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One other remark. It remains yet to be shown, that the facilities for obtaining the Divine favour by men in their fallen state are less than they would have been had they entered the world in the condition of their first parents. Are any sent to hell for Adam's sin ? That remains yet to be proved. Are any infants lost? Not a particle of evidence has ever yet been furnished of this. Is it beyond the capacity of children to please God? Let the remarks of the Saviour about the hosannas in the temple answer. Is it less easy for us to obtain the Divine approbation, and to be saved, than it would have been if Adam had not fallen ? That remains to be proved: for if a choice were to be made, it would seem to be easier to believe on Christ, and to trust to him for salvation, than to keep a holy law unbroken for ever. And if these things are so, then man cannot put his defence on the ground that he is brought into the world under a constitution which made it certain that he would be a sinner.
II. A second ground of defence to which man resorts in selfvindication, akin to this—but more common and more plausible —is, that he is but acting out the propensities of his nature. He did not make himself. He is as God made him. He is but indulging inclinations which his Creator has implanted in his bosom, and the indulgence of which, therefore, cannot be attended with blame, or followed by his displeasure. Can it be wrong for him to look upon the light of the sun ?
Can it be wrong for him to be charmed with the beauty of a sweet landscape, or the pleasant music of a waterfall? Can it be wrong for him to allay the demands of hunger and thirst, to protect himself from cold, and to provide a shelter from the storm ? The innocence of these things being admitted, as it must be, he applies the concession to all the propensities and inclinations within him, to all that has led him to do what is charged upon him as wrong, and says, “I am as God made me, and for that I cannot be held to be guilty: I ought, therefore, to be acquitted of the charge of guilt." Let us inquire whether this will answer as a ground of defence before God.
The most obvious remark in regard to it is, that if it is a valid excuse in reference to religion, it is in reference to human conduct generally. For why may not any man accused of crime urge the same thing in self-defence ? Has he done anything more than act out certain propensities which he found in his nature? When Cæsar crossed the Rubicon, Hannibal the Alps, Alexander the Granicus, or when Napoleon poured his armies on Italy, Egypt, Austria, or Russia, did they do anything more than follow out the inclinations of their nature ? Did they not find stirring within them a spirit of ambition which urged them on to trample down the liberties of mankind ? Did Robespierre or Diderot, Alexander VI. or Cæsar Borgia, do anything more than act out certain propensities in their souls ? Did Torquemada in the inquisition, or Cortes in the butcheries of Mexico, do anything but act out what they found within theirs ? And the assassin, the duellist, the murderer, what does he do more? Is he not following out his natural impulses, as much as the sinner who urges this plea ? And would not this plea be as good for the one as the other?
But further, this plea is contrary to the convictions of common sense, and the universal judgment of right among men. If it were well-founded, then the true course for man, if he would please God, would be to give unrestrained indulgence to every inclination in his bosom. Nay, then it would be wrong for him to check any of his passions, and his duty would be to give them the rankest growth, and the broadest indulgence possible ; for should not man cultivate all that God has implanted in his bosom? Then all the restraints on the passions of children must bé displeasing to God; all the lessons of order, morality, and religion, are a contravening of his wishes; all colleges, schools, and churches, are a nuisance; all court-houses and prisons are a violation of human liberty. Then the great benefactors of the race, and those who have been especially the friends of God, and have obtained the highest seat in heaven, have been those who have proclaimed the innocence of universal licentiousness, or who have furnished the greatest facilities for the indulgence of passion. From the preachers of religion-from pious princes-from the dispensers of justice--from the patrons of order and of law-from Paul, Aurelian, and Hale,--the crown is to be transferred to such moralists as Paine, such princes as Charles II., and such judges as Jeffries. But who is prepared to take this ground? This view goes against the common sense and the common judgments of men. There are things in man to be restrained in order that he may be virtuous. It is not sufficient to secure the meed of virtue to say, "I am as God made me, and am but acting out the propensities of my nature.” What then is the mistake which is made in this plea? What fallacy is there in it, for it seems to have plausibility and truth? An answer may be readily given to these questions by making a distinction, which the young man may apply through life to the noblest purposes of self-improvement. In the plea set up, two things are confounded, which are wholly distinct, and which are to be dealt with on different principles :--our constitutional propensities as God made them, and our corrupt propensities which have another origin. The former are to be cultivated, and carried to the highest pitch of perfection possible; the latter are to be checked, restrained, subdued. The former are innocent, noble, and ennobling ; the latter are debasing and degrading—“ corrupt, sensual, devilish.” There are propensities of our nature, and laws of our being, which God has implanted, and which, if kept within proper limits, are harmless, or which inay contribute to our highest elevation in the scale of existence. To eat, to drink, to sleep, are laws of our animal being, harmless if restrained, debasing if indulged in contrariety to the just rules of temperance. To aspire after knowledge, to seek a “good name,” to rise to the fellowship of higher intelligences, to bring out and cultivate the benevolent affections, is to follow nature as God has made us, and never betrays or debases us. But to follow out the inclinations of ambition, and pride, and vanity, and lust, and revenge, is a different thing. These debase and sink to a lower level than that of brutes; for in proportion as we may rise, so may we descend. The star that culminates highest, may sink the lowest; and as woman, if vile, sinks lower than man can, so man, if debased, sinks beneath the brute.
