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of reason and knowledge, it manifests no special
power at all.
But after all the question chiefly turns on these two points,-the supreme selfishness or total depravity of the human heart, and the nature of holiness. No one who admits this view of the native character, and believes that holiness is a simple principle, not a compound formed out of preexisting properties, can doubt that there is a moment when it is first introduced. What is the character of the natural heart? and What is holiness? are the two questions which on this subject must divide the world. For if holiness is a simple principle, and first introduced in Regeneration, especially if it is a principle of supreme love to God following supreme selfishness, nothing can be plainer than that the change is as sudden as the entrance of the first drop that falls into a vessel, or the first ray that penetrates a dungeon.
This doctrine however does not militate against the idea of an antecedent preparation in the conscience, wrought by the means of grace and the enlightening influences of the Spirit. But on this subject I shall have occasion to treat in a future Lecture. At present I shall content myself with two inferences from the doctrine already established.
(1.) It inevitably follows from the foregoing exposition that none of the feelings, or actions, or duties, (as they are called,) of the unregenerate, (so far as they partake of a moral nature, that is,
.so far as they are entitled to praise or blame from the moral Governour of the world,) are otherwise than sinful. They are sinful, or holy, or neither. If neither, they receive no praise or blame from the moral Governour. For whatever may be said of God in the character of temporal head of the Jewish nation, or as accommodating, in these days, His visible dispensations to visible. characters, yet as moral Governour He praises nothing but holiness, or real conformity to His law, and blames nothing but sin, which " is the transgression of the law.” For to govern ACCORDING TO Law enters into all our ideas of a righteous Governour. That some of the feelings and actions of the unregenerate are of a neutral character is not denied, but these are to be set aside as of no account. The rest are either sinful or holy, But they are not holy, for the beginning of holiness is Regeneration : of course they must be sinful.
It is not denied that the form of their actions is often .right; and if the form by itself is respected in the divine law, it is, as far as it goes, real obedience. But is the form so divided by the divine law from the disposition, that, standing alone, it constitutes any part of obedience? If so, the form without the disposition must constitute some part of transgression ; and then, in the eye of the divine law, a man in part commits murder who kills his neighbour by accident, or in a paroxysm of madness. The truth is that no action is rewarded or punished by God or man, (un
less by God accommodating His visible dispensations to the apprehensions of mankind,) otherwise than as it is known, or supposed to be, the index of the heart. Separate from murder all ideas of ma. licious intent, and it is no longer murder in the eyes of God or man. Separate from prayer all ideas of pious design, and in the eyes of God and man it is no longer prayer. No law human or divine ever thought of forbidding a mad man to kill his neighbour: (no matter for what reason.) No law human or divine ever thought of requiring a mad man to perform deeds of charity. It is then a fact that no law ever forbade or required an external action but as an expression of mind, of choice, of disposition. The external action in its naked form, exclusive of the choice and disposition, is not required, and the action thus alone is no part of obedience, no part of holiness. But if any thing in the mind is necessary to impart a holy character to an action, it must be Holiness in the mind. For certainly nothing but the thing itself can instamp its own character. Where therefore there is no holiness in the heart, there can be, in the view of Him who tries the reins, no holy action.
But while I neglect to ascribe holiness, I do not mean to impute sin, to the bare form of actions. In strictness of speech the form distinct from the mind no more partakes of a moral nature than the motions of a clock. All that I affirm of the sinfulness of the actions of the unregenerate is, that so far as those actions, considered in both the out:
ward and inward part, partake of a moral nature, they are sinful, and that whether the external form is right or wrong. In strictness of speech the sin lies not in the outward form even when that form is wrong, certainly not when it is right. Yet in the popular language of Scripture, as in the common language of mankind, the form and disposition are both comprehended in the action. Now what I assert is, that the action, thus complexly considered, takes its moral character, not from the form, but from the disposition ; and where the disposition is wrong the general action is pronounced sinful. 66 The Lord seeth not as man seeth ; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." The widow's mite He affectionately approves, while He rejects the man who without evangelical love bestows all his goods to feed the poor, and then with a martyr's zeal gives his body to be burned. He accepts “ the willing mind” even where no action follows, while He pronounces the very “sacrifice of the wickedan abomination." While “a cup of cold water," administered in love, is rewarded with eternal life, “ he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer [is] abomination.” And that not merely when he intends to mock: “ The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination, how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind.” Nor let it be supposed that his sacrifices are singled out to bear this reproach: “The plowing of the wicked is sin.” His commonest actions are an offence to God, be
cause they proceed from a heart 6 deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” You must cleanse the fountain before the streams can be sweet; you must heal the tree before the fruit can be pleasant. “Make the tree good and his fruit good.” “ Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." . Hence those maxims inscribed on the everlasting tablet, « They that are in the flesh, [in the natural state,] cannot please God;" and “ Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Without that “faith” which is the gift of God," that belief that “ Jesus is the Christ" which bespeaks one “bory of God,” no action, no prayer is accepted. “If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God ;-but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea :for let not that man think that he shall receive ANY THING of the Lord.” “Ye ask and reeeive not, because ye ask amiss," is the common reproof of all who are supremely attached to the present world. “ We know that God heareth not sinners," was said even by Jews.*
The case is not altered by any convictions which the Spirit may excite, by any anxieties of the sinner, by any attention to the means of grace. If Regeneration is the commencement of holiness, all
* 1 Sam. xvi. 7. Prov. xv. 8. and xxi. 4, 27. and xxviii. 9. Jer. xvii. 9. Mat. x. 42. and xii. 33. and xxiii. 26. Mark xii. 42–44. John ix. 31. Rom. viii. 8. 1 Cor. xiii. 1-3. 2 Cor. viii, 12. Eph. ii. 8. lleb. xi. 6. James i. 5-7. and iv. 3. 1 John v. 1.