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consistently be required to fulfil their obligation. But is not such a system manifestly false, which amounts to this; that the more wicked men are, the less obligation they are under to be otherwise than wicked?
Mr. B. urges this as an argument against the total depravity of all the unconverted, that those are said to receive the word, out of whose hearts the wickedone catcheth it away. He says, "Was this word good? You dare not say, no " p. 74. I answer, that I do not wish to say no. The word which the Son of God spoke to Satan was good, when he said, Get thee hence, Satan ; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. But this good word spoken to Satan, did not make him good. And the way-side hearers are no more represented, as opening their hearts to receive the word in the love of it, than Satan opened his heart to receive it. Nor does the foolish virgins lighting their lamps, prove that they were not entirely destitute of holiness. Their entire destitution of holiness is implied in their having no oil in their vessels.
One of Mr. B's. objections against our doctrine, is on account of the bearing which it has upon infants. He says, According to your doctrine, the infant of a day old is equally involved in guilt and condemnation, with the sinner an hundred years old. p. 86. Mr. B. had just said concerning infants; "True, they inherit a corrupt and depraved nature from Adam." So say we. And to the question, How corrupt? we answer, totally corrupt. We do not say that the infant a day old is as great a sinner, as the one an hundred years old; but his nature is as wholly corrupt. And we add, The infant of a day old as really needs a renovation of nature, as the aged sinner. We do not hold however, (at least I do not)" that any of them shall be finally and eternally miserable, merely because Adam sinned." p. 93. It is my belief, that none will be punished in the future world, except those who are personally sinful, and only in proportion to their personal ill-desert. Every mun shall be put to death for his own sin. Deut. xxiv. 16. See also Ezek. xviii.
In my sermon on depravity, I acknowledged there was a work preparatory to the new birth ;--that by
awakening and conviction, things were preparing in divine providence, for the sinner to see himself entirely sinful and ill-deserving. Remarking upon this, Mr. B. says, p. 87, "Pray, Sir, what things are preparing ? Is the Lord now only preparing the atonement, or the work of redemption?" Is it indeed so unintelligible what things are preparing, provided the atonement is already made? Are not sinners, even under the gospel, stupid, as well as depraved? And is it a matter of no importance that they should be aroused out of this stupidity, and see on what a slippery steep they go? They have not, perhaps, heretofore believed that their hearts were fully set to do evil, and at enmity against the God of heaven. Is it not a matter of importance, that they should be convinced of this? and is it not important that they should be convinced of this before the Lord does this great work for them; even to raise them from the dead? This awakened sense of danger, and this conviction of total depravity, may be called a preparatory work, not because there is any moral goodness in it; nor because there is any necessary connexion between such a work, and the work of regeneration; but because it is that which precedes regeneration, whenever that change is wrought; and because it prepares the way for those who are born of the spirit, to see and admire the exceeding grace of God in their conversion. But let the awakened sinner be told, that he is growing better; and this will have a dreadful tendency to check his conviction, and to lead him to a false hope. His conviction is greatly promoted by his be ing shown that he resembles the diseased woman in the gospel, who was spending all her substance upon physicians, and was growing no better; but rather worse. As the benefit which the woman obtained by her physicians, was not this, to be healed by them, but only to be convinced of the obstinacy of her complaint, and of her great need of a better Physician; so awak. ened sinners, by all their self-righteous attempts to obtain salvation, are often brought to a deeper conviction of their depravity, and to a more feeling sense of their perishing need of an almighty Saviour. The convicticns which precede the new birth, are no part of the
healing of the sinner's wound; yet, like the probe of the surgeon, they search out and discover its depth.
As it is probable, that many of my present readers have never seen the Sermons, on which Mr. B. animadverts, it may not be improper, before I close the present section, to state the heads of the arguments which were introduced in the second Sermon, to prove the total depravity of all unrenewed men. The argu
ments made use of were arranged under six distinct heads.
I have repeatedly read through the Letter of my antagonist, which was designed as a confutation of the doctrine contained in that sermon, and I do not see that he has attempted to reply to all these arguments; or that he has even fairly met one of them, and shown its inconclusiveness.
