תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

tion; but their readers will agree, that "it was not unnatural for” the latter “ to think, that hoary hairs might be attended with some abatement of that eagerness of spirit, which is unfavourable to the discussion of such subjects, and making remarks on statements, in which there are many things suited to discompose the mind; not to speak of higher sources of meekness, and selfgovernment, which either are or ought to be found in ‘an old disciple."

Bishop Tomline and his opponents agree, that Adam was a federal head, that he apostatized, and that all men are sinners, through some sort of connexion between him and his posterity; but they differ “respecting the effects of Adam's disobedience upon himself and his posterity.

“ The moral sense was not annihilated,” says Tomline; and no one disputes the assertion, if by moral sense he un. derstands, as Scott and others do, conscience. We add, that none of the mental faculties of man, which Adam possessed in his most perfect state, have ever been annihilated, in any accountable human being; and that they are precisely the same in their essence in all men, whether they are renewed or unrenewed, whether they sing praises in heaven, or gnash their teeth in hell. Great, however, was the change of state which Adam experienced in consequence of his first act of rebellion: and great the change which ensued in the relative state and operations of his mental faculties. He was originally in a state of righteousness, and therefore the righteousness which is predicated of him before his apostacy, is called, his original righteousness. This original righteousness consisted in a complete conformity to the divine law, whether it be considered as a covenant of works, or a rule of conduct, under which God had placed him. For a time he retained this original righteousness; for a time he was as perfectly conformed to the revealed will of his Maker, as in the first moment in which Omnipotence produced him after the divine image, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. So long as he was righteous, he was an object of divine approbation; and cherished hopes of interminable felicity in the presence of his Almighty Father. So long as he was righteous he had nothing to fear, and feared nothing; for a righteous being is free from every kind and degree of punishment; and Adam well knew his own rectitude and his Maker's love. He had no sooner committed the first act of rebellion than the scene was changed; he was no longer righteous, but un. righteous; no longer the subject of a promise, but of a curse: no longer one approved, but sensibly condemned by his great and glorious Father. Between the righteous and unrighteous there is no middle state, in which any subject of a moral law can be placed; unless he can act intelligently and voluntarily without obeying or disobeying the rule given him for the regulation of all his moral actions. "This, however, is not inconsistent with degrees of deviation from righteousness," (Williams's Modern Calvinism, p. 5.) for Adam ceasing to be per. fectly righteous, became not righteous, which is unrighteous; and might have added sin to sin, so as to have been very far gone from the standard of rectitude.

It is maintained by Scott, Williams, and all Calvinists, whether ancient or modern, mixed or pure in their system, consistent or inconsistent, that all mankind are very far gone from original righteousness. Tomline asserts that this expression in the articles of the Church of England “implies, that original righteousness is not entirely lost,” by all men; while he admits that all have sinned, and of course are not righteous; yea, while he teaches that “a propensity to evil and wickedness, universal in extent and powerful in its effects, was transmitted to mankind.

Several questions here arise, which we shall endeavour to answer, as they are proposed. Did any man but Adam ever possess original righteousness? No mere man was ever perfectly conformed to the standard of righteousness for himself, except our first father: but while Adam was righteous, he acted as a representative of all his posterity; and so all men may be said to have had an original righteousness in him. How could all men lose this original righteousness? They could not lose it by one of their own actions before they subsisted and acted for themselves; but in the divine mind they were considered as losing it in and by their federal head. In other words,

Jehovah was pleased to treat with Adam as the head of all decreed to descend from him by natural generation, and of her that was to be formed of one of his ribs; so that while he stood, they stood in covenant; and when he fell, the Governor of men resolved to treat all mankind as if they had actually been tried, and had fallen indivi. dually, in him. Hence it appears, that all men departed from their original righteousness which they had in Adam, just so far as he departed from the origival rectitude which he enjoyed before the apostacy; for his original righteousness was by covenant and imputation theirs.

Yet may it not be said, that all men are very far gone from original righteousness, by their own actual transgressions. All men who have sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, have so far gone from the standard and the example of Adam's original righteousness, as they have transgressed, or want conformity to, the law of God. How far each individual has gone from perfect righteousness, perhaps the Judge of all the earth alone can determine.

