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THE

CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE.

JULY, 1831.

Heligious Communications.

LECTURES ON THE SHORTER CATE

CHISM OF THE WESTMINSTER AS-
SEMBLY OF DIVINES-ADDRESSED
TO YOUTH.

LECTURE LVII.

God. Being “ conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary,” he was not “conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity," like every other de

scendant of the fallen progenitors After considering and explain- of our race. He had no taint of ing the various duties enjoined in native depravity; and through the the Decalogue, or the summary of whole of his life on earth, he did, the moral law contained in the ten in thought, word and deed, perfectcommandments, it is with peculiar ly obey the law of God. Having propriety that the question is im- been made under the law, to remediately asked in our Catechism deem them that were under the -" Is any man able perfectly to law,” if there had been the least keep the commandments of God ?” moral staia of his nature, or the The answer you are aware is—“No least defect in his obedience, he mere man, since the fall, is able in could not have been made of God this life, perfectly to keep the com- unto us righteousness." But we mandments of God, but doth daily are expressly told that “he did no break them, in thought, word and sin, neither was guile found in his deed."

mouth,” and that "such a high That admirable discrimination, priest became us, who is holy, harmunited with conciseness and per- less, undefiled, and separate from spicuity, which characterises the sinners.” Such then was Jesus whole of our Shorter Catechism, is Christ as man; but you know that strikingly visible in the answer be- he was not a mere man. While he fore us.

was truly man, he was also truly 1. The inability to obey the law God—“God and man, in two disof God, of which the answer speaks, tinct natures, and one person foris predicated, or affirmed, only of ever;" as your Catechism elsewhere every mere man, among the de- teaches, and we have had occasion scendants of Adam. Our Lord to demonstrate from the Scriptures and Saviour Jesus Christ was truly of truth. Not being, therefore, a man, and descended, according to mere man, bis having perfectly the flesh, from the primitive parents kept the commandments of God, of the human family: and he did, does not invalidate the assertion " in this life,” that is, through the that all mere men are transgressors whole of his abode on earth, per- of those commandments; that is, fectly keep the commandments of they have been som Vol. IX.- Ch. Adr.

2 X

2. “Since the fall," but not pre ness of the human heart; and who viously. For Adam, before his fall, reads in the book of God, that was able perfectly to obey the di- “there is not a just man upon earth vine law; and for a season he did who doth good and sinneth not,” actually thus obey it. Having been should still believe in a state of created "in the image of God,” he sinless perfection, as the attainment was perfectly holy, and was, in bis of any child of Adam in the present very formation, endued with all the life. So far is this from being the power or ability necessary to his truth, that our Catechism is borne resistance of every temptation, and out by the plain testimony of the to his rendering to the law which his sacred scriptures, when it asserts Creator gave him, a perfectly sinless that every mere man since the fall, obedience. It was therefore pro- and in the present life, doth " daily per, that the answer before us break the commandments of God, should carefully limit, as it does, in thought, word, and deed.” the moral impotency of man, to collect that the commandments of what has become his condition God are broken by the want of per“ since the fall."

fect obedience, as well as by the 3. Another limitation is, that it actual violation or transgression of is only “in this life” that the ina- them; then think of the summary bility in question will continue. which our Saviour himself has given For it is a inost comfortable thought of these commandments—"Thou to the people of God, that “in the shalt love the Lord thy God with life to come” they will be, and for all thy heart, and with all thy soul, ever remain, as entirely free from and with all thy strength, and with sin as the angels of God in heaven. all thy mind; and thy neighbour as There they will eternally and de- thyself"--and then say, whether in lightfully obey the whole will of your own judgment, there has ever their heavenly Father; and find been a day of your life, since you that in this entire conformity to his were capable of moral action, in blessed will, the happiness of their which there was no defect of obeglorified state will essentially con- dience, nor any actual transgressist.

sion of the Saviour's summary of 4. Another, and the last qualif. God's holy law. Can you lay your cation of the assertion contained hand on your heart, and looking in the answer before us is, that it up to Him who searches it sayrelates only to a perfect obedience “Great God, I appeal to thee, that -"no mere man since the fall is on such a day my thoughts were able, in this life, perfectly to keep all in perfect harmony with suthe commandments of God." This preme love to thee, and with love must be noted and remembered, to my neighbour as to myself; and because every real child of God when all my words and actions certainly does keep his command- were without a fault?” I hope ments, truly, sincerely, impartially, there is none of you that would and without reserve; although a dare to do this; because your doing degree of imperfection cleaves, for it would be a demonstrative proof the present, to all that he does; and that you were most awfully blinded although he is liable to fall, and does and infatuated, by the very sin sometimes actually fall, into aggra- which you denied. Consider atvated sin. It is not easy for us to un- tentively the following plain citaderstand how any one who has just tions from the oracles of infallible conceptions of the holiness of God, truth, and you will see that the and the spirituality and perfection statement of the Catechism does of his law; and who is acquainted not go to an extreme-Gen. viii. with the depravity and deceitful. 21–"The imagination of man's