The first source of proof made use of was this, viz. plain and unequivocal declarations of scripture. To these scripture declarations he has not replied: he has not shown that I have mis-quoted or misinterpreted them. There was one text introduced in the sermon, which, it was supposed, the Arminian would bring in opposition to our doctrine, to which he attempted some reply. He made no attempt to refute the second argument which we brought to prove, that the depravity of all men in an unrenewed state is total; namely, that it is said of those who are in this state, that they cannot please God. The apostle expressly says, Rom. viii. 8, So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. He does not attempt to show that the unregenerate are not in the flesh: Nor how it can be, that men who "cannot please God," can have something better than depravity and enmity of heart. In the third place, the entire sinfulness of unrenewed nature was argued from the dreadful crimes which are charged upon our race, as upon one complex person, which is represented as tho' it were moved and actuated by one heart and one soul. The heart of the sons of men, (as tho' we all had but one heart,) is said to be fully set to do evil. If any ask, in view of the wickedness of their fellow-men, "Are we better than they?" the answer to be given is, "No, in no wise." The difference between unrenewed men is circumstantial, and not radical and fundamen
tal. There is no doubt, a difference, as to the degree or strength of depravity, among those creatures who are shut up in the prison of hell, tho' they are all entirely destitute of holiness. And among the wicked in this world of mercy, there is a very great difference, as to their acting out their depravity in the commission of crimes, according to the different degrees of restraint which God lays upon them. Yet when they are made to see the plague of their own heart, sinners of all descriptions are convinced, that they are entirely sinful,that they have never been kept back from committing sin, from any love to holiness. I do not perceive that Mr. B. took any particular notice of this class of arguments. The entire sinfulness of an unrenewed state, was in the fourth place, argued from the Bible description of the total unacceptableness of the most specious works, which are performed in that state. It was shown, that not only the plowing of the wicked is said to be sin, but also their sacrifices and prayers. See Prov. xv. 8, 29 : xxi. 27, and xxviii. 9. I do not find any place in his Letter, where he attempted to look this argument in the face. If he had attempted it, he must have made such a distinction between the wicked, as would contradict that very plain and pointed declaration of the Saviour: "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” Mat. xii. 30.
The fifth argument which was made use of, to support the doctrine of the entire depravity of the natural heart, was derived from what the scriptures say concerning the necessity of a change of heart. They speak much of a change, which is fundamental and instantaneIt is represented as so fundamental, that it is the beginning of a new life. The subject of this change is represented as being born again; or as being raised from the dead; or as being created anew. The character of the sinner must undergo an essential change, to warrant these scripture representations. That the change is not only fundamental, but instantaneous, is evident from such considerations as these: 1. All mankind are, through the whole Bible, put into two moral classes; the righteous and wicked, saints and sinners, lovers and haters of God; those who are with Christ,
and those who are against him; those who are born of God, and those who are not born of him. If these two moral classes include the whole of mankind, then it will follow, that no period of time can be taken up, in passing from the bad to the good class. If we do not belong to the good, we must belong to the bad; if we do not belong to the regenerate, we must belong to the unregenerate; unless it should be found, that the word of God describes a third class of men, who are neither converted nor unconverted.
2. It is evident that the word of God makes this change, which we call the new birth, absolutely necessary to our being prepared for heaven. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” But it is very obvious from scripture, that all men are, at this, and every moment, candidates for heaven or hell. But if any period of time, even one second, were to be occupied in effecting the transition from one state to the other, during that period, the subject of the Change would be a candidate for neither happiness nor misery.
According to our views of depravity, it is not at all difficult, to tell what the scriptures mean by regeneration. It is the beginning of holiness in a creature rendered totally corrupt by the fall. It is a new heart and a new spirit; it is a new creature ;-it is the commencement of spiritual life, where before there was nothing but spiritual death. Now, we must either give up our belief of any such fundamental change in the human character, or we must retain our belief of the entire sinfulness of every unrenewed heart.
We are persuaded, that our theological opponents must give up the doctrine of regeneration, as applied to any particular part of a man's life, and as distinguished from progressive sanctification in believers, or adopt the doctrine of the total depravity of all the unregenerate. If they made regeneration to mean the same as perfect sanctification, or the expelling of all depravity from the heart, then we could see how a date might be fixed to regeneration. On this supposition it would not be a fundamental change, like being changed from death to life; from six to holiness; but it would be