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truth might be no more virtuous, than his perception of the witness, who gave testimony. But another Judge, having the same cause under the same circumstances, might be so much governed by his passions or interest, as not to perceive the truth ; in consequence of which he forms a wrong decision. In the latter case, the wrong decision proves the vice of the Judge; though a right decision would not have proved his virtue. Again: Voluntary intemperance always proves vice; but it is not true, that voluntary temperance always proves virtue. So, the telling of truth is, in itself, neither virtuous nor vicious; but the telling of that, which is not true, is good evidence of moral depravity. It may, in like manner, be true, that natural affection is not a moral quality ; and yet, that it always exists in man, till smothered or extinguished by excessive crimes.
Let us next consider what evidence the scriptures give concerning the character of man.
As they were given by the inspiration of God, their testimony, if rightly understood, fully substantiates any doctrine. But, when facts are contrary to the seeming import of any passage, there is a strong presumption, that the seeming is not the real import. As to the moral condition of man, facts and the most obvious sense of scripture perfectly coincide.
1. The object of our Saviour's advent implies, that the character of man is vitiated: The son of man came to see kand to sade that which was lost: Again, the son of man came into the world to save sinners. It is likewise asserted, that Christ tasted death for every man ; that he gave his life for the world. It appears then, that our Lord's coming had relation to the state of the whole human race. But if his coming had relation to the whole human race, and the object of it was to sade sinners, it follows, that all men were of this character. And further, as the object of his coming is declared, in other words, to be the salvation of them that were lost, it follows, that this too, was universally the condition of man. The former, perhaps, would be more readily conceded, than the latter. If man is accountable; if there is in existence, such a thing as moral obligation, the moral delinquency of man cannot be questioned. No one will assert, that man is entirely innocent: but, from these passages of scripture, it appears, that his departure from innocence is such, as to expose him to perdition.
II. Christ speaks of the world, as being hostile to his religion. (John vii. 7.) The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth ; because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Here are two important assertions; 1. That the works of mankind are evil; 2. That they hated our Saviour for exhibiting this truth.
Those, who follow the example and doctrines of Christ, are said to be a community, acting on moral principles, differing from those, which influence the world in general. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. In connexion with this, Christ repeats the idea, which has been just noticed, viz. that there is hostility between his disciples and other men; I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them. The same sentiment is often conveyed in the same words. The least, that can possibly be meant by such language, is, that the general current of human feelings is less favorable to christians on account of their religion. But, so far as christians obey their religion, they resemble their master, and him, by whom their master was sent. This is not merely an inference now made; it was expressly asserted by our Saviour, who said, They have both seen and hated both me and my father. There was then at least in all, to whom this language applied, a dislike of moral rectitude; a dislike of good men, of Christ and of the Father. Con. sidering what was shown under the last particular, viz. that the gospel declares all men to be sinners, even in so high a degree, as to be exposed to perdition, it seems unreasonable to limit the term world, in the preceding passages, in which Christ speaks of the world's enmity to his religion : or to suppose, that none are comprehended in it, but certain individuals of uncommon depravity.
Ill. That infernal being, to whom the scriptures give the name of Satan, or the Devil, is denominated the god of this world. His devotees are therefore, the inhabitants of this world. They are, therefore, obedient to his dominion. It would be easy to show, that not an evil principle merely, but an intelligent agent is here meant. But let it, if you please, be conceded for a moment, that by the term Satan is meant a principle of evil; the consequence is not less formidable ; viz. that mankind are under the influence of an evil principle.
