Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

versally will sin, as soon as capable of moral action. At present, it is of consequence merely to state, that they are not to be found in the physical structure of man's being, as propagated by natural generation simply. His depravity consists in the misdirection and inappropriate exercise of his faculties; not in wrong faculties inherited. And many causes may operate to secure such a direction and exercise of his faculties, without inferring from false analogies, suggested by a false physiology, that it must be an operative principle in the very soul, apart from and anterior to its exercises. Temptation alone is sufficient under present circumstances. We never dream of such a cause as this, operating, in Adam and Eve, to make them sin at first; and yet it was, doubtless, morally certain, in the eye of God, that, as exposed to temptation, and destitute of experimental knowledge of evil, they would sin. Where, then, is the necessity of summoning philosophy to our aid, in order to detect some hidden and mystical principle in our very nature, propagated, by natural generation, as the cause of sin ?

We scarcely deem it necessary to explain the meaning of moral certainty, as every reader must be aware of it. It is morally certain that the sun will rise to-morrow, and that we will die; but these things are not physically necessary. We can see, too, in our individual history, as well as in the history of the world, various moral causes in operation, which induce a certainty, as it respects results, by no means physically necessary. The truth of the above remarks will be more obvious, when we shall have carefully investigated the subject of human ability; to which we invite the reader's candid attention in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XVII.

OF THE NATURE OF HUMAN ABILITY.

The term ability used in two senses All human energy to be referred to the

co-operating agency of God, John xv. 5. 2 Cor. iii. 5. Psalm lxviii. 35. ži. 5. xviii. 1, 29-34—To the will is assigned the office, of bringing into immediate exercise whatever of energy may be exerted—The co-operating agency of God, is always in accordance with certain established modes of action, adapted to human capacities—No obligation where there is no capacity—The requisite capacities for faith, repentance, &c. possessed by man-Quotation from Dr. Owen-No change produced by the fall in the established laws, by which God governs the mind—Dr. Owen's views, as to the impotency of men's natural capacities—Objected to—AN essential difference in the circumstances, under which Adam and his descendants come into existence-Quotation from Dr. Howe-Man needs no new capacities for rebellion—Has fallen under no constitutional imbecility—The strength of human faculties lies not in themselves—The inte bility of men moral—The distinction between natural and moral inability very commonly made—Recognised in the Scriptures-Heb. ix. 5; Mark ii. 19; John xxi. 25; Mark vi. 5; Mat. xxvi. 39 and Luke xxii. 42; Jer. xvi. 1; Isai. i. 13; 1 John, iï. 9-Of daily occurrence-Quotation from Fuller-Howe-Erskine-Dwight-No room for the current sneers, &c. directed against the distinction between natural and moral ability-Rom. viji. 7; Gal. v. 17; Rom. viii. 15-18 examined—The inability attributed to man in the sacred scriptures, that of will-Any other view of the subject renders faith exceedingly difficult, as it exposes God, in his professions to sinners, to the charge of insincerity-Hos. xi. 7–8; Luke xix. 42; xiii. 35; Jer. vii. 5; xiii. 27; xvi. 12; xxi. 21; Ezek. xxxii, 11—The impertinence of philosophy.

The subject of natural and moral inability, has been so often and so ably handled, that but little would be requisite from us, were we not aware that it is one, altogether

new to some of our readers, and misunderstood by many others. The terms ability and power may denote, either the effective force or energy, or the particular faculty or capacily for exerting that force.

It is to the co-operating agency of God that we refer all our energy

“Without me," says the Saviour, "ye can do NOTHING "I "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.” We have no right to restrict these declarations to mere acts of holiness. The Saviour says we can do noTHING without Him, not even eat, or drink, or sleep with. out His sustaining agency. “The God of Israel is He that giveth strength and power unto people,"3 as well the unrenewed as the renewed. David referred all his corporal energy or natural strength, to God's co-operating agency. “I laid me down, and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me." "I will love the Lord, my strength.“For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

Language cannot be more definite in its import than this, and much to the same purport, in the word of God, which refers all our effective force, or energy, or strength, or ability in this sense, to the co-operating and sustaining agency of God. It is in Him we

96

2. 2 Cor. iii, 5. 3. Psalm lxviii. 35. The pronoun "his,” which occurs in our translation, is wanting in the Hebrew. YExena notices, that the Flebrew word for pover, is used absolutely here, denoting men spiritual and carnal cqually. Spiritualem æque ac carnalem; cujus utriusquc fata læta in hoc Ps. fuerunt celebrata. Ven. in Psal. ad loe. 4. Psal. iii. 5.

1. John, xv, 5.

5. Psal. xviii, 1. 6. Ps. rfüi, 1,-29,--32, 33, 34.

[ocr errors]

live, and move, and have our being. No man can move a hand, an arm, a foot, or limb, without God. Nor can He, according to the apostle, think a single thought, without his supporting and strengthening agency.

But in so saying, every one understands what is meant, Not that God does the thing, so that it is His act;-not that He moves the limb, or thinks, or creates the thought; but that, in accordance and co-operation with our volition or will, He vouchsafes, agreeably to fixed and established modes of His agency, the requisite aid for its accomplishment. To the will, or the capacity to choose or refuse, is assigned the office of bringing into immediate exercise and display, whatever of energy or effective force may be exerted. If we attend, it is an exercise of mental energy, induced in obedience to an act of the will. If we reason, if we desire, if we love, if we hate, these are still voluntary exercises, which depend on the sustaining and co-operating agency of God. That will itself is governed or determined by means of various motives, as suggested, or impressions as made by objects and considerations, addressed and adapted to our rational and sensitive nature.

We are not here concerned to inquire, what gives prevalence to motive. It is the fact, that the will is entrusted with the exhibition and display of that energy, which God imparts through His co-operating agency, that mainly demands attention. Now this co-operating agency of God giving energy, is always in accordance with certain established modes of action, for which our capacities are adapted, and is imparted altogether irrespectively of the character of the objects or matters, unw hich the will decides. This is what we mean by ability, or being able, in the commonsense use of the term. A man says that he is able to walk, when he does not actually walk; and in so saying, means simply, that he is possessed of those muscular capacities,

through which, if brought into exercise by his will, or choosing to walk, there could, by means of the co-operating agency of God, be put forth the effective force or power, requisite in the case. The same thing may be said, in reference to every other species of action, for which we are furnished with the appropriate capacities. The degree of energy may be found to vary; but generally it will be according to the vigor, and decision, and singleness, with which the will calls the requisite capacities into action.

Suppose, however, that a man is destitute of some one or more of those intellectual and other capacities, which are characteristic of human nature; say, for example, that he is, and ever has been devoid of reason in that case, he would be accounted unable to arrive at the knowledge of God, or any thing else, from the want of the requisite mental capacities. No one would ever think, that, under such circumstances, ignorance would be criminal. Mental derangement may properly be considered, a result of Adam's first sin;- but the destitution of the natural capacities, which are essentially requisite to the acquisition of knowledge, can never be charged on the unhappy native idiot, as his personal crime. It is an axiom in morals-a self-evident truth, that no one is or can be under actual obligations to exercise capacities, which he never possessed. Who would venture to affirm, that we are bound to acquire knowledge through the exercise of a sixth sense? Or, that the infant, newly born, is under obligations, at once, to rise up and walk? Or that we should fly, or exercise angelic faculties, or display angelic energies ? Were we commanded to stretch forth our hand, and pluck the moon from her place, every one would see, at once, the absurdity of requiring us to do a thing naturally impossible.

It is true, that the Saviour did require certain things, which seemed to possess somewhat of this character; as

a

« ZurückWeiter »