CONTAINING ANSWERS TO OBJECTIONS
CONCERNING THE OBJECTION, AGAINST THE DOCTRINE OF NATIVE CORRUPTION, THAT TO SUPPOSE MEN RECEIVE THEIR FIRST EXISTENCE IN SIN, IS TO MAKE HIM WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF THEIR BEING, THE AUTHOR OF THEIR DEPRAVITY
ONE argument against a supposed native, sinful depravity, which Dr. T. greatly insists upon, is, ďthat this does in effect charge him, who is the author of our nature, who formed us in the womb, with being the author of a sinful corruption of nature; and that it is highly injurious to the God of our nature, whose hands have formed and fashioned us, to believe our nature to be originally corrupted, and that in the worst sense of corruption [p. 137, 187-189, 256, 258, 260. 143. S. and other places.].
With respect to this, I would observe, in the first place, that this writer, in handling this grand objection, supposes something to belong to the doctrine objected against, as maintained by the divines whom he is opposing, which does not belong to it, nor follow from it. As particularly, he supposes the doctrine of original sin to imply, that nature must be corrupted by some positive influence; ďsomething , by some means or other, infused into the human minds, but like a taint, tincture, or infection, altering the natural constitution, faculties, and dispositions of our souls (Page 187). That sin and evil dispositions are IMPLANTED in the fetus in the wombĒ [Page 146, 148, 149. S. and the like in many other places.]. Whereas truly our doctrine neither implies nor infers any such thing. In order to account for a sinful corruption of nature, yea, a total native depravity of the heart of man, there is not the least need of supposing any evil quality, infused, implanted, or wrought into the nature of man, by any positive cause, or influence whatsoever, either from God, or the creature; or of supposing, that man is conceived and born with a fountain of evil in his heart, such as is anything properly positive. I think, a little attention to the nature of things will be sufficient to satisfy any impartial considerate inquirer, that the absence of positive good principles, and so the withholding of a special divine influence to impart and maintain those good principles ó leaving the common natural principles of self-love, natural appetite, etc. to themselves, without the government of superior divine principles ó will certainly be followed with the corruption; yea, the total corruption of the heart, without occasion for any positive influence at all: and that it was thus in fact that corruption of nature came on Adam, immediately on his fall, and comes on all his posterity, as sinning in him, and falling with him.
The case with man was plainly this: when God made man at first, he implanted in him two kinds of principles. There was an inferior kind, which may be called NATURAL, being the principles of mere human nature; such as self-love, with those natural appetites and passions, which belong to the nature of man, in which his love to his own liberty, honor, and pleasure, were exercised: these, when alone, and left to themselves, are what the Scriptures sometimes call FLESH. Besides these, there were superior principles, that were spiritual, holy, and divine, summarily comprehended in divine love; wherein consisted the spiritual image of God, and manís righteousness and true holiness; which are called in Scripture the divine nature. These principles may, in some sense, be called SUPERNATURAL, *27* being (however concreated or connate, yet) such as are above those principles that are essentially implied in, or necessarily resulting from and inseparably connected with, mere human nature; and being such as immediately depend on manís union and communion with God, or divine communications and influences of Godís Spirit: which though withdrawn, and manís nature forsaken of these principles, human nature would be human nature still; manís nature, as such, being entire without these divine principles, which the Scripture sometimes calls SPIRIT, in contradistinction to flesh. These superior principles were given to possess the throne, and maintain an absolute dominion in the heart; the other to be wholly subordinate and subservient. And while things continued thus, all was in excellent order, peace, and beautiful harmony, and in a proper and perfect state. These divine principles thus reigning, were the dignity, life, happiness, and glory of manís nature. When man sinned and broke Godís covenant, and fell under his curse, these superior principles left his heart: for indeed God then left him; that communion with God on which these principles depended, entirely ceased; the Holy Spirit, that divine inhabitant, forsook the house. Because it would have been utterly improper in itself, and inconsistent with the constitution God had established, that he should still maintain communion with man, and continue by his friendly, gracious, vital influences, to dwell with him and in him, after he was become a rebel, and had incurred Godís wrath and curse. Therefore immediately the superior divine principles wholly ceased; so light ceases in a room when the candle is withdrawn; and thus man was left in a state of darkness, woeful corruption, and ruin; nothing but flesh without spirit. The inferior principles of self-love, and natural appetite, which were given only to serve, being alone, and left to themselves, of course became reigning principles; having no superior principles to regulate or control them, they became absolute masters of the heart. The immediate consequence of which was a fatal catastrophe, a turning of all things upside down, and the succession of a state of the most odious and dreadful confusion. Man immediately set up himself, and the objects of his private affections and appetites, as supreme; and so they took the place of God. These inferior principles are like fire in a house; which, we say, is a good servant, but a bad master; very useful while kept in its place, but if left to take possession of the whole house, soon brings all to destruction. Manís love to his own honor, separate interest, and private pleasure, which before was wholly subordinate unto love to God, and regard to his authority and glory, now disposes and impels him to pursue those objects, without regard to Godís honor, or law; because there is no true regard to these divine things left in him. In consequence of which, he seeks those objects as much when against Godís honor and law, as when agreeable to them. God still continuing strictly to require supreme regard to himself, and forbidding all undue gratifications of these inferior passions ó but only in perfect subordination to the ends, and agreeableness to the rules and limits, which his holiness, honor, and law prescribe ó hence immediately arises enmity in the heart, now wholly under the power of self-love; and nothing but war ensues, in a constant course, against God, As, when a subject has once renounced his lawful sovereign, and set up a pretender in his stead, a state of enmity and war against his rightful king necessarily ensues. It were easy to show, how every lust, and depraved disposition of manís heart, would naturally arise from this private original, if here were room for it. Thus it is easy to give an account, how total corruption of heart should follow on manís eating the forbidden fruit, though that was but one act of sin, without God putting any evil into his heart, or implanting any bad principle, or infusing any corrupt taint, and so becoming the author of depravity. Only Godís withdrawing, as it was highly proper and necessary that he should, from rebel-man, and his natural principles being left to themselves, is sufficient to account for his becoming entirely corrupt, and bent on sinning against God.
