« السابقةمتابعة »
the cause of sin, that is, of actual transgression. They call it original sin, indwelling sin, a sinful nature, an appetite for sin, an attribute of human nature, and the like. We shall soon see what has led to this view of the subject.
I will, in the next place, notice a modern, and perhaps the most popular view of this subject, which has been taken by any late writer who has fallen into the error of confounding physical and moral depravity. I refer to the prize essay of Dr. Woods, of Andover, Mass. A reward of $300 was offered for the best treatise upon the subject of moral depravity. The prize was awarded to Dr. Leonard Woods. In his essay, he defines moral depravity to be the same as "sinfulness. He also, in one part of his essay, holds and maintains, that it is always and necessarily, voluntary. Still, his great effort is to prove that sinfulness or moral depravity, is an attribute of human nature. It is no part of my design to expose the inconsistency of holding moral depravity to be a voluntary state of mind, and yet a natural attribute, but only to examine the philosophy, the logic, and theology of his main argument. The following quotation will show the sense in which he holds moral depravity to belong to the nature of man. On page 54 he says:
"The word depravity, relating as it here does to man's moral character, means the same as sinfulness, being the opposite of moral purity or holiness. In this use of the word there is a general agreement. But what is the meaning of native or natural? Among the variety of meanings specified by Johnson, Webster, and others, I refer to the following, as relating particularly to the subject before us.
"Native. Produced by nature. Natural, or such as is according to nature; belonging by birth; original. Natural has substantially the same meaning: "produced by nature; not acquired."-So Crabbe. "Of a person we say, his worth is native, to designate it as some valuable property born with him, not foreign to him or ingrafted upon him; but we say of his disposition, that it is natural, as opposed to that which is acquired by habit." And Johnson defines nature to be the native state or properties of any thing, by which it is discriminated from others." He quotes the definition of Boyle; "Nature sometimes means what belongs to a living creature at its nativity, or accrues to it by its birth, as when we say a man is noble by nature, or a child is naturally forward. "This," he 66 says, may be expressed by saying, the man was born so."
After these brief definitions, which come to nearly the same thing, I proceed to inquire, what are the marks or evidences which show any thing in man to bc natural or native; and how far these marks are found in relation to depravity.
Again, page 66, he says:
"The evil then can not be supposed to originate in any unfavorable external circumstances, such as corrupting examples, or insinuating and strong temptations; for if we suppose these entirely removed, all human beings would still be sinners. With such a moral nature as they now have, they would not wait for strong temptations to sin. Nay, they would be sinuers in opposition to the strongest motives to the contrary. Indeed we know that human beings will turn those very motives which most powerfully urge to holiness, into occa
sions of sin. Now does not the confidence and certainty with which we foretell the commission of sin, and of sin unmixed with moral purity, presuppose a full conviction in us, and a conviction resting upon what we regard as satisfactory evidence, that sin, in all its visible actings, arises from that which is within the mind itself, and which belongs to our very nature as moral beings? Have we not as much evidence that this is the case with moral evil, as with any of our natural affections or bodily appetites?"
This quotation, together with the whole argument, shows that he considers moral depravity to be an attribute of human nature in the same sense that the appetites and passions are.
Before I proceed directly to the examination of his argument to establish the position that sinfulness, or moral depravity is an "attribute of human nature," I would premise, that an argument, or fact, that may equally well consist with either of two opposing theories can prove neither. The author of the treatise in question, presents the following facts and considerations in support of his great position, that moral depravity, or sinfulness, is an attribute of human nature; and three Presidents of colleges underwrite for the soundness and conclusiveness of the argument. He argues this,
1. From the "universality of moral depravity." To this I answer, that this argument proves nothing to the purpose, unless it be true, and assumed as a major premise, that whatever is universal among mankind, must be a natural attribute of man as such; that whatever is common to all men, must be an attribute of human nature. If this be not assumed as a truth, and if it be not true in fact, it will not follow, that the universality of moral depravity, proves, or is any evidence, that it is an attribute of human nature. But do not all men breathe, and eat, and drink, and sleep, and wake, and think, and will, and perform various actions? These, and many other things, are universal, and common to all men. But are these choices and volitions, for example-attributes of human nature? An attribute of a thing, is that which belongs to its essence, substance, nature. Volition, thought, feeling, &c.; are they natural attributes? Are they inherent in, and do they belong to the nature or substance of man? Who does not know, that they are not attributes of his nature, although common to all men. This argument, then, amounts to nothing.
Again. Selfishness is common to all unregenerate men. selfishness a natural attribute? We have seen, in a former lecture, that it consists in choice. Can choice be an attribute of human nature?