Men mistake then in this. When they indulge in these things, they are not in any proper sense acting out their nature. They are not as God made them. They are sunken, debased, fallen. Let men act according to the great laws which He has impressed upon their being, and they will be noble, holy, godlike. Thus acting, man would have met the approbation of his Maker, and might have pleaded innocent to the charges of guilt. But let him not give indulgence to corruption, and then seek shelter in the plea, “ I am as God made me.
III. A third ground of defence would be, that the law of God is stern and severe, and that his requirements are of such a nature that man has no power to comply with them. The position which would be taken is, that there is no obligation where there is no ability, and that as man now has no power to yield obedience, he cannot be held to be chargeable with guilt. The principle here stated seems to be one that is based on common sense, and that must ever command the assent of all men who are not blinded by theory or by prejudice. It is impossible for man to feel himself guilty, or blameworthy, for not doing what he had no power to do. He may count it a misfortune, or he may experience calamities and suffer losses, because he has no greater power, but it is not possible for him to feel on this account the compunctions of remorse. With the limited powers of man, it
is impossible for him ever to feel himself guilty for not creating a world, or not guiding the stars, or not raising the dead ; and he cannot conceive that by any revelation whatever, or any course of reasoning, or any requirement laid on him, he should ever feel himself blameworthy for not doing these things. If then it were so, that God has required of man more than he is in any sense able to perform, the nature which he has given us-and which in that case would be a very strange and unaccountable endowment - would teach us two things: one, that his government was a tyranny; and the other, that man could not be to blame. Such a creature under such a government might be made to suffer, but could not be punished; he might experience pain of body, but he never would know the pangs of But is this so? The law itself
The law itself is the best exponent of the views of God on this subject, and that law is clear and explicit. " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” Matt. xxii. 37-40. Could anything be more reasonable than this ? God asks nothing which we have not; nothing which we have no power to render. He asks “all” the heart, the mind, the strength, and he asks no
He does not require for himself the service claimed of angelic powers, but that adapted to our own; he asks no love for our neighbour which we do not feel that we are abundantly able to show to ourselves. To take shelter from the charges against us, under the plea that our Maker has required services beyond our power to render, is therefore directly in the face of his own requirements; is to charge him with tyranny, where his requirements are as clear as noonday, and as equal as they can be, and where he has expressly told us that the plea cannot, and will not be sustained :- 0 house of Israel, are not my ways equal ? Are not your ways unequal ? Therefore will I judge you, O house of Israel, according to your ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin,” Ezek. xviii. 29, 30.
IV. A fourth ground of defence on which man charged with guilt is secretly relying in self-justification is, that the penalty of the law of God is unreasonably severe, and that no consideration can make it right to recompense the errors and crimes of this short life with eternal punishment. The ground here taken is, that it would be wrong for God to punish man in this manner, and therefore that man has a claim to eternal iife. The inference
which the sinner charged with guilt draws is, that if the penalty is unreasonably severe, he cannot be held to be guilty, and has a right to disregard the law of his Maker. Now it is not my design to attempt a defence of the doctrine of eternal punishment, or to show that the impenitent sinner will suffer for ever. It must be admitted that there are mysteries on that subject which the human powers at present cannot explain. All that the subject demands is, to examine this reasoning which the sinner sets up in his defence. Is the severity of a penalty, then, even supposing it to be wholly unreasonable, a valid excuse for violating law, or for doing wrong? It is possible to conceive--for such things have been—that the penalty for the crime of treason may be entirely too severe ; that its execution may be attended with barbarous cruelty ; and that it may be followed by a taint of blood, and by inflictions on the family of the traitor wholly unjustifiable by any principles of equity. But would this be any justification of the act of treason ? Does it make the betrayal of the state a matter of duty or of innocence ? Is it such a meritorious act, that he who performs it has a claim on the offices and emoluments which a sovereign has to bestow on deserving subjects ? So in the matter before us.
If there are things which we cannot explain about future punishment,-if it has a degree of severity which we have no means of vindicating, is it fair to infer that it is right to violate the law of heaven ; and has he who does it a claim on the crown of glory? Yet this seems to me to be what is involved in this ground of defence which a man charged with sin sets up. Would it be reasonable or proper for him to suppose that God would admit a plea drawn from his own alleged injustice and cruelty, as a reason for the habitual violation of his law ? But the plea has no force in another respect. Our relations to the administration of justice are not only concerned with the question what the penalty is, but with the question whether it is practicable to avoid it. There may be reasons operating in the appointment of a penalty which we do not understand. All that is necessary for us to know is, what the penalty is, and to have such freedom that we can avoid it by a correct life. They who live in England now, or they who lived under the administration of the laws in times of greater severity, can have no reason to complain, so far as appears, of the punishment affixed there to treason. It can be readily seen, indeed, that there would be much that would be painful and disgraceful in being drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution ; in being quartered, and publicly exposed; in the confiscation of property, the degradation