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ed to the attributes of the Creator, will serve to show how they are used in application to the ability of his rational creatures.
When we speak of the natural ability of a creature, we do not include the idea of independence in the least degree, for such ability is to be found only in the great First Cause of all things. But we speak of men, as being able to do things which irrational creatures cannot do; and of some men, as being able to do things which others cannot. And we speak of the existence of these different degrees of ability, without taking into the account ihe disposition of the mind to exert this power, whether in this or that manner. Therefore it must be a natural, and not a moral ability, which we have in our view.
Let us for the present drop the name, and look at the thing. Who is there that does not hold to such a thing as we intend by a natural ability to.obey divine requirements ? What believer in divine revelation can there be, who does not hold, that all men, to whom the gospel is sent, are, in some sense or other, capable of receiving it? There is something in men, wherein they differ from stones, vegetables and brutes ; which makes it proper that their Creator should make known his will to them, and require their hearty consent and obedience, let their present character be what it may. Therefore while the Most High addresses no coinmands to stones, and trees, and brutes," " he commandeth all men every where to repent.” He does pot command the literal vipers to cease to be venomous; but he calls on sinful men, who are very aptly termed 's a generation of vipers,” to repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Now if men were, in every sense, as incapable of the exercise of repentance, as stones, or as the serpents which crawl on the earth, would the Lord require repentance of them? and would he say, Except ye repent ye shall all perish? And would he blame them for impenitence, as he manifestly does ?
II. Let us now, for a moment, attend to the sinner's inability to comply with divine requirements. By this it is not meant, that the powers of moral agency in sinful men are so weak and enfeebled, that they have no power to put forth actions of a moral nature. No, de, praved men are wise to do evil, and they are capable of sinning with a high hand. Moral inability, in application to the sinner, is wholly a wicked thing. It is an unholy, unreasonable incapacity to obey holy and reasonable requirements. It is a heart .“ fully set to do evil ;" dead in trespasses and sins.” Moral inability relates wholly to the temper and disposition of the heart. We are morally unable to do that which we do not choose to do, tho' the thing itself is at the same time within the compass of our natural powers and faculties. As those attributes in God, which serve to bring his character into view, are called his moral attributes, so here ; the inability of the sinner which exhibits his character, is termed a moral inability,
When we say, that sinners labor under a moral inability to do their duty, or to accept of gospel invitations, it is the same as to say, their hearts are wholly opposed tu duty, and altogether unwilling to take Christ's easy yoke upon their necks. But why, it will be asked, do you call this unwillingness by the name of inability ? Why not say, that men are, in every sense, able to do their duty ? Why do you say, that they labor under a moral inability to do their duty ? To this we reply, that the phrase, “ inoral inability,” is not the great thing or which we contend. The great thing for which we contend, is; that men, in their unrenewed state, do possess such a temper and disposition of heart, as serves effectually to prevent them from heartily complying with divine requirements : Or in other words, that unrenewed men are, is it respects their hearts, totally depraved. For proof on the subject of total depravity, the reader is referred to the second section in this work, and to the second sermon in the volume of sermons, to which reference has so often been had,
Tho' I have said, that the fihrase is not the great thing for which we contend, yet I view it as a proper phrase, and one which is justified by the language of the scriptures, and by the language now in use among men... The scriptures say, " It is impossible for God to lie,” when it is manifest, that they refer to an impossibility which arises from his inoral perfection, and not through any deficiency in his natural attributes, by
which he is incapacitated to lie. When Moses is speaking of the envious feelings which Joseph's brethren exercised towards him, he says, “ They hated him and could not speak peaceably unto him." 1 Could not," is the same as to be unable, or to labor under an inability. Jesus Christ said to the Jews, “ How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another ?" Again he said, “ Ye cannot hear my words.” And again he said, “ No man can come io me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him."* In all these cases, it is not a want of physical or natural strength of body or mind, which creates the difficulty. It is clearly a difficulty which arises from a wrong temper of heart; and yet is termed a cunnot ; which is the same as an inability. But to distinguish it from a thing rendered difficult or impossible, through want of corporal or mental strength, we term it a moral inability. This use of the word cannot or inability, when applied to things rendered impossible by the perfect opposition of the heart to those things, is not only sanctioned by the scriptures, but also by the present and common use of
* This last text is found in John, chap. vi. ver. 44. In chap. V. ver. 40, the same unerring teacher, in an address to hearers of the same character, said ; “ And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” In this last text he manifestly makes the sinner's incapacity to become a true believer, to consist in the wicked and inexcusable disinclination of the will, which is what we term a moral inability. And ought we to suppose, that the other text teaches some other kind of inability, which is of an excusable nature ? Such a thought cannot for a moment be indulged. The text in the 6th chapter, by a cannot, brings the same kind of incapacity into view, which the other text does by a will not." Do you ask, Why then is the mode of expression changed? We answer ; The declaration, “ Ye will not come," taught their present indisposition, yet did not explioitly teach that this was their fixed character: But the declaration, “ No man can come to me, except the Futher which haih sent me, draw him;" teaches that this indisposition, this “ will not," is the fixed character of sinners, even of all the sinners in the 80 that there no man who is an exception to it. It also teaches, that this indisposition of heart, this moral inability, will never of itself be reinoved ; but that it must be removed by an immediate in. terposition of divine power and grace.
