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the themes of their everlasting praise! Shall not sinners be told that every part of their salvation comes from God? and shall not saints be allowed to know who has made them to differ? Shall the Church lose the happiness of seeing God on the throne, and the immortal interests of all men in his hands: Shall not a universal world be taught to ascribe their whole salvation to him, and to lay their honours at his feet? Tear not from me, I had almost said, the sweetest truth of the Christian system. Deny me not the happiness of knowing my obligations and blessing my Deliverer! Hide not from my eyes the only foundation of human hope.
chrone, and all not a valvation to from me, in
THEN HE WHICH HAD RECEIVED THE ONE TALENT CAME AND SAID, LORD, I KNEW THEE THAT THOU ART A HARD MAN, REAPING WHERE THOU HAST NOT SOWN, AND GATHERING WHERE THOU HAST NOT STROWED; AND I WAS AFRAID AND WENT AND HID THY TALENT IN THE EARTH: LO THERE THOU HAST THAT IS THINE. HIS LORD ANSWERED AND SAID UNTO HIM, THOU WICKED AND SLOTHFUL SERVANT; THOU KNEWEST THAT I REAP WHERE I SOWED NOT AND GATHER WHERE I HAVE NOT STROWED! THOU OUGHTEST THEREFORE TO HAVE PUT MY MONEY TO THE EXCHANGERS, AND THEN AT MY COMING I SHOULD HAVE RECEIVED MY OWN WITH USURY.
THERE is a certain plea, often found in the mouths of sinners who hear the Gospel faithfully preached, the falsity and wickedness of which this parable was intended to expose. The plea is, that God requires more than they are able to perform; that they cannot change their own hearts,—cannot love and submit to him. And this they urge as an excuse for doing nothing. The parable represents this as the common retreat of every sinner under the Gospel. It divides the Christian world into two parts; those who faithfully improve different talents, and those who call God a hard master. It puts this pretence into the mouth of every castaway. And where the divine requirements are clearly urged, this is the plea of every unregenerate man. If any thing was wanting to complete the proof of total depravity, this universal disposition to accuse God would furnish the supplement. The plea is false, impious, ruinous, insincere, at variance with other things uttered by the same lips, and self-condemning if true. These are the points which I shall attempt to establish.
(1.) The plea is false. It is not true that God requires of sinners more than they are able to perform. It is not true that they cannot love and submit to him. They have ample power, and nothing prevents but their desperate wickedness.
But the ability which is ascribed to them ought to be distinctly explained. It is a natural ability, in distinction from a moral. By moral I mean that which bears relation to praise or blame. Whatever impediment is blamable is a moral difficulty; every other is natural. Now if there is no difficulty in the way of their loving and submitting to God but what they are to blame for, there is no natural inability; and if there is no natural inability, there is natural power. If nothing hinders but what is a moral evil, for the existence and continuance of which they are to blame, then there is no natural or blameless inability. If the impediment is moral or blameworthy, it cannot be natural or blameless: and where there is no natural inability, there must be natural power. If they could readily obey were there no faulty cause to prevent, then it is proper to say that they are able. This is agreeable to the common language of mankind, and consonant with all our ideas of power in the ordinary affairs of life. If nothing but wickedness prevents the performance of an action, common sense pronounces that there is power. If nothing but stubbornness prevents a child from walking, you say he has power to walk. You speak differently if he is lame. Where the difficulty of overcoming an inclination is very great, you still say there is power. You tell the drunkard that he can abandon
his cups; and if he denies, you have only to drop a little poison into his glass, and it may stand by him untouched for half a century.*
* You ask what is our precise meaning and aim in ascribing to sinners this natural ability. We certainly do not mean to assert their independence on God for holiness, or a self-determining power of the will. Our only object is to make out a complete basis of obligation and to fix the charge of guilt,-guilt always resulting from the violation of obligations. But it is impossible to fasten upon the conscience a sense of obligation without making out the existence of a power, as it is a common feeling of mankind that they cannot be bound to do what with the best dispositions they have no ability to perform. And it happens in this as in all other cases that that which is the basis of obligation may properly be denominated an ability. That basis is the faculties of a rational soul. Wherever