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generate have at least a spark of holiness in them that only needs to be cherished and cultivated to fit them for heaven.
4. Some exercises of impenitent sinners, and of which they are conscious, have been denied for fear of denying total depravity. They have been represented as necessarily hating God and all good men; and this hatred has been represented as a feeling of malice and enmity towards God. Many impenitent sinners are conscious of having no such feelings; but on the contrary they are conscious of having at times feelings of respect, veneration, awe, gratitude and affection towards God and for good men. They are also conscious that they are often influenced by these feelings; that in obedience to them they sometimes pray and sing praises to God; that they sometimes manifest a deep veneration and respect for good men and show them favor and do many things for them which they would not do did they not feel so deep a respect, veneration and affection for them. Of these and many like things many impenitent sinners are often conscious. They are also often conscious of feeling no opposition to revivals, but on the contrary that they rejoice in them and feel desirous that they should prosper and hope that they shall be themselves converted. They are conscious of feeling deep veneration and respect and even affection for those ministers who are the agents in the hand of God of carrying them forward. To this class of sinners it is a snare and a stumbling block to tell them and insist that they only hate God and christians and ministers and revivals, and to represent their moral depravity to be such that they crave sin as they crave food, and that they necessarily have none but feelings of mortal enmity against God. None of these things are true, and this class of sinners know that they are not true. Such representations either drive them into infidelity on the one hand or to think themselves christians on the other. But those theologians who hold the views of constitutional depravity of which we have spoken, can not consistently with their theory admit to these sinners the real truth, and then show them conclusively that in all their feelings which they call good, and in all their yielding to be influenced by them there is no virtue; that their desires and feelings have in themselves no moral character. and that when they yield the will to their control, it is only selfishness.
The thing needed is a philosophy and a theology that will admit and explain all the phenomena of experience and not deny human consciousness. A theology that denies human
consciousness is only a curse and a stumbling block. But such is the doctrine of universal constitutional moral depravity.
It is frequently true that the feelings of sinners become exceedingly rebellious and exasperated, and they feel the most intense opposition of feeling toward God and Christ and ministers and revivals and toward every thing of good report. If this class of sinners are converted they are very apt to suppose and to represent all sinners as having just such feelings as they had. But this is a mistake, for many sinners never had those feelings. Nevertheless they are no less selfish and guilty than the class who have the rebellious and blasphemous feelings which I have mentioned. This is what they need to know. They need to understand definitely what sin is and what it is not; that sin is selfishness; that selfishness is the yielding of the will to the control of feeling, and that it matters not at all what the particular class of feelings is, if feelings and not intelligence controls the will. Admit their good feelings as they call them and take pains to show them that these feelings are merely constitutional and have in themselves no moral character. If they plead, as they often will, that they not only feel but that they act out their feelings and give themselves up to be controled by them, then show them that this is only selfishness changing its form, and the will consenting for the time to seek the gratification of this class of feelings because they are for the time being, the most importunate and influential with the will; that as soon as another class of feelings come in play they will go over to their indulgence and leave God and religion uncared for.
The ideas of depravity and of regeneration to which I have often alluded are fraught with great mischief in another respect. Great numbers, it is to be feared, both of private professors of religion and of ministers have mistaken the class of feelings of which I have spoken as common among certain impenitent sinners, for religion. They have heard the usual representations of the natural depravity of sinners and also have heard certain desires and feelings represented as religion. They are conscious of these desires and feelings, and also, sometimes when they are very strong, of being influenced in their conduct by them. They assume, therefore, that they are regenerate, and elected, and heirs of salvation. To be sure they are conscious that they often have feelings of great attachment to the world and various classes of feeling very inconsistent with their religious feelings as they call
them; and that when these feelings are in exercise they also yield to them and give themselves up to their control. But this they are taught to think is common to all christians; that all christians have much indwelling sin, are much of their time entirely out of the way and never altogether right even for a moment, that they never feel so much as they are capable of feeling and often feel the opposite of what they ought to feel. These views lull them asleep. The philosophy and theology that misrepresents moral depravity and regeneration must, if consistent, also misrepresent true religion; and O, the many thousands that have mistaken the mere constitutional desires and feelings and the selfish yielding of the will to their control, for true religion, and have gone to the bar of God with a lie in their right hand.
It is a mournful and even a heart rending fact that very much that passes current for christian experience is not and can not be an experience peculiar at all to christians. It is common to both saints and sinners. It is merely the natural and necessary result of the human constitution under certain circumstances. Let no man deceive himself and think more highly of himself than he ought to think.
5. Another great evil has arisen out of the false views I have been exposing, namely:
Many true christians have been much stumbled and kept in bondage, and their comfort and their usefulness much abridged by finding themselves from time to time very languid and unfeeling. Supposing religion to consist in feeling, if at any time the excitability of the sensibility becomes exhausted and their feelings subside, they are immediately thrown into unbelief and bondage. Satan reproaches them for their want of feeling and they have nothing to say only to admit the truth of his accusations. Having Having a false philosophy of religion they judge of the state of their hearts by the state of their feelings. They confound their hearts with their feelings and are in almost constant perplexity to keep their hearts right; by which they mean, their feelings in a state of great excite
Again. They are not only sometimes languid and have no sensible sensations and desires, but at others they are conscious of classes of emotions which they call sin. These they resist, but still blame themselves for having them in their hearts, as they say. Thus they are brought into bondage again, although they are certain that these feelings are hated and not at all indulged by them.
Oh, how much all classes of persons need to have clearly defined ideas of what really constitutes sin and holiness. A false philosophy of the mind, and especially of the will and of moral depravity, has covered the world with gross darkness on the subject of sin and holiness, of regeneration, and of the evidences of regeneration, until the true saints on the one hand are kept in a continual bondage to their false notions, and on the other the church swarms with unconverted professors, and is cursed with many deceived ministers.
III. WHEREIN SAINTS AND SINNERS OR DECEIVED PROFESSORS MUST DIFFER.
In discussing this branch of the subject, I will,
I. Make several prefatory remarks.
II. Point out the prominent characteristics of both. 1. Prefatory remarks.
(1.) The Bible represents all mankind as belonging to two and but two great classes, saints and sinners. All regenerate souls, whatever their attainments are, it includes in the first class. All unregenerate persons, whatever be their profession, possessions, gifts or station, it includes among sinners.
(2.) The Bible represents the difference between these two classes as radical, fundamental and complete. The Bible does not recognize the impenitent as having any goodness in them, but uniformly as being dead in trespasses and in sins. It represents the saints as being dead to sin, and alive to God, as sanctified persons, and often speaks in so strong language as almost compels us to understand it as denying that the saints sin at all, or to conclude that sinning at all proves that one is not a saint. It does take the unqualified ground that no one is a saint who lives in or indulges any sin.
(3.) The Bible represents the difference between saints and sinners as very manifest and as appearing abundantly in their lives. It requires us to judge all men by their fruits. It gives us both the fruits of regeneration and of an unregenerate state, and is exceedingly specific and plain upon this subject.
(4.) In treating this question I shall endeavor not to forget that I am inquiring after the evidences of regeneration, and that I am to speak not of high and rare attainments in piety, but of its beginnings, and of those things that must exist and appear where there is even the commencement of true holi
2. I will point out the prominent characteristics of both saints and sinners.
(1.) Let it be distinctly remembered that unregenerate persons all without exception have one heart, that is, they are selfish. This is their whole character. They are universally and only devoted to self-interest or self-gratification. Their unregenerate heart consists in this selfish disposition, or in