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By this it is not intended to deny that in some instances the Spirit of God may from the first moment of moral agency have so enlightened the mind as to have secured conformity to moral law as the first moral act. This may or may not be true. It is not my present purpose to affirm or to deny this as a possibility or as a fact.
But by this is intended, that every moral agent of our race is from the dawn of moral agency to the moment of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, morally depraved, unless we except The Bible exhibits those possible cases just alluded to.
proof of it in,
1. Those passages that represent all the unregenerate as "And possessing one common wicked heart or character. God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."-Gen. 6: 5. "This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead."-Eccl. 9: 3. "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?" -Jer. 17: 9. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."-Ro. 8: 7.
2. Those passages that declare the universal necessity of regeneration. "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God."--John 3: 3.
3. Passages that expressly assert the universal moral depravity of all unregenerate moral agents of our race. "What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stop
ped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.-Ro. 3: 9-20.
4. Universal history proves it. What is this world's history but the shameless chronicle of human wickedness?
5. Universal observation attests it. Who ever saw one unregenerate human being that was not selfish, that did not obey his feelings rather than the law of his intelligence, that was not under some form or in some way living to please self? Such an unregenerate human being I may safely affirm was never seen since the fall of Adam.
6. 1 may also appeal to the univesal consciousness of the unregenerate. They know themselves to be selfish, to be aiming to please themselves.
VII. The moral depravity of the unregenerate moral agents of our ruce, is total.
By this is intended, that the moral depravity of the unregenerate is without any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they never, in any instance, nor in any degree exercise true love to God and to man. It is not intended, that they may not perform many outward actions, and have many inward feelings, that are such as the regenerate perform and experience. But it is intended that virtue does not consist either in involuntary feelings or in outward actions, and that it consists alone in entire consecration of heart and life to God and the good of being, and that no unregenerate sinner previous to regeneration, is or can be for one moment in this state.
When virtue is clearly defined and apprehended, and when it is seen not to consist in any thing but the heart's entire consecration to God and the good of being, it must be seen, that the unregenerate are not, and that it is a contradiction to affirm that they are, or, remaining unregenerate, can be, for one moment in this state. It is amazing, that some philosophers and theologians have admitted and maintained, that the unregenerate do sometimes do that which is truly virtuBut in these admissions they necessarily assume a false philosophy and overlook that in which all virtue does and must consist, namely, supreme ultimate intention. They speak of virtuous actions and of virtuous feelings, as if virtue consisted in them, and not in the intention.
Henry P. Tappan, for example, for the most part an able, truthful and beautiful writer, assumes, or rather affirms, that
volitions may be put forth inconsistent with, and contrary to the present choice of an end, and that consequently, unregenerate sinners, whom he admits to be in the exercise of a selfish choice of an end, may, and do sometimes put forth right volitions, and perform right actions, that is, right in the sense of virtuous actions. But let us examine this subject. We have seen that all choice and all volition must respect either an end or means, that is, that every thing willed or chosen, is willed or chosen for some reason. To deny this is the same as to deny that any thing is willed or chosen, because the reason for a choice and the thing chosen are identical. Therefore, it is plain, as was shown in a former lecture, 1, that the will cannot embrace at the same time, two opposite ends; and 2, that while but one end is chosen, the will cannot put forth volitions to secure some other end, which end is not yet choIn other words, it certainly is absurd to say, that the will, while maintaining the choice of one end, can use means for the accomplishment of another and opposite end.
Again. The choice of an end, or of means, when more than one end or means is known to the mind, implies preference. The choice of one end or means, implies the rejection of its opposite. If one of two opposing ends be chosen, the other is, and must be rejected. Therefore the choice of the two ends can never co-exist. And as was shown in a former lecture,
1. The mind cannot will at all without an end. As all choice and volition must respect ends, or means, and as means cannot be willed without the previous choice of an end, it follows, that the choice of an end is necessarily the first choice.
