit of God, as an assisting, not forcing power ; as 'not suspending our own powers, but enabling

hem; as imparting strength and faculty for our ‘religious work, if we will use them ; but whether 'we will use them or not still depending upon ourselves.'!

There is, however, an influence, often intimated in scripture and in our authorized books, which is here entirely overlooked; and, indeed, not explicitly mentioned in any part of the Refutation : I mean that of inclining the heart. “ The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers, that “ he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in .« all his ways, and to keep his commandments.” 2

Ref. 32, 33.

.: 1 Kings viii. 57, 58.

« EdellinenJatka »