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16. This doctrine is a stumbling block both to the church and the world-infinitely dishonorable to God, and an abomination alike to God and the human intelligence, and should be banished from every pulpit and from every formula of doctrine, and from the world. It is a relict of heathen philosophy, and was foisted in among the doctrines of Christianity by Augustine, as every one may know who will take the trouble to examine for himself. Who does not know that this view of moral depravity that I am opposing, has long been the strong hold of Universalism? From it the Universalists inveighed with resistless force against the idea that sinners would be sent to an eternal hell. Assuming the long-defended doctrine of original or constitutional sinfulness, they proceed to show that it were infinitely unreasonable and unjust in God to send them to hell. What! create them with a sinful nature from which proceed by a law of necessity actual transgressions, and then send them to an eternal hell for having this nature, and for transgressions that are unavoidable? Impossible! they say; and the human intelligence responds Amen.
From the dogma of a sinful nature or constitution also has naturally and irresistibly flowed the doctrine of inability to repent, and the necessity of a physical regeneration. These too have been a sad stumbling-block to Universalists as every one knows who is at all acquainted with the history of Universalism. They infer the salvation of all men from the fact of God's benevolence and physical omnipotence! God is Almighty, and he is love. Men are constitutionally depraved, and are unable to repent. God will not, can not send them to hell. They do not deserve it. Sin is a calamity, and God can save them, and he ought to do so. This is the substance of their argument. And, assuming the truth of their premises, there is no evading their conclusion. But the whole argument is built on "such stuff as dreams are made of." Strike out the ridiculous dogma of a sinful nature, and their whole edifice comes to the ground in a moment.
II. The proper method of accounting for moral depravity. The term moral" is from the Latin mos-manners. term "depravity," as has been shown, is from de and pravus -crooked. The terms united, signify crooked manners, or bad morals. In this discussion I must,
1. Remind you of some positions that have been settled respecting moral depravity.
2. Consult the oracles of God respecting the nature of moral depravity, or sin.
3. Consult the oracles of God in respect to the proper method of accounting for the existence of sin..
4. Show the manner in which it is to be accounted for as an ultimate fact.
1. Some positions that have been settled.
(1.) It has been shown that moral depravity resolves itself into selfishness.
(2.) That selfishness consists in the supreme choice of selfindulgence.
(3.) That self-indulgence consists in the committal of the will to the gratification of the sensibility, as opposed to obeying the law of the reason.
(4.) That sin or moral depravity is a unit, and always consists in this committed state of the will to self-gratification, irrespective of the particular form or means of self-gratification.
(5.) It has also been shown that moral depravity does not consist in a sinful nature.
(6.) And also that actual transgression can not justly be ascribed to a sinful constitution.
(7.) We have also seen that all sin is actual, and that no other than actual transgression can justly be called sin.
2. I am to consult the oracles of God respecting the nature of moral depravity or şin.
Reference has often been made to the teachings of inspiration upon this subject. But it is important to review our ground in this place, that we may ascertain what are the teachings, and what are the assumptions of the bible in regard to the nature of sin? Does it assume that as truth, which natural theology teaches upon the subject? What is taught in the bible, either expressly, or by way of inference and implication upon this subject?
(1.) The bible gives a formal definition of sin. 1Jno.3: 4, Sin is a transgression of the law, and 5: 17, All unrighteousness is sin. As was remarked on a former occasion, this definition is not only an accurate one, but it is the only one that can possibly be true.
(2.) The bible every where makes the law the only standard of right and wrong, and obedience to it to be the whole of virtue, and disobedience to it to be the whole of sin. This truth lies every where upon the face of the Bible. It is taught, assumed, implied or expressed on every page of the Bible.
(3.) It holds men responsible for their voluntary actions alone, or more strictly for their choices alone, and expressly affirms that "if there be a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not." That is, willing as God directs is accepted as obedience, whether we are able to execute our choices or not.
(4.) The Bible always represents sin as something done or committed or wilfully omitted, and never as a part or attribute of soul or body. We have seen that the texts that have been relied on as teaching the doctrine of constitutional sinfulness, when rightly understood, mean no such thing.
(5.) The Bible assures us that all sin shall pass in review at the solemn judgment, and always represents all sin then to be recognized, as consisting in "the deeds done in the body." Texts that support these assertions are too numerous to need to be quoted, as every reader of the Bible knows.