It is admitted by Tomline and his opponents, that man since the apostacy, and notwithstanding the depravity of his nature, retains natural ability to perceive natural objects, understand natural science, judge and reason correctly about natural things; approve or disapprove of moral actions, according to the law with which the mind compares them; exercise a great variety of natural feelings, will from such motives as are presented; perform to a certain extent what he will; be conscious of present mental operations, and remember the past. All agree too, that fallen man is a social being, whose thoughts, feelings, volitions, and actions frequently relate to others as well as himself. It is nevertheless true, that man, in this world, exerts his natural ability to do natural things, in a very imperfect manner; and that many circumstances in his present state conduce to promote obscure perceptions, erroneous understanding, false judgments and reasonings, misguided decisions of conscience, callousness of feeling, feeble consciousness, for. getfulness, the apprehension of unnatural motives, a cer

2 S

No. 3.

Vol. I.

tain sluggishness in volition, and imbecility in agency. Hence the thorough Calvinists assert that the apostacy of Adam has caused a deterioration of man's natural faculties and ability; and hence they impute to it, as a cause, all the natural evils of our intellectual world, and all the imperfections of our social state. These Calvinists moreover believe, that no mere man since the fall possesses any such ability as is requisite for the production of any moral good, until he is acted upon by the regenerating influences of the Holy Spirit. Hence they say, that an unregenerate man has no power to perform any holy, spiritual operation; because he has not that very power which is requisite for such an operation; and any other power, would, for such a purpose, be useless. Power and ability we use as synonimous. Faculties requisite for knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, for believing the gospel, choosing spiritually good actions, and performing them when chosen, they have; but with. out regeneration, power to think a right thought, have a holy feeling, exercise a spiritual volition, or perform one morally good action, they have not.

They have indeed natural ability to hear the gospel preached, to read their bibles; to pray very sincerely, from natural motives, for all things pleasing to a natural man; and to profess faith and repentance with their lips; for these are all natural actions.

By power to perform any action, we always intend every thing which is requisite for the actual production of that action. The notion of a faculty for doing the given action is of course included under the term power; for without the inherent constituent part of the human mind by which we perceive, there could be no perception. It is equally certain too, that something else is requisite to perception in man's present state; for it is a law of our nature, that we shall perceive through the instrumentality of our corporal organs. To the perception which we call seeing, for instance, not only the mental faculty by which we see, but the sound eye, through which the faculty of perception operates, and such a relative position of the eye as that rays of light may pass from the object to be sech to the eye, together with the existence and passage

of light, are absolutely necessary. To say, that a man has power to see, and that he can see, are expressions of similar import. Now a man can see if he has all the things enumerated above; and he cannot see, if he wants any one of them.

Whatever the contemplated action be, power to per. form it always includes every thing which is requisite to its being done. While, therefore, the natural man has all the requisite faculties for performing all the spiritual actions of the new life, which, if ever regenerated, he ever will perform, even in heaven, yet so long as he wants any one thing without which any one spiritual action cannot be performed, he has not the power to per. form that spiritual action. An unrenewed man, a sinner whose understanding is darkness in relation to spiritual things, and who is not the possessor of any one holy feeling, has no power to put forth any holy volition, or spiritually right act of the will; because a holy motive is essential as a pre-requisite to a holy volition; and a holy motive is always either a holy thought, or a holy feeling. The genuine Calvinists, therefore, assert, that so long as a sinner is unrenewed in his thoughts and feelings, he is without power to exercise his faculty of volition in a holy manner. He is free to choose from such motives, that is from such thoughts and feelings of the natural man, as he has; and in every volition is free; but he is without the power of holy, spiritual choice, until he is divinely influenced from above.

This exhibition of our views concerning power, we have been induced to make, by a paragraph which we shall quote from Dr. Williams's Defence of Modern Calvinism.

“To every observant reader of moral and theological discussions, it must be very apparent, that ambiguity often attends the word Power. In writers who do not define their terms, we find it, in controversy, standing indiscriminately for physical strength, for opportunity of acting, for a sufficient inducement to act, and for moral ability.” This moral ability needs explanation more than any thing else in this controversy; and Dr. Williams has not explained it, unless it is an explanation to call it

« הקודםהמשך »