And as Adamís nature became corrupt, without Godís implanting or infusing of any evil thing into it; so does the nature of his posterity. God dealing with Adam as the head of his posterity (as has been shown), and treating them as one, he deals with his posterity as having all sinned in him. And therefore, as God withdrew spiritual communion, and his vital gracious influence, from the common head, so he withholds the same from all the members, as they come into existence; whereby they come into the world mere flesh, and entirely under the government of natural and inferior principles; and so become wholly corrupt, as Adam did.
Now, for God so far to have the disposal of this affair, as to withhold those influences, without which, nature will be corrupt, is not to be the author of sin. But, concerning this, I must refer the reader to what I have said of it in my discourse on the Freedom of the Will [Part IV ß 9.]. Though, besides what I have there said, I may here observe, that if for God so far to order and dispose the being of sin, as to permit it, by withholding the gracious influences necessary to prevent it, is for him to be the author of sin, then some things which Dr. T. himself lays down, will equally be attended with this very consequence. For, from time to time he speaks of God giving men up to the vilest lusts and affections, by permitting, or leaving them [Key, ß 388, note: and Par. on Rom. 1:24.]. Now, if the continuance of sin, and its increase and prevalence, may be in consequence of Godís disposal, in withholding needful grace, without God being the author of that continuance and prevalence of sin; then, by parity of reason, may the being of sin, in the race of Adam, be in consequence of Godís disposal, by his withholding that grace which is needful to prevent it, without his being the author of sin.
If here it should be said, that God is not the author of sin, in giving up to sin those who have already made themselves sinful, because when men have once made themselves sinful, their continuing so, and sin prevailing in them, and becoming more and more habitual, will follow in a course of nature: I answer, let that be remembered which this writer so greatly urges, in opposition to them who suppose original corruption comes in a course of nature, viz. That the course of nature is nothing without God. He utterly rejects the notion of the ďcourse of natureís being a proper active cause, which will work, and go on by itself, without God, if he lets or permits it.Ē [Page 134. S. See also with what vehemence this is urged in p. 137. S.] But affirms, ďThat the course of nature, separate from the agency of God, is no cause or nothing; and that the course of nature should continue itself, or go on to operate by itself, any more than at first produce itself, is absolutely impossible.Ē These strong expressions are his. Therefore, to explain the continuance of the habits of sin in the same person, when once introduced, yea, to explain the very being of any such habits, in consequence of repeated acts, our author must have recourse to those same principles, which he rejects as absurd to the utmost degree, when alleged to explain the corruption of nature in the posterity of Adam. For, that habits, either good or bad, should continue, after being once established, or that habits should be settled and have existence in consequence of repeated acts, can be owing only to a course of nature, and those laws of nature which God has established.