2. When an end is chosen, that choice confines all volition to securing its accomplishment, and for the time being, and until another end is chosen, and this one relinquished, it is impossible for the will to put forth any volition inconsistent with the present choice. It therefore follows, that while sinners are selfish, or unregenerate, it is impossible for them to put forth a holy volition.
They are under the necessity of first changing their hearts, or their choice of an end, before they can put forth any volitions to secure any other than a selfish end. And this is plainly the every where assumed philosophy of the Bible. That uniformly represents the unregenerate as totally depraved, and calls upon them to repent, to make to themselves a new heart, and never admits directly, or by way of implication, that they can do any thing good or accepta
ble to God while in the exercise of a wicked or selfish heart.
When examining the attributes of selfishness, it was shown that total depravity was one of its essential attributes; or rather, that it was the moral attribute in these senses, to wit: (1.) That selfishness did not, could not co-exist with virtue or benevolence.
(2.) That selfishness could admit of no volitions or actions inconsistent with it while it continued.
(3.) That selfishness was not only wholly inconsistent with any degree of love to God, but was enmity against God, the very opposite of his will, and constituted deep and entire opposition of will to God.
(4.) That selfishness was mortal enmity against God, as manifested in the murder of Christ:
(5.) That selfishness was supreme opposition to God. (6.) That every selfish being is, and must be at every moment, just as wicked and blameworthy, as with his light he could be, that he at every moment violated all his moral obligations and rejected and trampled down all the light he had, and that whatever course of outward life any sinner pursues, it is all directed exclusively by selfishness, and whether he goes into the pulpit to preach the gospel, or becomes a pirate upon the high seas, he is actuated in either case solely by a regard to self-interest, and that, let him do one or the other, it is for the same reason, to wit, to please himself, so that it matters not, so far as his guilt is concerned, which he does. One course may, or it may not result in more or less evil than the other. But, as was then shown, the tendency of one course or the other, is not the criterion by which his guilt is to be measured, but his apprehension of the value of the interests rejected for the sake of securing his own gratification.
VIII. Proper method of accounting for the universal and total moral depravity of the unregenerate moral agents of our race. In the discussion of this subject, I will,
1. Endeavor to show how it is not to be accounted for. 2. How it is to be accounted for.
1. How the moral depravity of mankind is not to be accounted for.
In examining this part of the subject, it is necessary to have distinctly in view, that which constitutes moral depravity. All the error that has existed upon this subject, has been founded in false assumptions in regard to the nature or essence of moral depravity. It has been almost universally true, that no distinction has been made between moral and physical depravity; and consequently physical depravity has been confounded with and treated of as moral depravity. This, of course, has led to vast confusion and nonsense upon this subject. Let the following facts, which have been shown in former lectures, be distinctly borne in mind.
I. That moral depravity consists in selfishness, or in the choice of self-interest, self-gratification, or self-indulgence, as an end. Consequently it can not consist,
1. In a sinful constitution, or in a constitutional appetency or craving for sin. This has been shown in a former lecture, on what is not implied in disobedience to the moral law.
2. Moral depravity is sin itself, and not the cause of sin. It is not something back of sin that sustains to it the relation of a cause, but it is the essence and the whole of sin.
3. It can not be an attribute of human nature, for this would be physical, and not moral depravity.
4. Moral depravity is not then to be accounted for by ascribing it to a nature or constitution sinful in itself. To talk of a sinful nature, or sinful constitution, in the sense of physical sinfulness, is to talk stark nonsense. It is to overlook the essential nature of sin, and to make sin a physical virus, instead of a voluntary and responsible choice. Both sound philosophy, and the Bible, make sin to consist in obeying the flesh, or in the spirit of self-pleasing, or self-indulgence, or which is the same thing, in selfishness-in a carnal mind, or in minding the flesh. But writers on moral depravity have assumed, that moral depravity was distinct from, and