IV. In the eight chapter of Genesis, is a passage, strikingly to the present purpose. The Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake ; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. Of those stronger passages in the sixth chapter, asserting, that every imagination of man's heart is only evil continually, it may be plausibly said, that they describe not the character of mankind, but of that generation. But the sense of these words in the 8th chapter, cannot be thus limited. They relate not to any detachment of men; but to the whole mass. And, so far, as our subject is concerned, it is perfectly immaterial, whether the passage be read for, or although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth: as this particle has no effect on the proposition, but only on its connexion with what precedes. If the term for be exchanged for although, the sense will be, I will not again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of his heart being evil from his youth, his wickedness may, on some future occasion, become as enormous, as was theirs, whom the flood destroyed. If the word for be retained, the meaning will be, but in a small degree, different. I will not again curse the ground for man's sake, for the imagination of his heart is evil from his youth ; and therefore, his future crimes may call for continual repetitions of this exterminating judgment. The moral disorder of the human heart, is, on either suppo sition, asserted with equal clearness.
V. That mankind, in the gross, are sinners, and to such a degree, as to be exposed to divine wrath, is further proved by the apostle's declaration in the 2d chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians. Among whom we all had our condersation in the world, and were by nature children of wrath, even as others.
The connexion of the passage is this. In the latter part of the preceding chapter, the apostle had mentioned the moral change, which had been produced in the character of the Ephesians, under the figure of a resurrection, or revival: comparing the power, by which it was effected to that, which the Father exerted in raising Christ from the dead. By the introduction of this comparison, he is, according to his manner, led off for a moment from his subject, and resumes it in the beginning of the 2d chapter, which begins thus, And you hath he quickened, or brought to life, who were dead in trespasses and sins : wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit, that now worketh in the children of disobedience. That, thus far, Gentiles are meant is conceded without controversy. It immediately follows, Among whom we all had our conversation in time past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature children of wrath, even as others. It will be allowed, I think, that nothing can be more natural, than to understand the apostle, as speaking, in this latter quotation, of christians in general, comprehending both Jews and Gentiles. Had that been his design, he could not have used more appropriate language. He had charged the Gentile converts with having lived in great profligacy: and then subjoins, that this gloomy representation may be applied generally to the character of christians, previously to their embracing christiani
for they all had the same origin, and were by nature inclined to sin, even as others.
There is, however, an explanation of the text, which, if true, destroys its pertinency, as it respects the purpose, for which it is now adduced. The two prominent points of this explanation are, 1. That the apostle does not here speak of christians in general, but of Gentiles. 2. That by nature is meant custom. As to the first, it is said, when the apostle had reminded those of the Ephesian church, who had been
Gentiles, what their character formely was, he adds, such was the character of us all, who were Gentiles; and we were by nature, i. e. by custom, children of wrath, even as other Gentiles. It must be considered, as a great inconvenience, io say the least, attending this explanation, that St. Paul was not a Gentile; and, therefore, if he ranked himself among them, it was by mere courtesy. In this chapter, let it be noticed, he speaks distinctly of Jews and Gentiles; of the wall of partition, which had formely kept them separate ; which wall was then to be demolished. Now, it is highly unreasonable to suppose, that St. Paul, when distinguishing Jews from Gentiles, should take himself from the Jews, to whom he belonged, and rank himself among the Gentiles, to whom he did not belong. The fact seems to be this, that when the apostle uses the term, ye, throughout this whole chapter, he designates Gentiles particularly: where he uses the term, we, he speaks of christians in general, whether of Jewish or Gentile origin ; and when speaking of the Jews distinctly, he mentions them in the third person: e. g. in verse seventeen; Christ came and preached peace to you,
that were afar off, i. e. to the Gentiles, and to them, that were nigb, i. e. the Jews. If he meant to rank himself with the Gentiles, why did he not say, Christ came and preached peace to us, that were afar off? We surely ought not without necessity to suppose, that the writer uses the terms we and ye indiscriminately; but necessity is so far from requiring this, that on such a supposition, the chapter is far less intelligible. Besides, that these terms are not thus indiscriminately used throughout the chapter, is conceded by the advocates of this explanation.
Hence it is reasonable to believe, that when the apostle said, we all are, by nature, children of wrath, even as others, he spake in general terms, and had no distinct reference to Gentile converts.
The second important point in the explanation, which we are considering is, that the termi nature, as used in this place, means nothing more than custom. Should this prove a just