"'\Vhich were born, not of the will of the flesh, but of God."
" To say
language. It is common to say, that we cannot do things, which nothing hinders us from doing, except an indisposition of mind. We say of a drunken sot, that he cannot leave his cups, and of a niggard, that he is incapable of a generous action. But in these cases, we do not think of inventing an excuse for drunkenness, or for viggardness.
Where now is Mr. B's difficulty of reconciling these two things together; a natural ability to do that which there is a moral inability to do? He says, that men have power naturally to love God, while they have a moral inability, is a manifest contradiction."How is the coutradiction manifest ? If there be no dis. unction between a natural and a moral inability, we aca knowledge there is manifest contradiction. To say, that a man is able, and unable, in the same sense, to do the same thing, would be contradictory. Thus, to say, that a man is able as it respects his bodily strengths to labor, and that in the same sense he is not able to labor, would be absurd. But to say, that a man is, in one tense, able to labor, and that in another sense, he is un. able, would not necessarily be absurd ; for he night be able to labor, as his strength and health are respected, and be unable to labor, as it respects the disposition of bis mind. In other words, a strong able-bodied man may be prevented from labor only by an iadolent mind, If it should be said, that indolence is no inability ; Ict it be remembered, it is what we mean by moral inabili. ty:--and it is just such a kind of inability as Joseph's brethren labored under when “they could not speak peaceably to him.” Now, if this infolent man were indolent to perfection, so that he would starve sooner than he would work, still it would not change the nature of his inability from moral to natural. And if this indolent spirit were born with him, (which is apt to be the case with such characters,) yet it would not change iis nature-It would still be a moral incapacity, tho' a mo, ral incapacity which was entirely natural to him. It would still be speaking correctly, to say, that the man was naturally very capable of hard labor, but that he was under a pre idful inability of the inoral kind, to perform the labor of a single day,
If there be no foundation for the distinction which we have made between an inability to love God, which arises from a want of the natural powers and faculiies of a moral agent, and the inability which arises from the want of an upright frame of heart, then there is a want of consistency in our telling sinners, that they have a natural ability to chey, while they are totally depraved, and, in a spiritual sense, “ without strength." But we are persuaded, that no theologian can get along without making the distinction which we have made, whether he makes use of the same terms to note this distinction or not. And if this distinction is founded in truth, then we are not guilty of the inconsistency with which Mr. B. has charged us.
He says, “ Inability supposes a want of power : and therefore to say that a man has power to do a thing, and at the same time con. tend that there is an inability to do that thing, is saying that a man has power, and yet has not power.” To this difficulty I reply; An inability, if it be of the moral sind, does not by any means suppose the want of natural power. It supposes the want of no other power, except what belongs to that particular kind of inability. Thus, when we speak of the inability of the indolent man to work, it does not necessarily suppose any deficiency of natural power. His moral inabiliiy to labor, may be complete, and his natural ability for the same thing, as complete. In like manner, we may labor under a total moral inability to love our Creator, alJowing our natural powers and faculties, wbich constitute our natural ability to love, be not at all impaired.
Mr. B's representation of our sentiments on the subject of the sinner's having a natural ability to do what he has no moral ability to do, is calculated to puzzle the mind of that reader, who is not in the habit of weighing what he reads. The words which are used, as making a true representation of our sentiments, seem to have such a strange clashing with each other, that the inatientive reader would be led to imagine, that none but men more fit for a mad-house, than to be christian teachers, could ever believe and propagate such self contradictory doctrines. Mr. B. makes our doc.