Again. This argument is just as consistent with the oppo
site theory, to wit, that moral depravity is selfishness. The universality of selfishness is just what might be expected, if selfishness consists in the committal of the will to the gratification of self. This will be a thing of course, unless the Holy Spirit interpose, to greatly enlighten the intelligence, and break up the force of habit, and change the attitude of the will, already at the first dawn of reason, as has been shown, committed to the impulses of the sensibility. If moral depravity is to be accounted for, as I have endeavored to account for it in a former lecture, and shall hereafter more fully, by ascribing it to the influence of temptation, or to a physically depraved constitution, surrounded by the circumstances in which mankind first form their moral character, or put forth their first moral choices, universality might of course be expected to be one of its characteristics. This argument, then, agreeing equally well with either theory, proves neither.
2. His second argument is, that "Moral depravity develops itself in early life." Answer,
(1.) This is just what might be expected upon the opposite theory. If moral depravity consist in the choice of self-gratification, it would of course appear in early life. So this argument agrees quite as well with the opposing theory, and therefore proves nothing. But,
(2.) This argument is good for nothing, unless the following be assumed as a major premise, and unless the fact assumed, be indeed a truth, namely, “Whatever is developed in early life, must be an attribute of human nature." But is this true? Breathing, sleeping, eating, and such like things are these attributes of nature? But unless it be true, that whatever is universally developed in early life, is an attribute of human nature, it will not of course follow, that moral depravity is.
3. His third argument is, that "Moral depravity is not owing to any change that occurs subsequent to birth." Answer:
Nor is choice or volition, thought or feeling, owing to any change in the constitution, that occurs subsequently to birth. What then: are they attributes of human nature? This argument proves nothing, unless it be true, that whatever is universally true of men that is not owing to any change of constitution that occurs after birth, must be an attribute of human nature. But who does not know, that this is not true. "What then, does this arguing prove?"
Again: this argument is just as consistent with the opposing theory, and therefore proves neither.
4. His fourth argument is, "That moral depravity acts
freely and spontaneously." Answer: the moral agent acts freely, and acts selfishly, that is, wickedly. This argument assumes, that if a moral agent acts freely and wickedly, moral depravity, or sin, must be an attribute of his nature. Or more fairly, if mankind universally, in the exercise of their liberty, act sinfully, sinfulness must be an attribute of human nature." But what is sin? Why sin is a voluntary transgression of law-Dr. Woods being judge. Can a voluntary transgression of law be an attribute of human nature?
But again: this argument is equally consistent with the opposite theory. If moral depravity consist in the choice of self-gratification as an end, it would of course freely and spontaneously manifest itself. This argument then, is good for nothing.
5. His fifth argument is, "That moral depravity is hard to overcome." Answer,
1. If it were an attribute of human nature, it could not be overcome at all without a change of the human constitution.
2. It is hard to overcome, just as selfishness naturally would be in beings of a physically depraved constitution, and in the presence of so many temptations to self-indulgence.
3. If it were an attribute of human nature, it could not be overcome without a change of personal identity. But the fact that it can be overcome, and the consciousness of personal identity remain, proves that it is not an attribute of hu
6. His sixth argument is, that "We can predict with certainty, that in due time, it will act itself out." Answer: Just as might be expected. If moral depravity consists in selfishness, we can predict with certainty, that the spirit of selfpleasing will, in due time, and at all times, act itself out. We can also predict, without the gift of prophesying, that with a constitution physically depraved, and surrounded with objects to awaken appetite, and with all the circumstances in which human beings first form their moral character, they will seek to gratify themselves universally, unless prevented by the Holy Spirit. This argument is just as consistent with the opposite theory, and therefore proves neither.
Again: this argument, like all the rest, is based upon the assumption of a false major premise, to wit, "That whatever we can predict with certainty, of human beings, must be an attribute of their nature." But we can predict, that if they live, they will think and choose. Are these attributes of human nature?
It is unnecessary to occupy any more time with the treatise of Dr. Woods. I will now quote the standards of the Presbyterian church, which will possess you of their views upon this subject. On pages 30 and 31 of the Presbyterian Confession of Faith, we have the following: "By this sin, they, (Adam and Eve,) fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions."
Again, pages 152-154, Shorter Catechism. Question 22. Did all mankind fall in that first transgression? Answer: The covenant being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity; all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression.
Question 23. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind? Ans. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.
Question 24. What is sin? Ans. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.
Question 25. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell? Ans. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually, which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.
Question 26. How is original sin conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity? Ans. Original sin is conveyed from our first' parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way, are conceived and born in sin."
These extracts show, that the framers and defenders of this Confession of Faith, account for the moral depravity of mankind, by making it to consist in a sinful nature, inherited by