That the posterity of Adam should be born without holiness, and so with a depraved nature, comes to pass as much by the established course of nature, as the continuance of a corrupt disposition in a particular person, after he once has it; or as much as Adamís continuing unholy and corrupt, after he had once lost his holiness. For Adamís posterity are from him, and as it were in him, and belonging to him, according to an established course of nature, as much as the branches of a tree are, according to a course of nature, from the tree, in the tree, and belonging to the tree; or (to make use of the comparison which Dr. T. himself chooses from time to time, as proper to illustrate the matter, page 146, 187) just as the acorn is derived from the oak. And I think, the acorn is as much derived from the oak, according to the course of nature, as the buds and branches. It is true, that God, by his own almighty power, creates the soul of the infant; and it is also true, as Dr. T. often insists, that God, by his immediate power, forms and fashions the body of the infant in the womb; yet he does both according to that course of nature, which he has been pleased to establish. The course of nature is demonstrated, by late improvements in philosophy, to be indeed what our author himself says it is, viz. Nothing but the established order of the agency and operation of the author of nature. And though there be the immediate agency of God in bringing the soul into existence in generation, yet it is done according to the method and order established by the author of nature, as much as his producing the bud, or the acorn of the oak; and as much as his continuing a particular person in being, after he once has existence. Godís immediate agency in bringing the soul of a child into being, is as much according to an established order, as his immediate agency in any of the works of nature whatsoever. It is agreeable to the established order of nature, that the good qualities wanting in the tree, should also be wanting in the branches and fruit. It is agreeable to the order of nature, that when a particular person is without good moral qualities in his heart, he should continue without them, till some new cause or efficiency produces them. And it is as much agreeable to an established course and order of nature, that since Adam, the head of mankind, the root of that great tree with many branches springing from it, was deprived of original righteousness, the branches should come forth without it. Or, if any dislike the word nature, as used in this last case, and instead of it choose to call it a constitution, or established order of successive events, the alteration of the name will not in the least alter the state of the present argument. Where the name, nature, is allowed without dispute, no more is meant than an established method and order of events, settled and limited by divine wisdom.
If any should object to this, that if the want of original righteousness be thus according to an established course of nature, then why are not principles of holiness, when restored by divine grace, also communicated to posterity; I answer, The divine law and establishments of the author of nature, are precisely settled by him as he pleaseth, and limited by his wisdom. Grace is introduced among the race of man by a new establishment; not on the ground of Godís original establishment, as the head of the natural world, and author of the first creation; but by a constitution of a vastly higher kind; wherein Christ is made the root of the tree, whose branches are his spiritual seed, and he is the head of the new creation; of which I need not stand now to speak particularly.
But here I desire it may be noted, that I do not suppose the natural depravity of the posterity of Adam is owing to the course of nature only; it is also owing to the just judgment of God. But yet I think, it is as truly and in the same manner owing to the course of nature, that Adamís posterity come into the world without original righteousness, as that Adam himself continued without it, after he had once lost it. That Adam continued destitute after he had once lost it. That Adam continued destitute of holiness, when he had lost it, and would always have so continued, had it not been restored by a Redeemer, was not only a natural consequence, according to the course of things established by God, as the author of nature; but it was also a penal consequence, or a punishment of his sin. God, in righteous judgment, continued to absent himself from Adam after he became a rebel; and withheld from him now those influences of the Holy Spirit, which he before had. And just thus I suppose it to be with every natural branch of mankind: all are looked upon as sinning in and with their common root; and God righteously withholds special influences and spiritual communications from all, for this sin. But of the manner and order of these things, more may be said in the next chapter.
On the whole, this grand objection against the doctrine of men being born corrupt, that it makes him who gave us our being, to be the cause of the being of corruption, can have no more force in it, than a like argument has to prove, that if men by a course of nature continue wicked, or remain without goodness, after they have by vicious acts contracted vicious habits, and so made themselves wicked, it makes him, who is the cause of their CONTINUANCE in being, and the cause of the CONTINUANCE of the course of nature, to be the cause of their CONTINUED wickedness. Dr. T. says (Page 136. S), ďGod would not make any thing that is hateful to him; because, by the very terms, he would hate to make such a thing.Ē But if this be good arguing in the case to which it is applied, may I not as well say, God would not CONTINUE a thing in being that is HATEFUL to him; because, by the very terms, he would HATE TO CONTINUE such a thing in being? I think, the very terms do as much (and no more) infer one of these propositions, as the other. In like manner, the rest that he says on that head may be shown to be unreasonable, by only substituting the word continue, in the place of make and propagate. I may fairly imitate his way of reasoning thus: to say, God continues us according to his own original decree, or law of continuation, which obliges him to continue us in a manner he abhors, is really to make bad worse: for it is supposing him to be defective in wisdom, or by his own decree or law to lay such a constraint upon his own actions, that he cannot do what he would, but is continually doing what he would not, what he hates to do, and what he condemns in us; viz. continuing us sinful when he condemns us from continuing ourselves sinful.Ē If the reasoning be weak in the one case, it is no less so in the other.If any shall still insist, that there is a difference between God so disposing things, as that depravity of heart shall be continued, according to the settled course of nature, in the same person, who has by his own fault introduced it; and his so disposing as that men, according to a course of nature, should be born with depravity, in consequence of Adamís introducing of sin, by his act which we had no concern in, and cannot be justly charged with: on this I would observe, that it is quite going off the objection, which we have been upon, from Godís agency, and flying to another. It is then no longer insisted on, that simply for him, from whose agency the course of nature and our existence derive, so to dispose things as that we should have existence in a corrupt state, is for him to be the author of sin: but the plea now advanced is, that it is not proper and just for such an agent so to dispose, in this case, and only in consequence of Adamís sin; it not being just to charge Adamís sin to his posterity. And this matter shall be particularly considered, in answer to the next objection; to which I now proceed.
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