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THE PLEA OF INABILITY CONSIDERED.
MATTHEW XXV. 24-27.
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 CSURY.
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 Godrequires 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 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 loving and submitting to God but what men 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 blame. less 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 pow
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. And in a higher case, where no motive can be found strong enough to resist the inclination, you have the same reason to speak of the power : for in the case of the drunkard you pronounce him able before the successful motive is applied. And if you declare him able in the absence of the motive, you may as truly pronounce a sinner able to love God who has no disposition. For the sinner can as easily love without a disposition, as the drunkard can change his habits without a constraining motive,-indeed as easily as a man can stop in a journey while the stronger motive urges him forward.
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 but one law remain to the universe, and that be for every creature to do as he pleases. The malignity of devils is no more sinful than the fury of lions, and the love of seraphs no more praise.
worthy than the mildness of lambs. The moral Governour has lost His throne, and is no, more than a shepherd among a flock of sheep and goats. To all this horrid length you are pushed the moment you attempt to hold up the opposition of the heart to God as an excuse instead of a crime,—the moment you deny it to be the very essence of all sin.
And consider, I pray you, how it must appear to the Majesty of heaven and earth for you to. stand forth and plead, that you cannot discover any “form” or “comeliness” in Him why you “should desire Him”! Is He then so unlovely that a rational mind cannot love Him? What, cannot love the infinitely glorious God, your Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer! Have you such a heart as this? And do you know that your heart is you yourself? Are you then such a wretch, that all the motives which three worlds present cannot prevail on you to love the blessed God! It is an everlasting blot on man that a second word need be uttered to induce him to love a Being whom all heaven adore. And are you such a wretch that all the motives in the universe cannot persuade you, and you must be compelled ? What an eternal reproach to the whole creation! And do you offer this horrid temper as your excuse? Is this your plea? I call heaven and earth to witness that this is pleading GUILTY. “ How can I love God ?" you say. How can you help it? How is it possible to avoid lov. ing such a Being? Cannot! You can love every
You can love sin, the most loathsome