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ality, and contains nothing in it pleasing to God; no part of their duty towards him; but, on the contrary, is of the very nature of sin.
Gai. And what if these consequences were admitted?.
Crisp. I have not been used to consider things in so strong a light. I have generally thought that men are universally depraved, that is, that all their powers, thoughts, volitions, and actions, are tainted with sin; but it never struck me before, that this depravity was total; so total as that all their actions are of the very nature of sin.
Gai. You must admit that this was the doctrine embraced by the English reformers: they tell us, that “Works, done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasing to God; forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the school authors say) deserve grace of congruity; yea, rather for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.”*
Crisp. True; but I should have suspected that they had carried things rather to an extreme. There is something so awful in the thought of a human life being one unmixed course of evil; so contrary to what appears in numberless characters, whom we cannot but respect for many amiable qualities, though they do not appear to be the subjects of true religion; in a word, so discouraging to every effort for the attainment of
any virtue short of real godliness, that my heart revolts at the idea.
* Art. XIII. of the Established Church.
Gai. I am willing to examine every difficulty you can advance, before you raise your objections; however, your first inquiry, methinks, ought to be, Is it true?
Crisp. Very well; proceed then to state your evidences.
Gai. The following are the principal evidences which strike me at present.
of Scripture, cited in the last Dialogue, most expressly teach it; declaring that “ Every imagination, purpose, ro desire of man's heart is only evil continually, that there is none that seeketh after God, every one of them is gone back; they are altogether become filthy, there is none that doeth good, no not one." 2. Those Scriptures which declare the utter impossibility of carnal men doing any thing to please God; such as Heb. xi. 6. “Without faith it is impossible to please God," and Rom. viii. 6, 8. “To be carnally-minded is death; because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God.* If they that are in the flesh did any part of their duty towards God, or if what they did were good and virtuous in his sight so far as it goes, their minds would so far be subject to the law of God; and being such, they might and would please him; for God is not a capricious or hard master; but is pleased with righteousness whereever he sees it. 3. Those Scriptures which speak of the whole of goodness or virtue as comprehended in love; namely, the love of God and our neighbor. "Love
1. All those
* See this passage clearly illustrated, and the truth contained in it fully enforced, in two pieces in the Evangelical Magazine for August and December 1793; pages 72 and 239.
is the fulfilling of the law.” “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; and thy neighbor as thyself." If the love of God supremely, and the love of creatures subordinately, comprise the whole of virtue, where these are wanting, virtue can have no existence. And that these are wanting in all ungodly men is evident; for “ they have not the love of God in them;" and where God is not loved supremely, creatures cannot be loved subordinately; that is, in subserviency to him; but must rather occupy the place of the Supreme: such love, therefore, has no virtue in it; but is of the nature of sin. 4. Those Scriptures which teach the necessity of regeneration to eternal life. “Ye must be born again. Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and all things are become new." If there were any degree of virtue in the carnal heart, or any thing that was pleasing to God, it might be cultivated and increased; and, in this case, old things need not pass away, and all things become new: Regeneration would be unnecessary; a mere reformation, or an improvement of principles already inherent in man, would suffice. 5. Those Scriptures which promise the blessings of salvation and eternal life to every degree of righteousness or true virtue. “ All things work together for good to them that love God. Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him. He that doth righteousness is righteous. They that have done good shall rise to the resurrection of life. He that giveth a cup of cold water to a disciple, in the name of a
disciple, or because he belongs to Christ, shall receive a disciple's reward.” In these passages we must observe that God's gracious declarations and promises are not made to this or that degree of goodness, but to eve. ry or any degree of it; or rather, it is not the degree,
the nature of it that is considered in the Divine promise. From hence we may certainly conclude that unregenerate men have not the least degree of real goodness in them, or of any thing that is pleasing to God.
Crisp. I must acknowledge there is much apparent force in these arguments, and I am not at present sufficiently prepared to encounter them; but I have some strong objections in my mind, which I wish to have thoroughly discussed.
Gai.. With all my heart: consider, Crispus, the force of what has been already alleged; and let me have your objections in the strongest light in which you are capa. ble of arranging them. Crisp. I will endeavor to comply with your advice,
, and the result of it shall be the subject of a future conversation. Farewell.
TOTAL DEPRAVITY OF HUMAN NATURE.
[In a Letter from Crispus to Gaius. ]
-n, July 3, 1794.
EMY DEAR FRIEND, As Providence has lately, by removing my situation, deprived me of the pleasure of your company, I hope that defect
be in some measure supplied by writing. The subject of our two last interviews on the total dea
pravity of human nature has much occupied my attention. I feel it to be a fundamental principle in religion; it is that, take it how we will, on which almost all other principles are founded. I have objections to your ideas of this doctrine, I confess; and you desired me, when we were last together, to place them in the strongest light'I was able. The principal things which have hitherto occurred to me may be reduced to the following heads:
First, The Scriptures appear to speak with approbation of some actions periormed by unregenerate men, and even God himself is represented as rewarding them. It appears to have been thus in the case of Ahab, when he humbled himself; and the Ninevites, when they repented at the preaching of Jonah; as also in the case of the young man in the gospel, whom our Lord is represented as having loved; and the discreet scribe whom he assured that he was not far froin the kingdom of heaven. Now if all the actions of unregenerate men are of the nature of sin, these must have been so; but if these were so, how are we to account for the favorable manner in which they were treated?
Secondly, The common sense of mankind unites to attribute many excellencies, and amiable qualities, to persons whom, nevertheless, we are obliged, from other parts of their conduct, to consider as destitute of true religion. Is it not right and amiable, even in the sight of God, so far as it goes, that children are dutiful to their parents, and parents affectionate to their children; that men are obedient to the laws, benevolent to the poor, faithful in their connexions, and just in their dealings?