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But, it is of still greater importance to observe, that the language, used by the apostle, is such, as cannot fairly be interpreted to mean any thing less. “As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men to justification of life. For, as by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” But how, you may ask, is it possible, that men should become sinners, through the offence of a distant progenitor? I answer; This is not possible, without their own consent. His sin is not theirs; nor can any constitution or appointment render it so. If a parent exhibits nothing but examples of profligacy before his children, his crimes are not chargeable to them. Yet, in consequence of his crimes, it is not only possible, but highly probable, that they will become as criminal, as himself. Further, if his animal system is so organized, as to excite him strongly to particular crimes, say, intemperance or revenge; his intemperance, his revenge is not theirs. Yet his animal system may be transmitted to them; through occasion of which, they may equal or exceed him in crimes. It has been shown already, that as human creatures may choose sin part of the time, or be partially sinful, consistently with freedom; so it implies no absurdity to suppose, that, without any constraint destroying free agency, they may choose sin uniformly, or be entirely destitute of moral goodness. The fact, that they do thus choose, will be somewhat more easily conceivable, if the scriptures teach us to believe, that there is, consequent on the apostacy of Adam, a universal disorder, or deterioration in the animal economy. Every person, who has attentively read the New Testament, but especially the writings of St. Paul, must have observed, that much is said of the body, the flesh and the spirit. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if, through the spirit, ye do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” We read likewise, of the “law in the members,” and the
“law of the mind.” Obedience to the former, is the same thing, as to “live after the flesh:” obedience to the latter, the same, as habitually to “mortify the deeds of the body.” The reason of man is always on the side of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit. It is the dictate of reason to obey God, and to counteract every inclination, that opposes his commands. It is the dictate of reason to walk by the spirit, i. e. to act conformably to divine precepts and divine suggestions. Those, on the contrary, who live under the influence of a sensual mind, oppose equally the reason of man and the empire of God. But all are said to be in the flesh, in whom a moral change has not been divinely produced: and those of the latter description only, are said to have the spirit of Christ dwelling in them. As the understanding is always coincident with the divine commands, and a sensual mind is in opposition to both, we see the ground of that conflict, which, in all ages, has been observed to exist in human be. ings: “I see the right and approve it; but pursue the wrong.” The passages quoted, together with numerous others of similar import, lead us to conclude, that the present moral degradation of man is derived through the medium of the flesh or bodily appetites. It was through these, that the first temptation was conveyed to Adam. His eye was delighted with the forbidden fruit; and his appetite urged him to partake of it. It is probable, that his bodily organization was from that moment altered in righteous judgment, that his passions became strong and imperious; the flesh began a violent warfare with the spirit: and those appetites, which led to his first sin, becoming from that moment more violent, were af. terwards uniformly victorious: and this not merely through the increased impetuosity of the passions, but likewise, because the mind, by yielding, became contaminated, and ready to obey sensual impulse. That same disordered constitution, which immediately resulted to our first parents from their sin, seems to have been transmitted to their descendants, administering temptations,
which they ought to resist, but, in fact, do not; in consequence of which their minds have become sensual and corrupt; indisposed to spiritual objects and pursuits, and disinclined to honor the Creator, who is over all, God blessed for , ever more. Agreeably to this are the words of our Saviour, “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh: and that which is born of the spirit, is spirit.” It is remarkable, that St. Paul, when enumerating the works of the flesh, does not confine himself to those, which we should be likely to trace to such an origin; but comprehends in the number, “idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, seditions, heresies, and envyings;” hereby, plainly suggesting, that there is but one origin of all the moral disorders of man. I will here make a few remarks, which might with more propriety have been made before, as to the effect, which human depravity has upon the understanding. Intellects, simply considered, are not the seat of moral disorder. The understanding, if we speak with precision, cannot be depraved. Yet the operations of the understanding are doubtless liable to be influenced by the heart, or will. The good man, therefore, other things being equal, is more likely, than another to obtain correct views of religious truth: 1. Because he has fewer prejudices: 2. Because, having a fondness for subjects of a moral nature, he acquires a facility of comprehending them. This happens agreeably to a general law of our natures. That, which is interesting to the mind, often occurs. Persons acquire a readiness and dexterity in viewing and comparing objects, to which they are accustomed. On this principle, the artifice immediately forms a judgment of any materials, used in his art. On this principle, the military man sees, at once, all the advantages and disadvantages of a particular station. On the same principle, the well informed merchant sees all the bearings of a question in commerce, though an easier one in law or morals might be wholly unintelligible. The best man in the world, perhaps, has no more intellects, than the worst; but if, in this particular, they were originally equal, the decisions of the former, in general; especially those concerning the relation between man and his Creator, are more to be relied on, than those of the latter.
I have now finished what I designed to say to you on the subject of human depravity.
Instead of recipulating the arguments, which have been used, I would close with an appeal to your feelings. I take it for granted, that no person will deny the correctness of, at least, one assertion, which has been made, viz. that Deity requires, and has a right to require universal rectitude, i. e. unremitting conformity to reason and his own law. On this ground, I request you to make a decision, not concerning the character of our species in general; but concerning your own. And, lest there should be an indistinctness, from taking into view too great a portion of your existence, let your attention be confined to a single day. “Whether you eat, drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” You rise in the morning: is it with a pious determination to devote the day to your Maker ? You attend devotional exercises in this place. Is it with a spirit of faith, love and submission? You pursue the lessons of the day with commendable assiduity. But does God; does the Redeemer; does a heart, impressed with duty, excite this diligence? The day passes; and the shades of evening cover you. Are these hours accompanied with a sensible conviction, that “you are not your own but bought with a price?” On reviewing the transactions of the day, concerning what portion of the whole would you say, It was an act of cordial submission to God? But, if one day afford no such instance, do all the days of which life is composed? If not, the apostle's language is per fectly intelligible. “Having no hope, and without God in the world.”
In preceding lectures, we have endeavored to show the general and deep apostacy of the human race.—That we possess a readiness to sin, an indisposition to duty; and, unless excited by divine influence, do never perform actions, which are holy, or strictly speaking, virtuous. If this doctrine has been proved, or is susceptible of proof, you cannot doubt for a moment, that it is at once melancholy and interesting. That inattention and levity, with which this subject is often treated, is wholly without excuse. Even if the doctrine were not capable of being fully proved; even if the objections against it appeared somewhat stronger, than the evidence, on which it rests, so important are its connexions, if true, that no sober man would mention it with ridicule, or indifference. We pay attention, with good reason, even to possibilities, when the event, considered possible, is acknowledged to be of high moment. But the doctrine of human depravity cannot be known not to rest on plenary evidence, without more attention, than many, who reject it, are pleased to bestow on the subject.
Though I have endeavored to show, that in the character of man previously to regeneration, there is an entire absence of holiness, or moral rectitude, the importance of the doctrine, now to be investigated, viz. that of atonement does by