heart is evil from his youth.” Job burthensome task? It may seem xv. 144" What is man that be somewhat extreme, which I will should be clean? and he that is speak; therefore let every one born of a woman that he should be judge of it, even as his own heart righteous?” John xv. 5—“With- shall tell him, and no otherwise; I out me ye can do nothing." 1 John will but only make a demand: if i. 8—“If we say we have no sin, God should yield unto us, not as we deceive ourselves, and the truth unto Abraham, if fifty, forty, thirty, is not in us.” James iii. 2—“In twenty, yea, or if ten good persons many things we offend all”-and could be found in a city, for their v. 8—"The tongue can no man sakes that city should not be detame; it is an unruly evil, full of stroyed: but, and if he should make deadly poison.” Rom. iii. 19— us an offer thus large: Search all " that every mouth may be stopped, the generations of men, since the and all the world may become fall of our father Adam, find one guilty before God.” And add to man, that hath done one action, these texts that remarkable passage which hath passed from him pure, in the seventh chapter of the Epis- without any stain or blemish at all; tle to the Romans, to which I re and for that one man's only action, serred in the last lecture, as illus- neither man nor angel shall feel the trative of the evil desires and pro- torments which are prepared for pensities even of the renewed both. Do you think that this ranmind; and in which the Holy som, to deliver men and angels, Apostle represents himself as in a could be found to be among the perpetual conflict with the indwell- sons of men? The best things ing sin of his heart.

which we do, have somewhat in The eminent and justly, cele- them to be pardoned. How then brated Richard Hooker, in his can we do any thing meritorious, or "learned discourse of Justifica- worthy to be rewarded ? Indeed, tion," goes farther than is express- God doth liberally promise whatsoed in our Catechism; but not far- ever appertaineth to a blessed life, ther than its intended meaning and to as many as sincerely keep bis import, nor farther than the truth law, though they be not exactly of the case. He not only maintains able to keep it. Wherefore we acthat we sin daily, but that there is knowledge a dutiful necessity of not one thought, word, or deed, of our doing well; but the ineritorious whole life, but what is imperfect, or dignity of doing well, we utterly mingled with sin. His language is renounce. We see how far we are a little antiquated, but it is very from the perfect righteousness of impressive. "Let, says he, the ho- the law; the little fruit which we liest and best things which we do have in holiness, it is, God knowbe considered: we are never better eth, corrupt and unsound: we put affected unto God than when we no confidence at all in it, we chalpray; yet when we pray, how are lenge nothing in the world for it; our affections many times distract we dare not call God to reckoning, ed! how little reverence do we as if we had him in our debt-books: show unto the grand Majesty of our continual suit to him is, and God, unto whom we speak! How must be, to bear with our infirmilittle remorse of our own miseries! ties, and pardon our offences.” How little taste of the sweet in In closing this lecture, in which fluence of his tender mercies do we our Catechism expressly declares feel! Are we not as unwilling that no mere inan, since the fall, is many times to begin, and as glad able perfectly to keep the commandto make an end, as if in saying, ments of God, you may expect that Call upon me, he had set us a very I should say something of a contro