3. I am to consult the Bible in respect to the proper method of accounting for moral depravity, or sin.
(1.) We have more than once seen that the Bible has given us the history of the introduction of sin into our world, and that from the narrative, it is plain that the first sin consisted in selfishness, or in consenting to indulge the excited constitutional propensities in a prohibited manner. In other words, it consisted in yielding the will to the impulses of the sensibility, instead of abiding by the law of God as revealed in the intelligence. Thus the bible ascribes the first sin of our race to the influence of temptation.
(2.) The bible once, and only once, incidentally intimates that Adam's first sin has in some way been the occasion (not the cause) of all the sins of men, Rom. 5: 12-19.
(3.) It neither says nor intimates any thing in relation to the manner in which Adam's sin has occasioned this result. It only incidentally recognizes the fact, and then leaves it just as if the quo modo was too obvious to need explanation.
(4.) In other parts of the bible we are informed how we are to account for the existence of sin For examong men. ample, James 1: 15. When lust (desire, epithumia) has conceived, it bringeth forth sin. Here sin is represented, not as desire, but as consisting in the consent of the will to gratify desire.
James says again that a man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lusts, (epithumiai desires) and enticed. That is, his lusts or the impulses of his sensibility are his tempters. When he is overcome of these, he sins.
(5.) Paul and other inspired writers represent sin as consisting in a carnal or fleshly mind, in the mind of the flesh, or in minding the flesh. It is plain that by the term flesh they mean what we understand by the sensibility as opposed to the intelligence, and that they represent sin as consisting in obeying, minding the impulses of the sensibility. They represent the world and the flesh and Satan as the three great sources of temptation. It is plain that the world and Satan tempt by appeals to the flesh or to the sensibility. Hence the apostles have much to say of the necessity of the destruction of the flesh, of the members, of putting off the old man with his deeds &c. Now, it is worthy of remark that all this painstaking on the part of inspiration to intimate the source from whence our sin proceeds, and to apprise us of the proper method of accounting for it, and also of avoiding it, has led certain philosophers and theologians to take a view of it which is directly opposed to the truth. Because so much is said of the influence of the flesh, they have inferred that the nature and physical constitution of man is itself sinful. But the representations of Scripture are that the body is the occasion of sin. The law in his members, that warred against the law of his mind, of which Paul speaks, is manifestly the impulses of the sensibility opposed to the law of the reason. This law, that is, the impulses of his sensibility, bring him into captivity, that is, influence his will, in spite of all his resolutions to the contrary.
In short, the Bible rightly interpreted, every where assumes and implies that sin consists in selfishness. It is remarkable, if the Bible be read with an eye to its teachings and assumptions on this point. to what an extent this truth will appear.
4. How moral depravity is to be accounted for.
(1.) It consists, remember, in the committal of the will to the gratification or indulgence of self-in the will's following or submitting itself to be governed by the impulses and de
sires of the sensibility instead of submitting itself to the law of the intelligence.
(2.) This definition of the thing shows how it is to be accounted for, namely: The sensibility acts as a powerful impulse to the will from the moment of birth, and secures the consent and activity of the will to procure its gratification, before the reason is at all developed. The will is thus committed to the gratification of feeling and appetite, when first the idea of moral obligation is developed. This committed state of the will is not moral depravity, and has no moral character until the idea of moral obligation is developed. The moment this idea is developed, this committal of the will to self-indulgence must be abandoned or it becomes selfishness, or moral depravity. But as the will is already in a state of committal, and has to some extent already formed the habit of seeking to gratify feeling, and as the idea of moral obligation is at first but feebly developed, unless the Holy Spirit interferes to shed light on the soul, the will, as might be expected, retains its hold on self-gratification. Here moral character does and must commence. Let it be remembered that selfishness consists in the supreme and ultimate choice, or in the preference of self-gratification as an end, or for its own sake, over all other interests. Now, as the choice of an end implies and includes the choice of the means, Selfishness of course, causes all that outward life and activity that makes up the entire history of sinners.
This selfish choice is the wicked heart-the sinful nature— the propensity to sin-the sinful appetite-the craving for sin, and all that causes what is generally termed actual transgression. This sinful choice, is properly enough called indwelling sin. It is the latent, standing, controlling preference of the mind, and the cause of all the outward and active life. It is not the choice of sin, but the choice of self-gratification, which choice is sin.
Again. It should be remembered that the physical depravity of our race has much to do with our moral depravity. A diseased physical system renders the appetites, passions, temper, and propensities more clamorous and despotic in their demands, and of course confirms and strengthens selfishness. It should be distinctly understood that physical depravity has no moral character in itself. But yet it is a source of fierce temptation to selfishness. The human sensibility is, manifestly, deeply physically depraved, and as sin or moral depravity consists in committing the will to the gratification of the scn