these faculties exist there is one whom God has a right to command, and if he disobeys, to punish,-none the less for his dependance on him for holiness,-none the less for his depravity,- none the less for the withholding of the Spirit. Otherwise how could Judas be sent to hell? He was dependant on God for holiness, he was depraved, no Spirit sancti. fied him, and yet he was laid under obligations by the divine law, and for the violation of those obligations he was sent to hell. His obligations had no other basis than the faculties of a rational soul. And this basis of obligation may be properly denominated an ability. It bears the same relation to the obligation to serve God, that the muscular strength of a slave does to the obligation to lift a weight when bidden by his master. Without it no obligation can be imposed, with it the obligation is perfect. Further, these faculties, combined with the light involved in the command, constitute exactly a power to love and serve God if the heart is well disposed. Without the faculties a man could not do this even were it possible for him to have a good heart, but with the faculties he can. Who will doubt that Judas could have loved and served God if his heart had been well disposed. Here then is a capacity or power which leaves nothing in the way but a bad heart, throwing all the blame on the sinner if blame can exist in the universe. And shall this power be covered up by a false name, leaving the horrid impression to prevail that God commands men upon penalty of eternal death to do what they have no ability to perform? If you call these faculties a power you only use the word as it is used in all the common concerns of life. We seldom mean by this term a willingness, and never a power to originate a disposition, but generally a capacity to do a thing if the man is so inclined. But I go further. Only allow moral to signify bearing a relation to praise or blame, and natural to be its correlate term, (points fully established by the au. thority of good use,) and there is no avoiding the phrase natural ability. The only impediment in the way of a sinner's loving God is a depraved temper, for which he is wholly to blame. If this is an inability, it is a blamable, and therefore a moral one. The only inability in the way, if any exists, is a blamable or moral one. Of course there is no inability that is blameless or natural. And if there is no natural inability, there must be natural power.
The term ability when applied to this subject expresses only that capacity which is the basis of obligation. Any other use of the word in this connexion tends only to confusion. For instance, to raise the ques. tion whether men can change their own hearts, meaning, not whether they
The single question is, whether there is any difficulty in the way of loving God but what sinners are to blame for. As they possess understanding, will, and affections, and are capable of loving and hating, it will be allowed that nothing prevents but a wrong temper of heart,-nothing, (as has been proved in former lectures,) but supreme selfishness, producing an implacable opposition, too deep and powerful to be overcome but by the Spirit of God. Now is this opposition a misfortune or a fault? A fault surely: for if disinclination excuses from duty, all the sin in the universe is excused, and is no longer sin. If in proportion as the heart is opposed to right it is exonerated from blame, God cannot make a creature capable of sinning. If sin exists any where it must be in the heart. The motions of the body, considered otherwise than as indications of the heart, bear no more relation to praise or blame than the motions of a clock. But if there is sin in the heart, it must consist in the opposition of the heart to good. If that opposition, (the essence of all possible sin,) is really an excuse, then sin is an excuse for itself and is no longer sin,—the difference between sin and holiness is no more, both are extinct and men are machines. If disinclination excuses from obedience, then every law requiring men to cross their inclinations is oppression, and punishment is tyranny. Every trace of a moral government, indeed of every other government, ought to be obliterated, and butone law remain to the universe, and that be for every creature to do as he pleases.
have capacity to exercise, but whether they have ability to originate right affections, (a work which belongs to God even in the hearts of the holy angels,) is only turning away the eye from that ground of obligation which the word ought to express here, and utterly confounding the term as applied to this general subject. Let it mean nothing but a capacity which is the basis of obligation, and the use of it is definite, intelligible, and important; let it mean something that does not belong to creatures, or any thing but the above, and it only perplexes and confounds.