versy which has long been going sentiments, as the most of them on, and is not yet terminated in our hitherto have done, say explicitly, country, in regard to what is deno- that not one of Adam's fallen race minated “natural and moral inabi ever yet did, or ever will, make lity.” My first remark is, that the use of his moral ability to renounce wording of the point in controversy sin and accept the salvation profferappears to me to be unhappy, and ed by the gospel of Christ, till discalculated to produce confusion of posed and inclined thereto by the thought and expression; because it renewing influences of the Holy will be allowed by both parties in Ghost: And those who deny the this controversy, that the moral in- distinction in question, think and ability spoken of, is natural to the say, that it seems to be a singular whole human race since the fall of kind of ability, which no child of Adam—That is, it is a part of our Adam ever did, or ever will exert, nature. * An eminent and discrimi- although urged to it by the strongnating writer,t on this subject, has est possible motives that can be said justly, " That is physical ne- presented to an intelligent beingcessity which is the invincible effect will never exert this ability, till an of the law of nature, and it is nei- influence comes on his mind from ther less natural nor less unsur an external source. They think mountable, if it is from the laws of too, that the assertion of this moral spirit, than it would be if it were ability leads to the denial of the from the laws of matter.” Again, necessity of divine influence-one The parties in this controversy are of the plainest and most important agreed in another point; namely, doctrines of the gospel-and that that all actual sin is voluntary, and even those who admit the necessity therefore criminal and inexcusable. of this influence, do often, in Those, indeed, who contend for the preaching, so leave it out of view, difference between natural and mo as to make the people think that ral inability, in reference to the the speaker does not regard it as sinful actions of men, endeavour indispensable. Neither is it admitto represent those with whom they ted, that a full sense of dependence contend, as opposing human liberty on God, when real and rightly unand accountableness. But the op- derstood, has any tendency to disposite party deny this unequivo- courage effort, or to dispose to a necally, protest against their being glect of the use of means. On the charged with a consequence of contrary, it is maintained that notheir system, which they affirm is thing is so encouraging to a soul not fairly drawn, and maintain that, that truly perceives its helplessness, although they may account for hu as to point it to an Almighty deliman guilt in a manner different verer; that nothing will make it from their opponents, yet they as cry for help so earnestly, imporfully and extensively admit and in- tunately, nor with such a prospect sist on its existence and criminal- of success, as this very feeling of ity; and make the free offers of the helplessness in itself; and that gospel, and urge their acceptance, means are never so likely to be dilias sincerely and earnestly as any gently and effectually used, as others. Once more--Both parties, when they are represented as deif they maintain other Calvinistic riving their efficiency from the

blessing of God, sought for in the • Perhaps the New Haven school of Theology should here be excepted; but way of his appointment-in the if so, let it stand by itself on the present

use of the means prescribed in his occasion.

holy word. On the whole then, al† Witherspoon.

though I admit fully, that there is

a plain difference between moral WITHERSPOON ON REGENERATION, and natural inability, such as would instantly strike you all, if

(Continued from p. 288.) I should ask one of you to rise

Conclusion. from his seat, and request of ano

I shall now close this discourse ther to fly in the air-yet when with some practical improvement applied to the subject before us, I of these important truths. Several think it altogether improper-a dis- reflections have, indeed, already tinction without a difference. The been interwoven with the particudisposition to do right, is as essen- Jar branches of the subject, and the tial to right doing, as understand- light which they throw on other ing, judgment, conscience, or any parts of religion pointed out. I other patural faculty of the mind; shall, therefore, at this time, only and if every man in his natural state make a few observations upon the is without this disposition, he has a whole, and proceed to a serious natural inability-which is at the address to all my readers on this same time a moral inability-to act most interesting subject. And, rightly. The word of God also, as 1st, From the various truths above seems to me, is directly opposed to established, anù the order in which this distinction; as in the declara- they have been opened, we may see tion of the Saviour, “No man 'can the indissoluble connexion between come to me, except the Father salvation by the grace of God, and which hath sent me draw him;" holiness in heart and conversation. and of the apostle Paul-" 'The We may see their equal importance carnal mind is enmity against God, and their influence upon one annot subject to his law, neither in- other. There are many who atdeed can be;" and in a great vari- tempt to divide those things which ety of passages of similar import. God hath inseparably joined. Many

I conclude the present Lecture, insist only on the duties of the law with a quotation from Dr. Wither- of God and our natural obligaspoon, in which my own views of tions to obedience; and are hardly the topick before us are correctly brought to any mention of the expressed—"As to the inability of righteousness of Christ, as the man to recover himself by his own ground of a sinner's acceptance power, though I would never at- before God. Nay, some scruple tempt to establish a metaphysical not to affirm that the doctrine of system of necessity, of which in- justification by free grace, or a sinfidels avail themselves in opposi- ner's being found in Christ, not tion to all religion, nor presume to having his own righteousness, weakexplain the influence of the Cre- ens the obligation to holiness, and ator on the creature; yet nothing tends to introduce licentiousness is more plain, from Scripture, or of practice. But from what has better supported by daily experi- been said in the above discourse, ence, than that man by nature is in we may learn, not only in general fact incapable of recovery, without the absolute necessity of a change, the power of God specially inter- but how this stands connected with posed. I will not call it a necessity the purchase and gift of salvation, arising from the irresistible laws of the character and work of a Re. nature. I see it is not a necessity deemer. It will plainly appear, of the same kind as constraint; but that a change in some respects is I see it an impossibility, such as necessary to bring us to, and in the sinner never does overcome.” others is the necessary effect and

consequence of, the acceptance of salvation.

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