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Divine Being as perpetually changing from his original designs, to accommodate himself to the exigency of the times, tho' all things considered, he wishes no such exigency had occurred. But the scheme of doctrine which we advocate, does not impute the least shadow of turning to the Father of lights. It supposes him to be as absolute in the work of providence, as in the work of creating the world. This doctrine makes God appear great and glorious; yea, unchangeably great and glorious. It invites us to trust in him with all our heart, because he is God almighty, his counsel will stand, he will work, and none can hinder him.
A VINDICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY, CONTAINING A REPLY TO OBJECTIONS RAISED AGAINST THIS DOCTRINE IN MR. BANGS' SECOND LETTER.
MR. BANGS' Second Letter is intended to detect and refute the errors of my second Sermon. This Sermon was designed to prove the total depravity of unrenewed nature. The text chosen for this purpose was Rom. vii. 18. For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing. It was my object, in explaining the text, to show that Paul meant to confess, that in him, until recovered by renewing grace, there was no holiness. I have these words; " It is a full acknowledgment, that in his nature, unchanged by grace, there dwelt nothing better than sin,-not the least particle of holiness." Sermons, p. 31. But Mr. B. could not but know, from what I said in my lengthy explication of the text, that I did not intend to represent the apostle as declaring that he was then, when he wrote his epistle, in a state of total depravity. The contrary of this is fully declared in the Sermons, p. 30. Was it proper then for my antagonist, in writing a book, which he had reason to think would be read by many, who would never see my Sermons, to make such a statement as the following? "For, if I mistake not, you think a man may be as pious as was the apostle Paul, and yet be totally sinful. The explanation of your text leads me to this conclusion. You hold that he was regenerated when he wrote his admirable epistle to the Romans; and yet you think he taught the doctrine of
total depravity in your text, I know that in me, (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing. This you suppose he spoke of himself as his then present state, and therefore he must have been at that time both totally depraved, and regenerated!" p. 88. This supposed contradiction in my book, is made a point of much importance by the author of the Letters. Besides the quotation now made, he devotes nearly two pages more to the exposure of the glaring absurdity of a regenerated totally depraved sinner. But let me ask the candid of every creed and name; Is it any absurdity for a regenerated sinner, to tell what his character was before regeneration? If there is now an old, and a new man within him, is there any thing in itself contradictory, that he should now tell what the nature or character of the old man is, though he should not, at the same breath, say any thing about the nature or character of the new man?
The doctrine drawn from the text, was the total depravity of all unrenewed men. I shall here make a short quotation from the explanation which was given of the doctrine. In the 32d page of the Sermons it is stated; "By total depravity we do not mean, that men thus depraved cannot reason correctly, even on religious subjects; nor that they cannot be clearly convinced of of their duty; nor is it meant, that there is none of the external conduct of unrenewed men such as it ought to be. But by total depravity is meant, that the heart is wholly and continually under the power of sin." If this definition of depravity be kept in view, it will render it unnecessary for me to reply to what Mr. B. says about the light and conviction, of which unrenewed men are the subjects. If by their light, be meant their holiness, they are no longer sinners, but saints, that is, holy ones. But if by light, in application to the unconverted, be meant such knowledge as does not imply holiness, then Calvinists do not pretend that the unconverted are totally destitute of light. Let their light of this kind be ever so great, what does that prove against the entire sinfulness of their hearts? Mr. B. quotes a sentence from the Sermons in which it is said, "A knowledge of this (namely, of our depravity) is forced upon us in that conviction which precedes a change of heart." To this he
adds, "Here you give up the point for which I contend." p. 88. What point have I given up? Have I conceded, that previously to regeneration we have any holiness of heart? I have spoken of the sinner's having a knowledge of his depravity, and a conviction of sin, before his heart is changed. Mr. B. has made the words, knowledge and conviction, emphatical. We grant that knowledge, and conviction, sometimes imply holiness of heart. The Psalmist says, "They who know thy name will put their trust in thee." Psal. ix. 10. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John viii. 32. In these and many other passages, knowledge im plies a holy discernment, such as is peculiar to them who are born of God. But it cannot have this meaning in many passages: I would instance Luke xii. 47, And that servant which knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." In that noted text in the 16th chapter of John, where the Comforter is promised to reprove, or, as it might be rendered, convince the world, there is reason to believe that it comprehends both the conviction which precedes, and also that which is subsequent to regeneration. There is a conviction of sin, which implies a holy sense of its vile and ill deserving nature; and there is a conviction of sin, which may cause us to feel very guilty before God, in which there is no holy sense of its vileness, and ill desert. Peter had this view of the evil of sin when he went out and wept bitterly; but this view of sin had no place in the conviction of Judas, nor has it any place in the conviction of any graceless sinner.
I would here remark, that it is exceedingly unprofit able to dispute about words. If a writer has used words and phrases improperly, let his antagonist tell him so; but he ought not to represent him as self contradictory, merely because he uses words differently from what he himself does. The object of a religious dispute should be, to come at truth, and to bring those who have erred from the truth into the right way. Mr. Bangs conceives me to be in an error, for believing unconverted men have nothing of the nature of holiness in their hearts, or in other words, that they are totally sinful. But how does he convince me of this? He attempts to
do it by showing me that I myself hold there is a degree of holiness in the unconverted. But how does he prove that I hold to this? By showing that I have said, that a knowledge of their depravity is forced upon them in that conviction which precedes a change of heart. But did not Mr. B. know, and that from the sermon which then lay before him, that I did not view this knowledge and conviction as being of any better character, than the conviction which wicked men will have in the day of judgment? I am by no means convinced but that I mnade a correct use of words; but if I did not, it became him, as a fair disputant, to meet my ideas, whether clothed in proper words or not. It became him to show, that unconverted men could not have a knowledge of their sinful character forced upon them; and that there could not be any sort of conviction of sin, where there was no goodness in the heart. If Mr. B. will show me a sentence in my sermon on depravity, or in any other of my sermons, which, according to the sense in which he perceives that I use words, either expressly, or by fair inference, denies the total depravity of every son and daughter of Adam, up to the time of regeneration, I will not justify such a sentence, but will retract it as a dangerous error.
Let us now see by what arguments the author of "The Errors of Hopkinsianism detected and refuted," has sought to overturn this doctrine. His first attempt is by complaining that I have misstated the question which was argued upon in the public Debate. He seems to be very sure the question stood thus-Is man totally depraved until he is justified? I have now before me, in manuscript, the minutes which were taken in the time of the Debate, and attested by two men mutually agreed upon by the disputants. By these minutes it is evident, that I did not misstate the question. It does not appear, that there was a single attempt made by the disputant on the Calvinistic side of the question, to prove that men were totally depraved until they were justified; but until they were regenerated. It also appears by the replies of his opponent, that the question was as I have stated it. After complaining of a misstatement of the question, a little further on, he says;
If however you contend that the question is as you